by Tom Walters
An article appeared earlier on this week in the Guardian that reported a depressing but predictable statistic. That there were more Oxbridge applications accepted from Surrey than the whole of the North-East and Wales combined. Lets just repeat that to make it gratifyingly significant. Surrey, a county, had more applications to the UK's two most prestigious universities than a region and a country combined. A fact that is met with the same degree of begrudging acceptance as that of a wet British summer or poor England World Cup performance. It's just come to be expected.
So what does this mean? Is it just another statistic, a piece of nothing that explains about as much as a Daily Mail guide to sexual positions? Or is it a subtle reminder that we are a long way from being the opportunities-for-all nation we like to think we are?
The statistics, however Oxford and Cambridge try to justify them, make for grim reading. This cosy little link uncovers an increasing disparity, a truth that no one wants to admit, but is blindingly obvious. We are being pulled apart, a country split in two, one Surrey student at a time.
The truth is we have this City State of London, with it's overpriced property market and economic policies that ensure the filthy rich get filthy stinking rich. In an article in The Evening Standard, Simon Jenkins claims that both the UK and London would benefit from a breakaway from each other. That London is an exceptionally international city and that the rest of Britain will get by through selling tractors and cows.
It is a hideous proposition, to treat the rest of the country with such disdain, to cast it aside as some kind of third-rate potato seller.
Surrounding this city state is the green and pleasant commuter belt of Surrey and it's fellow home counties, all seemingly untouched and cut off from the effects of recession in other parts of the country, where the north and areas such as the North East and Wales, according to the Guardian, are "ignored to accommodate Global Capitalism" further south.
Back in the industrial revolution, the areas where industry and manufacturing were heaviest, such as the North-West, the Midlands and South Wales, became economic powerhouses in their own right. This helped to shift the balance of wealth that was concentrated in London to other parts of the country.
Since Thatcher and the break-up of industry, these areas, these proud and significant parts of the country, have been laid to waste. Their heart has been ripped out of them, their identity broken and their ability to pull themselves out of the hardship of recession, has become almost impossible.
As the economy moves further and further away from the industries of old, people are inevitably left behind. TV programmes such as the recent Channel 4 show Skint display an utter contempt for the issues facing towns such as Scunthorpe and others facing the effects of post-industrial decline.
A documentary such as Skint, picking up on the common themes of juvenile delinquency, welfare dependency and poor health is predictable bullshit. It's a glorification for television's sake, of genuine problems affected by a lack of hope, investment and a feeling from other, wealthier parts of the country that they are good for nothing layabouts intent on bleeding the country dry from welfare handouts.
The same people who probably believe that if you stand still for more than thirty seconds, your clothes will get stolen by travellers and your dog will be eaten by Romanians.
In the end, we have now entered a period of geographical prejudice. The neo-liberal period has completely failed us as a nation and has brought about deep and painful divisions that continue to highlight the pro-money, anti-poor nightmare that is modern Britain.
Not all students who go to Oxbridge are from the most affluent parts of the South-East, but if things continue as they are then the only accent you will ever hear on the Oxbridge quads will be that generic South-Eastern brogue that can be pinpointed to somewhere around about Guildford.