Today's Guardian makes depressing reading for anyone who supports a progressive agenda in British politics. The Guardian/ICM poll suggests that Britain remains a nation that is still dominated by class division. Of those questioned:
89% said they think people are still judged by their class - with almost half saying that it still counts for "a lot".
8% thought that class does not matter at all in shaping the way people are seen.
55% of people said that class, not ability, greatly affects the way they are seen.
The sad reality is that social mobility is decreasing in Britain today, in fact the British middle classes are operating what is, in effect, a closed shop. Let me give you an example: our top universities are still mainly the preserve of a rich, well-connected elite. I well remember the furore a few years ago when Bristol University was accused of gross discrimination and unfairness - spurred on by several influential columnists and leader writers - for introducing a 'fairer' criterion for admissions that would benefit pupils from poorer backgrounds. Often the real reasons why many left leaning journalists and politicians end up sending their sons and daughters to fee-paying schools are not based on the raw results of the local state schools but on a desire to ensure that their child has access to what the local comprehensive cannot provide: privilege, advantage and the opportunity to network. British public schools have always been a production line of the class system. They employ some of the best-qualified teachers. These schools can raise their fees steadily, select their pupils, enjoy a growing endowment income from their benefactors and offer some of the most impressive sporting and extracurricular activities. What is more, they recruit from a middle class obsessed by perceived educational and social advantage, a middle class that talks left but all too often acts right.