Prescott: a class act…?

I keep reading reviews of Prescott: The Class System and Me (Mondays, 9pm, BBC2) so decided I should watch it. No great surprises – Prescott is what we all know him to be – proud of his working-class roots but equally proud of his large house (“Prescott Castle”), his Jags and his croquet. What a conundrum the man is! – or so the voiceover kept telling us. I don’t have any strong feelings for the man – good on him for getting to where he is, though he can be rather annoying. The reviews have all raved about the wonders of Pauline Prescott, who seems like a pleasant well-meaning woman, if rather less hard-edged than her husband, who declares “The upper classes are the enemy!” Two scenes seemd particularly revealing: firstly, when he met some teenage girls, who explained to him what chavs were and that they weren’t chavs. Prescott asked what class they thought they were; one of them asserted she was middle-class. Prescott expressed surprise; he thought she was working class. “But I don’t work,” she explained patiently. I presume her trust fund keeps her going while she looks for a job. He seemed proud of his ability to communicate with these youngsters; however, this was based on swapping tales of people they have punched. Not a great role model, then. The other moment was at Henley, where Prescott, clearly uncomfortable among the blazers and Pimms, points out to some young men that “only 7.5% of the population go to private schools, but they occupy 80% of high-level civil service, legal and political positions”. This is wrong, he explains. One of the lads asks if perhaps that’s indicative of the standard of education offered by the private schools. Prescott glosses over this. But surely this is exactly the point. The programme stresses over and over that class is not about money. They don’t consider exactly what it is about, but the essence of it, as Prescott agonises over his grammar and claims to never have read a book, is that education is what makes you what you are. Surely, rather than trying to destroy privilege, Prescott should want to improve education, not destroy what already works. He comes across as a man deeply jealous of those who have had a good education, who speak well and use good grammar. One wonders why, if it matters that much to him, he didn’t try to remedy this years ago. But then, perhaps, he wouldn’t be able to go on about his working-class background and the perceived insidious evil of the middle- and upper-classes so much.

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