The sounds of home, the old British obsession with class

The old British obsession with class reappeared during the election campaign, partly fuelled by John Prescott (Patrick Middleton, who’s interviewed him, says he’s as unlikeable as they say and, like Gordon Brown, has no time for dogs). I’m told by old hands here that 25 years ago class awareness within our community was much more evident than today.

BritsOne local reader recalls, back in the early Eighties, being closely questioned at a British Association lunch about which school he’d been to. Accent, of course, still has some role, among Brits in helping people to categorise each other (or, as George Bernard Shaw once said, “to despise each other”).

In the UK this has led notoriously to displays of inverted snobbery as politicians have tried hard not to sound “posh”. Tony Blair (Fettes and Oxford) has always been a master at this brand of falseness and has a voice for every audience. Recently it was learned that Tory Shadow Chancellor George Osborne (St Paul’s and Oxford) has been taking lessons so he can sound more “ordinary”. I do wonder if people are put off by “poshness”.

Of the older Royals, Charles is a twerp and is so regarded; the Queen sounds “posh” but across her nearly 58 years on the throne a recent study of all her recorded Christmas broadcasts showed that her way of speaking has changed slowly but surely to something closer to that of “ordinary” educated people. First time round she began: “I em speaking to you from my own hame where I em spending Christmas with my femly.” Last Christmas she didn’t sound like that.