Monday, February 27, 2012

Sarah Teather and the "educated liberal elite"

I long ago concluded that one of the keys to a calm, happy life is not watching Question Time and not listening to Any Questions? Too many Dimblebys for a start.

But these days those programmes dominate my Twitter stream while they are on, so it can be hard to remain wholly ignorant of them. And there are times when you just have to take notice.

On Friday the Lib Dem minister Sarah Teather was on the panel for Any Questions? The second question asked how work experience has managed to get such a bad name.

In her reply (which begins at 10:00 in the recording) Teather said:
“I think it is interesting to look at who is fighting this campaign ... There is unfortunately an educated liberal elite who believes that jobs in retail are beneath them.”
Oh dear.

What is a Liberal Democrat minister doing using "liberal" as an all-purpose term of condemnation for someone who is not a Conservative? Can't she use that sort of thing to American Republicans and those who ape them?

And in many ways using "educated" as a derogatory term is worse.

I am all in favour of people starting work at the bottom or organisations (I did plenty of it myself), but there are particular problems with the government's scheme.

The first is that people should be paid for the work they do. The second is that if you give supermarkets a never-ending supply of shelf-stackers for free, why should they pay anyone to work in that role? This schemes is in danger of destroying jobs rather than creating them.

And then there is "elite".

Sarah Teather was educated at Leicester Grammar School for some years. Despite its name, this was founded only in 1981 and has always been a private school.

Since you ask, the fees per term are £3,620.

If I were Sarah Teather's parents, I would be asking for a refund.


Simon said...

I think you miss the real point about what Sarah is saying.

Let us consider the facts

As you say Sarah is a Liberal (or at least self identifies as such)

She is certainly educated (she even started a PhD, although she didn't finish it)

As a privately schooled, oxford educated government minister I think we can all agree she is an elite.

Having given up on her academic career she moved straight into a policy job, so I think its pretty clear that she would believe that a job in retail is beneath her.

All she's really saying here therefore is 'Hi, I'm Sarah Teather and I apologise to you for my existence'.


Paul McKeown said...

Abysmal. First signs of going native in the company of Tories? The Lib Dem conference can hardly come too soon for her benefit.

Anonymous said...

If I was Sarah Teather's parents I'd be taking her back - full stop. Or wondering when she was going to have a growth spurt. Or smile ever.

However, though badly phrased, she does have point about intellectual snobbery here.

Anonymous said...

When I heard her make the comment I tried to rationalise it, where I ended up was Sarah positioning the 'press' as the 'liberal' elite. Was clumsy at best. Everyone will throw the word liberal around and load it with positive or negative baggage. Doesnt help when a Minister fans the flames with like this.