Steven Barrett is a commercial barrister who grew up in Birkenhead, the son of an electrician. “It sounds ridiculous to my upper-middle-class friends but I always have Kellogg’s cereal and Fairy Liquid in this house, because growing up, those were two things we could not afford,” he said.
Barrett, who mentors young people for the SMF and chairs the legal social mobility charity BVL, said he believed he would have earned more if he came from a different background, and felt success relied on changing his accent and appearance. “I tell my mentees I’ve been ‘posh washed’,” he said. “I became posh performatively. There are these endless controlling rules which seem to be there to expose the person who is being performatively posh but isn’t genuine – there’s a cat-and-mouse game where you’re constantly worrying you’re going to be exposed.”
As someone or other explained – Orwell? – about eating asparagus. They could be shooting it at each other with miniature cannons. The point is not to find the best way of eating asparagus, it’s to have a way that they know about and you don’t. It is, specifically, to have a marker of U and non-U.
But then any and every sector, section and slice of every society ever does exactly the same thing. Because that’s how sector, section and slice are determined by those observing.