BACK in the early 1990s, Prime Minister John Major spoke of his hope for Great Britain to one day become a truly classless society.
In doing so, he was echoing Karl Marx’s vision. Over half a century earlier, Marx had insisted the world was heading inexorably towards such a Utopia.
Not so author George Orwell, who once claimed England was the ‘most class-ridden country under the sun’, adding: ‘It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and the silly.’
In the year 2019, Orwell’s comments - unlike those of Major and Marx - still stand up.
The chances your children have in life remain very much a postcode lottery.
In the last few days I have watched two programmes celebrating the lives of ‘the haves’ - Britain’s Brightest Family, hosted by Anne Hegarty, and Channel 4 programme Child Genius. The latter was won by 12-year-old Nishi Uggalle, a huge fan of the late professor Stephen Hawking. The future looks bright for the brightest, as it always has done - and always will.
Sadly, there are also the ‘have nots’, those whose lives are played out against a backdrop of drugs, crime and inner city decay.
With depressing regularity, the tv brings us news of the latest teenager knifed to death. Usually in the capital, but not always - witness the seemingly random slaying of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney in Romford, Essex.
Imagine being a parent of a teenager in many parts of London, not knowing where your child is and when you might answer the door to a police officer …
Of course I have no answers, but I know this … I know this country is broken, savagely split into many warring factions - Brexit, class and knife crime being just three of them. And some teenagers being able to answer any question on physics and black holes, while others are putting blades in children’s backs and stomachs, perfectly illustrates the fact we are not dealing with a metaphorical Humpty Dumpty here.
We cannot put the pieces of our shattered society back again. Please don’t believe any politician who tells you otherwise …
884 weeks … and counting!
Ben turns 17 this week.
Seventeen! Eight hundred and eighty four weeks since I became a dad for the first time (not that I’m counting ..)
My mind’s eye can still conjure up images of Ben in nappies, and his mum quickly handing me a crying infant as I came home from work with the words – uttered a bit too loudly for my liking if truth be known – ‘now it’s YOUR turn!’ before quickly searching for the corkscrew ...
Helping Ben learn to ride a bike, kicking a ball around in the back garden, telling him not to merrily whizz his younger sister around in her baby door bouncer (though if I’d ever had a baby sister I would have done exactly the same)
Now, on his 17th birthday, Ben will be able to drive a car – hell’s teeth! – or become a blood donor, or choose to leave his body to medical science.
Admittedly, more big life changes arrive next March – then Ben will be able to (legally) get a tattoo, buy fireworks, marry, serve on a jury, stand for election for parliament, and vote.
He knows who Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are, but will either of them still be leader of their parties when Ben pays his first visit to a ballot box?
I was confronted with Maggie Thatcher and Neil Kinnock when I first voted in 1987. That was a dismal enough choice, but compared to Ben I had it easy ...