The BBC Programme Posh and Posher, screened on last night’s TV was a blistering indictment of our educational system and the reasons for the narrowing of the world of politics in the UK to a privileged and wealthy elite.
I have mentioned the fact that I went to a Grammar School in the 1950s and early 60s……. I sort of regret now that I referred to it as “posh,” for if Andrew Neil’s commentary shows anything, it is that the “posh” he speaks of, means being part of, or comfortable with an “aristocracy”- an “old boys’ network” (even if you are a girl) and have obtained your degree from Oxford or Cambridge universities, preferably in their PPE course (politics, philosphy and economics.) Apart from the fact that this worries me because of its narrowness, as a country we are kidding ourselves that a descent into a them/us mentality is anything other than dangerous. The cuts that are being applied to the lives of ordinary people, poor people and the vulnerable are vicious and will come back to bite the coalition government. A government that delivers them with such sanctimonious, hand-wringing pleas, that as it is not their fault, it must be that of Labour. They seem to forget or ignore the world-wide recession and banking crisis. (I’ll have a go at the bankers another day.)
The position in Scotland is slightly different in that the Scottish Parliament comprises in the main MSPs who have got there on ability and dedication – at least that is what I like to think. Because of the system of voting the electorate can vote for whichever party they favour and the seats are divided up amongst them. This creates a system whereby politicians have to work together to achieve goals and make policy.
The problems overall with the UK – and of course Scotland is still part of the UK – are to do with the narrowing of the field from which politicians emerge. This means that economic policy, fiscal authority, defence and foreign policy are overwhelmingly decided by those who have been educated predominantly in the English public schools system. There are fewer Scottish fee-paying schools, but again they tend to produce the type of candidate that is favoured in modern politics. This is happening in the three main parties. Other routes to a career in politics through local activism or trades unions are being marginalised.
One section of the programme showed an interview with a young man who was working in an independently funded youth club in one of the Glasgow Housing Schemes. He spoke articulately about the gulf that exists between our politicians and the people living in Easterhouse. A founder member of the club told of the gulfs that education, poverty and bad housing cause. Education has to be the answer and somewhere, somehow people will start to realise that a meritocracy and a passion for justice will fuel a country of which we can all feel proud.
At the moment I almost wish I was several years younger so that I could construct the barricades. I can only hope that somewhere young people are so incensed that they decide to fight back.