Magazine article The Spectator

Humbler Hacks

Magazine article The Spectator

Humbler Hacks

Article excerpt

Caroline is cock-a-hoop. She's discovered that, according to the brand new definition of social class that's going to be used in the 2001 Census, she's much posher than me. 'Lawyers' are in class one, apparently, whereas 'Journalists' are in class two. I'm a 'lower' professional; she's a 'higher'. 'I always suspected I was marrying beneath me,' she giggled.

Now, obviously, I object to this. My first thought was that the pen-pushers at the Office of National, Statistics (ONS) have simply got it wrong - again! If you recall, these are the boffins who forgot to include a 'Welsh' tick-box in the ethnicity section in spite of including a 'Scottish' one and an 'Irish' one. (I'd say 'Scotch', of course, but then, what do I know?) Other occupations that they've placed in class one - above me, that is - are 'Accountants', 'Insurance Brokers' and 'Police Inspectors'. As a member of class two, I'm level-pegging with 'Nurses', 'Teachers' and 'Estate Agents'. The only consolation is that 'Television Presenters' - i.e., Jamie Theakston and Zoe Ball - are also in class two. Some crumbs of comfort there.

To give you an idea of how accurate this system of social classification is, let's take a few examples. According to the ONS, Charles Moore is of a lower social class than his accountant, Dennis Skinner is higher up the totem pole than Max Hastings and Jeremy Paxman - if you can believe it - is on a par with a male nurse! Of course, in order to produce these results I'm exploiting the fact that there's just one category for 'Journalists', but that's just as it should be according to the ONS. Naturally, when it comes to ranking 'Civil Servants', they've devised three separate categories - 'Band A-B', 'Band C-F' and 'Senior Management' - with members of each one being placed in a different class. Even 'Fishermen' get two separate categories. But common-or-garden hacks are all lumped together under the one heading.

The task of defending the new classifica

tion system has fallen to Dr David Rose, the social scientist hired by the ONS to devise it. I was a little nervous about calling him since, as a 'University Professor', he's in a higher social class than me. Indeed, even 'University Lecturers' - Professor Rose has understandably created two different categories for members of his own profession - are ranked higher than 'Journalists'. How should I address this eminent personage? Should I call him 'sir', as in, 'Begging your pardon, sir, but I woz wonderin' if you could spare an 'umble scribbler a moment of your precious time? …

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