A few years ago, I interviewed Nicola Roberts, the best member of Girls Aloud, to talk about her underrated debut solo album Cinderella’s Eyes. She discussed what it was like to be on Popstars: The Rivals, the TV singing competition that predated The X Factor and gave birth to the band. What stood out most to me was how it felt for her to ricochet between two worlds. She was 16 and split her time between TV studios in London, and hanging out at the chippie in her home town of Runcorn. She remembered being taken to a fancy dinner at an expensive restaurant where none of the girls could understand the menu. She had to ask the head of Universal Records: “What the fuck’s coriander?”
It doesn’t take much to get me on to Girls Aloud, but I thought of that particular anecdote when I saw the State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission this week. Its findings are a sobering confirmation of what is apparent to anyone whose world is not centred on London or the slim area surrounding it. Social divisions are deeply entrenched in British society, and social mobility, this notion that you can be born “disadvantaged” and step outside of such circumstances given the right opportunities, increasingly looks about as achievable as the UK’s chances of walking away from the EU without self-destructing in the process. Alienation and resentment are growing, and for rural, coastal and formerly industrial areas in particular, the outlook is grim.
Good grief, you’re never going to get anywhere if you keep insisting that class in the UK is an economic matter.
We regard plumbers as working class (rightly or wrongly) and lawyers as very middle class indeed. Provincial plumbers make rather more than provincial lawyers. Coriander or not is a social matter, income an economic one. Not grasping this but then wanting to talk about class in Britain just ain’t ever gonna work.