Lord Fellowes Is Right: Posh People Are the Last Persecuted Minority

Julian Fellowes: 'poshism' is the last acceptable form of discrimination (Photo: Rex)

Julian Fellowes: poshism is the last acceptable form of discrimination (Photo: Rex)

This morning I had a debate on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme with someone called Owen Jones on the issue of class in modern Britain. It was provoked by Lord Fellowes (aka Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey), who argued in a Times interview that toffs are the one remaining minority in Britain against which it is considered acceptable to discriminate.

Recently, he was watching Loose Women — “a programme I rather enjoy” — and one of the participants declared: “I hate posh blokes.” Lord Fellowes says: “There was a cheer from the audience. If I said, ‘I hate Americans’, or ‘I hate blondes’, or ‘I hate common blokes’, that wouldn’t work. But somehow that one was OK.

“And of course it’s not OK. I suppose ‘poshism’ is the last acceptable form of discrimination. Having been fat, bald, posh and male I’m used to a certain amount of humour at my expense but rather than striving towards a pseudo-egalitarianism that in 2,000 years of recorded history has failed to come about, I think we should strive for a position of giving people their worth and being polite.”

Fellowes has lots more eminently sensible stuff to say in this vein. (He’s splendidly scathing about the recent Number 10 barbecue in which the British prime minister and the US president doled out burgers to show what regular guys they were: “There was an era when people wanted to be governed by great kings, then they wanted to be governed by great nobles who would keep the king in his place. Now they want to be governed by great friends. They want to know these people — whether or not they like toffee ice cream — and my natural pull is more towards the statesmen era.”) Indeed, it’s all so glaringly obvious you almost wonder why Today thought it a suitable topic for debate. Isn’t pointing out that toffs are discriminated against in modern Britain a bit like saying that ice cream makes your tooth fillings go funny or that Gordon Brown wasn’t one of the great prime ministers or that squirrels are great hoarders of nuts?

Well I thought so, anyway, but Jones and the interviewer John Humphrys begged to differ. Humphrys’s opening question invited his listeners to roll their eyes at the preposterousness of the notion that toffs faced discrimination, while Jones threw in his tuppeny happeny’s worth about the continued dominance of the “Ruling Classes” and about how many MPs had been to public school and Oxbridge and so on, as if somehow this were a major national scandal which needed to be addressed.

I wonder how parliament would look if Jones got his way. It would be imbued with a lot more earthy, horny-handed, echt, coal-ingrained, sweat-smelling, demotic, multi-ethnic, gender-balanced authenticity, presumably, for as Jones was keen to point out one of the problems with our current ruling class is that they are completely out of touch with the modern world. Actually I agree with him on this point, though not with his analysis of why this is so. The problem with government these days is not that it’s full of rich toffs but that it’s full of career politicos who instinctively want to extend the power of the state and have no understanding of what it is like to be an ordinary taxpayer who just wants to be left alone.

Anyway, Humphrys asked me for evidence that toffs face discrimination, and I suppose the best evidence there is is David Cameron. Here is a man who benefited from the best possible education in the world Eton and Oxford and who instead of feeling proud of the fact has been compelled by our prevailing social mores to behave as if it’s a toxic liability.

You could argue, indeed, that almost everything wrong with our current Coalition can be put down to the fact of David Cameron’s awkwardness about being an old Etonian. He daren’t reduce the 50p tax rate (though it makes economic sense) lest he be seen to be favouring his rich friends in the City; he daren’t create more free schools by allowing entrepreneurs to run them for profit for fear that this might come across as elitist; he daren’t address the issue of the Europe because this is just the sort of thing blimpish, blue-blooded, Tory reactionaries do in the shires, and we can’t have that now, can we?

And, of course, the main reason we’ve got the wretched Coalition in the first place is because Cameron was scared of advancing proper Tory principles, lest he be mistaken for the kind of terrible, evil person who went to a school where they dress you in a smart uniform and teach you all sorts of poncy stuff like Latin and Greek and you come away with ghastly behavioural tics like good manners and a strong desire to succeed.

O tempora! O mores!

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  2. Why isn’t Lord Lawson dead yet?
  3. What Lord Tebbit says: a bit more right-wingness will do Cameron no harm at all
  4. In praise of Lord Tebbit

20 thoughts on “Lord Fellowes is right: posh people are the last persecuted minority”

  1. Andrew Ryan says:31st May 2011 at 11:59 am1. If the estimable Lord Fellows was a black man complaining about black victimisation, people would be piling on him to with the accusation that he’s ‘playing the race card’. Yet because he’s ‘playing the posh card’, somehow it’s OK?2. If Cameron can’t get away with certain policies because he can’t get the public support for them, then that’s simple democracy. You seem to be saying it’s not Cameron’s fault he can’t get away with certain policies, it’s the voting public’s problem for not allowing a posh man to put in place certain policies. OK. So, would you let Obama off the hook by saying “It’s not Obama’s fault he can’t get away with certain policies, it’s the voting public’s problem for ‘not allowing a black man’ to put in place certain policies?”3. The Loose Woman who claimed she hates posh blokes may well have been using the word as a short hand for ‘men who look down on her because of her class’, not just all upper class men indiscriminately.
  2. Nige Cook says:1st June 2011 at 10:18 pm“… Lord Fellowes (aka Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey), who argued in a Times interview that toffs are the one remaining minority in Britain against which it is considered acceptable to discriminate.”Elitism itself is a form of discrimination. Toffs are the ones discriminating against everyone else by choosing to behave in an elitist or posh way. The problems are generated by the particular toffs who don’t have any charm or eccentricity, who don’t really have time for “little people”. Boris Johnson (as well as many other toffs who have been to charm school) manages to get around this problem by making himself appear as a lovable clown.It is acceptible to discriminate against elitism, which many see as being arrogant, because snobbery itself is a self-discrimination decision. Everybody can vary their accent, dress sense, etc., if they wish. It’s a conscious decision to behave in a particularly elitist way (subliminal message: “I’m uncommon”). You can’t accuse someone who attacks racism, snobbery, or any other form of nasty and unfair bias of being themselves “discriminatory”. You might as well accuse Pasteur of being a evil for killing dangerous bacteria.

    If anyone should ever wish to sound “posh”, one could presumably do so by taking posh elocution lessons (and maybe also refering to oneself as “one”, to really sound stupid). The problem with toffs is not the way they speak, or the clothes they wear, but the association of these things to stuffy, patronising and arrogant upper class conservative traditions (similar in all but law to the distinction between citizens and slaves in ancient Greece). The toff characteristics are a label of elitism, a badge of pride in being better than others. It’s regarded as arrogance, because it is arrogance.

    People can learn foreign languages, and by analogy they learn different dialects and accents and blend in if they want to. It’s not rocket science. Those who want to stand out from the crowd by speaking “properly” are just annoying. Especially when they attract all the girls. Or at least, the slappers who are impressed by that kind of egotism.

  3. guest says:2nd June 2011 at 1:10 amJames, you aren’t hated simply for the accident of your birth. My advice is to stop worrying what the girls think and get on with a life more satisfying than whining about the accident that is daddy’s money.Peace.
  4. Andrew Ryan says:2nd June 2011 at 8:50 amNige: “You can’t accuse someone who attacks racism, snobbery, or any other form of nasty and unfair bias of being themselves “discriminatory”.”Oh but people do! All the time I hear people say “If you tell Christians not to be intolerant of gays, then you are being intolerant of Christianity”. Just this week I read on Christian Apologist Bill Prat’s site:“People say “You ought not judge.” Isn’t that a judgment?
    People say “You should be tolerant.” Aren’t you being intolerant of me?”

    By the way, isn’t this particular ‘victimisation’ blog a bit rich coming from someone who encourages others to use the word ‘LibTard’? Presumably JD wouldn’t like similar rude names for ‘upper class twits’.

  5. Nige Cook says:2nd June 2011 at 9:24 amAndrew, by “can’t”, I mean you can’t do it ethically, i.e. without having double-standard hypocrisy. Of course you can do bad things, you just can’t do them in a morally defensible way. There are two basic unresolved problems in the world: firstly, judging others by your own standards which differ from those of others, and secondly, having double standards so you expect others to have higher ethical standards than you display yourself. Double standards are always easy to excuse, “I try my best”, “I’m just under the weather and having a bad day”, “many other people are worse hypocrites so I shouldn’t be held to account”, etc.On the subject of religion, Christianity is today weakened in its power. Islam is better at dealing with sinners. Maybe you should consider the bigger source of intolerance, not the smaller. However, that would be politically incorrect, and you might find yourself targeted by the media extremists armed with IEDs, something that certainly is unlikely to happen if you choose to go on about the less severe punishments dished out to sinners in Christianity.
  6. Andrew Ryan says:2nd June 2011 at 10:39 am“:Andrew, by “can’t”, I mean you can’t do it ethically, i.e. without having double-standard hypocrisy”I got your meaning. I was pointing out that such hypocrisy is sadly common.What has political (in)correctness got to do with this Nige? I find people tend to use that term to shut down debate. Accusing someone of being ‘PC’ seems to have the same function as calling them a racist. Once that accusation has been made, dialogue shuts down. If fact, ironically JD described it perfectly on another blog: “It enables them to play judge, jury and executioner without having to go through any of the tedium or intellectual challenge of offering their antagonists a fair trial.”

    In fact I debate much with Muslims. But it is Christians I hear making the claim I quoted (“It is intolerant to argue against intolerance”). And when dealing with subjects such as the teaching of evolution in schools in the US, or gay marriage, it is fundamentalist Christians with whom one finds oneself dealing, and it is then that you are told one must tolerate intolerance.

    And it is hard to push the idea that Christianity is weak in the US – arguably the most powerful country in the world. The accusation that Obama is a Muslim is seen as damaging there. No atheist could get elected to high office there, and in fact politicians come in for criticism if they don’t mention their Christianity enough.

  7. Andrew Ryan says:2nd June 2011 at 2:58 pmBy the way Nige, last month, an interviewer asked four US evangelical church leaders if their intent of using violence to force Christianity on Americans was tantamount to the Taliban in Afghanistan. They replied that, “yes, they were the same as the Taliban except they were better armed, better organized, and had the full support of conservatives in positions of power.”Meanwhile, a student in Louisiana who pointed out that school-led prayer at school functions was against the law (it is literally unconstitutional) has been threatened with physical violence, death threats, demeaned by teachers, ostracized by the community, and cut off from all financial support by his parents who threw him and his belongings out of his house.“Islam is better at dealing with sinners.”

    I think the word ‘better’ is subjective here. The term ‘Fatwa envy’ was invented for the sort of people who think that the Muslims have the ‘better’ system.

  8. Nige Cook says:2nd June 2011 at 6:42 pmAndrew: here in England it is politically correct to attack Christianity for alleged intolerance, rather than Islam. We have Richard Dawkins and other feeling perfectly happy attacking Christianity – knowing that they won’t be assassinated – but not Islam.I don’t agree that mentioning “political correctness” is an excuse to shut down debate: either it is politically correctness, or it isn’t. Similarly with the Nazis, either we want to learn the lessons of history by pointing out fascist dangers when we see people using Nazi type arguments, or we don’t. “Godwin’s law” is quoted as if a God-given demand never to invoke Nazism for fear of “trivializing” WWII and/or the holocaust, the hidden lie being the claim here that the Nazis were recognised as being non-trivial when they could have been stopped without bloodshed in the mid-30s.The whole point is that public fashion proclaimed that the racism, intolerant Nazis were a trivial threat until after it was too late to stop them without a world war.

    The definition of Nazi and/or fascist behaviour is intolerance, which itself is a “ends justify the means” stamping out of people they perceive to be inferior to them or to be dissenters. That’s the root cause of the holocaust, and the bigger Communist massacres of 40 millions.

    It all began with lies about economic motivation in Marx and Engels, and about a utopia via eugenics and militaristic society in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. If this happens again, “Godwin’s law” will be used to prevent early warnings and comparisons being made. Then you end up with a repetition. There was effectively a “Godwin’s law” in place in the 30s concerning the lessons of WWI, which enabled most people to ignore Churchill’s warnings about Hitler trying copying the Kaiser in 1914.

    If you want to censor out warnings about the perils of political correctness leading to Nazism, then you’re going to encourage and protect those elements intent on intolerance.

    “Islam is better at dealing with sinners.”

    Islam aims to deter sin by stated punishment for stated acts. It’s a stronger religion than Christianity, which stresses forgiveness. Sin is defined by the religion. Obviously there is going to be a possible conflict here between strict Sharia law from Allah, and “infidel laws” passed in this or that country. The bigger problem with Islam is limited to a few fanatical extremists who want a religious war against the “infidels”. The more general problem of intolerance to certain minorities by both Christianity and Islam in some ways is related to the other problem, since any alleged conflict between the Koran and Western (im)morality is going to feed the recruitment of the fanatical fringe. What is needed is an honest comparison of Christianity and Islam, to see exactly what the mechanisms of intolerance really are, and how Christianity has lost its grip. Galileo was imprisoned for heresy 400 years ago, when the European Christian political influence situation was like some Islamic countries today.

    How do religions generally lose their bigotry, or gain strength? Persecution is what made Christianity powerful in the Roman empire, when the circus lions were fed with martyr. Similarly, the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis led to the state of Israel, a final Jewish homeland. So persecution ultimately backfires in the religious worldview. The only long term solution to Islam is to integrate it and reduce intolerance to religion generally, which is the opposite of the mainstream secular view of people like Dawkins. Religion loses its power not by being persecuted, but by being widely tolerated. Ignoring Islam to attack Christianity achieves nothing more than burying your head in the sand.

  9. Andrew Ryan says:2nd June 2011 at 7:34 pmRichard Dawkins does speak out against Islam. So does Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and all the other high profile atheists.
  10. Nige Cook says:2nd June 2011 at 8:06 pmAndrew, Dawkins direct his venom not at the religious terrorists, but at all who want the freedom of choice, and specifically targets Christians. Seeing that superstring theory fails to make even a single falsifiable predictions specifically about this universe, it’s a religious dogma itself, so he doesn’t really have much ground to use science to attack religion. My point again is that historically religion thrives when persecuted, and loses extremity when it is tolerated. Thus, it’s more logical to tolerate religion than to persecute it.
  11. Andrew Ryan says:2nd June 2011 at 9:01 pmAre you sure you’re not confusing him with someone else? When has he said he’s against freedom of choice? He attempts to persuade, but he’s never suggested coercion or taking away freedom. And you don’t deny that he attacks Islam. His Root of all Evil programme criticised Islam and I’ve seen him doing the same on Nicky Campbell’s Big Questions programme. Dawkins has said he enjoys visiting churches and finds parts of the King James bible beautiful. Find me a quote from Dawkins on Superstring theory that you disagree with and I’ll have a chance of seeing whether I agree with you or him.“and loses extremity when it is tolerated. Thus, it’s more logical to tolerate religion than to persecute it.”Not sure about that. It sounds like you’re saying we should have tolerated the Nazis in order to lessen their extremity. I think we were too tolerant of the Taliban for too long. The more slack they were given, the worse they got.
  12. Nige Cook says:2nd June 2011 at 9:58 pmAndrew, Dawkins has repeatedly stated in public – it’s well reported – his claim that “there is almost certainly no God” in God Delusion: for the quotes and analysis, see for instance http://www.seekingtruth.co.uk/dawkins.htm Science can’t assign any probability to such vague stuff, certainly not nearly zero, as Dawkin’s statement means. It’s plain pseudoscience to claim that science has anything to say here. The strength of religious talk of “God” is its vagueness; “God” means something slightly different to each person, and in extreme forms is consistent with even the most abstract stuff, e.g. Sir James Jeans’ claim back in 1930 in The Mysterious Universe that “God is a pure mathematician”. You can interpret any thing in science, therefore, to either support or condemn religion.“It sounds like you’re saying we should have tolerated the Nazis in order to lessen their extremity.”Remember we’re dealing with the analogy to the 1930s Nazis, before WWII and the holocaust. If we had a preventative war to keep the Nazis unarmed before 1935 as Churchill wanted (but was denied), we would then have had to deal with the pro-Nazi backlash without being able to point to a holocaust as proof of how bad the Nazis were.

    We’d have been in the situation of having to deal with a very difficult situation, but it could have prevented a world war and holocaust. In that situation, with Nazis disarmed by a preventative war in say 1935 or 1936 (our situation was deteriorating every year, because they were rearming faster than Britain), the objective would have been to coerce the remaining Nazis to rid them of “ends justify the means” extremity, e.g. racism/”ethnic cleansing”.

    The whole problem is the ongoing one today after preventative wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have a continuing problem of insurgents and military power can only do so much. You can’t expect to find and shoot all the troublemakers even with the best technology on the planet. Look how long it took to find Bin Laden. The idea of a making the enemy pay heavily after a war was tried with Germany when France caused it hyperinflation by demanding massive reparations for WWI. This was manipulated by the German government to maximise resentment and helped to kick start the Nazis movement in the first place. If France had handled the situation a little better, the Nazis wouldn’t have been able to exploit that. This is why the West is still helping rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq, instead of clearing out straight after the wars and letting the people get on with it. The bitter lesson has been learned that it doesn’t pay to take what looks like the cheapest and most moral option… you just end up with another expensive way a few years later.

  13. Andrew Ryan says:2nd June 2011 at 10:30 pmStill no examples of persecution, and no argument with me saying Dawkins has many times criticised Islam. Back on topic, you’ve no argument with the points I made in my first post either. Given that you don’t seem to have any quarrel with my points, there’s not much further to discuss. As for persecution, you can only make such a claim for Christianity if your definition of persecution is so wide that any questioning of an idea is persecution. JD criticises liberalism every day, but I still don’t play the victim card.
  14. Nige Cook says:3rd June 2011 at 3:13 pmAndrew, we’re not persecuting Muslims in general for the actions of a handful of fanatical terrorists, so there aren’t any “examples” there, if that’s what you mean. As I explained to you, Dawkins includes Islam but doesn’t specifically target it, preferring to try to tar all religions with the same brush rather than distinguishing those behind recent terrorist activities.“Given that you don’t seem to have any quarrel with my points, there’s not much further to discuss.”Maybe we can agree to agree, then? I don’t believe in starting arguments, just pointing out facts to the deluded.

    “As for persecution, you can only make such a claim for Christianity if your definition of persecution is so wide that any questioning of an idea is persecution.”

    Promoting falsehoods like Dawkin’s the claim science disproves God, and lumping Christianity in with Jihad extremists, is a kind of persecution of those who don’t need to be abused for their faith, I suggest? Maybe we can agree to disagree on this one?

    “JD criticises liberalism every day, but I still don’t play the victim card.”

    I think you’ll find that it’s not liberalism per se that gets his goose, but dogmatic environmentalism pseudoscience hype in the name “political correctness”, the term you claim to be a good way to close down discussions. It’s not criticism that’s a problem, but the corruption of objective criticism by the fascists who distort, misquote, or quote out of context what is said to create a “strawman” whom to attack, or shoot the messenger, or assert politically correct expert consensus of scientific opinion as though it is scientific fact.

  15. Gordon Rabon says:3rd June 2011 at 3:21 pm@Andrew RyanForget it Andrew, you’re dealing with the ever shifting denialist style of arguing. No matter how matter times you debunk something, it just shifts to something else. After that, comes the strawman arguments, bit like what you dealing here. Once you’ve established that it’s a strawman argument, you shift back to debunking the already debunked arguments. Denialism is a self perpetuating, their own opinions become fact, then they use their newly created fact (opinions) to create more opinions, so on and so forth.
  16. Nige Cook says:3rd June 2011 at 4:03 pmI forgot to mention that the last-resort tactic by the denialists is huffing and puffing, allegations and rants, and claiming that the denialists are not those who ignore the facts, but are those pointing out the difference between fact and fiction! When they start writing such complete drivel, you’ve won your case and no mistake. 😉
  17. Andrew Ryan says:3rd June 2011 at 4:39 pm“Dawkins includes Islam but doesn’t specifically target it”One last post. I already told you that Dawkins does specifically target it. He has specifically called out Islam on specific aspects, many, many times. The only reason one would deny this is to maintain a persecution complex.Gordon – quite so.
  18. Gordon Rabon says:4th June 2011 at 4:36 amNige, why do you persist on the same line, Andrew has told you over and over again he does! All you need to do is to research what Dawkins says instead of putting up the same strawman arguments. I’m familiar with Dawkins and I know he does. The same goes for the climate debate, it’s the same tactic. But let’s get this right, who usually huffs and puffs. When all the myths are debunked, JD blogs resorts to name calling like ‘libtards’ and ‘watermelons’, and frequently rips climate experts to pieces.
  19. London Calling says:4th June 2011 at 7:05 amAndrew Ryan and Nige Cook: why don’t you f-off and start your own website? Then you can continue yourconversation without us have to scroll through it. What a yawn.
  20. Nige Cook says:4th June 2011 at 7:53 amThanks for the very wise advice. 😉

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