The Daily Mail has been hammering the BBC for its “trendy left-wing bias” lately (try a quick Google search) and the corporation will be even more unpopular in Mail HQ after stirring the class debate with relish over the last seven days. Andrew ‘Spartacus’ Neil took issue with the amount of Etonians in government and lamented the fall of Grammar Schools last week, but as incendiary as Posh and Posher proved with TV viewers, the programme seems to have been nothing but a warm-up for this evening’s no-holds-barred assault on class divide with Richard Bilton.
We start off by meeting some fashion interns who work for free while living off their middle class parents. They work hard and realise how lucky they are, but Bilton’s point is that most people can’t afford to do this for months on end. His point is ruthlessly highlighted when we meet a bright and well-qualified journalism intern who battled to break into the industry in similar a manner, but crucially, with no parental subsidy. Despite struggling manfully, he was eventually forced to give up. Meanwhile the fashion boss squirms tangibly when Bilton asks him how he feels about his business profiting from the efforts of an unpaid workforce (“I never really thought of it like that..”)
One person who clearly has thought about it is Alan Milburn, the Coalition’s ‘Social Mobility Tsar’ (seriously..) who talks proudly of his working class roots and how the generations that followed him did not receive the same opportunities that he did. It is through him that Bilton adds the notion of geographical divide. “Kids from the North-East don’t rarely aim high because they’ve never heard of anyone beating the system..” he explains. If anyone can tell them about career progression, then its him – after all he used to be in the Labour cabinet.
For all we know Bilton might be a raging socialist with an axe to grind against the anyone who pronounces their vowels correctly, but you can’t argue with some of the cold hard statistical nuggets that he presents us with. The most striking one builds upon Andrew Neil’s premise of 50s baby-boomers being born into a ‘Golden Age’ of social mobility. Apparently the chances of working class people moving up through society are worse than at any time during the 1920s. Professor Diane Reay then drops the bombshell that the gap between the rich and the poor increased by 60% under Thatcher’s Conservative government, in what Bilton calls the emergence of an ‘hourglass society’. Apparently Labour were going to address that imbalance, but then that whole thing in Iraq came up and it got brushed under the carpet. Nice one Tony!