Saturday, October 24, 2020

Ben Bradley is a rare beneficiary of snobbery

Ben Bradley is solidly middle class. His parents sent him to Derby Grammar School, which despite its name is an expensive private school. Its current fees the sixth-form students are £14,233.

Ben Bradley is as much a career politico as it is possible to be. When he was elected to parliament at the age of 27 he had a degree in politics, was a member of Nottinghamshire County Council and Ashfield District Council, and was working at Westminster as a political researcher.

So why do people regard him as a working-class outsider? How does he get away with being the Chairman of Blue Collar Conservatives?

The answer is snobbery. Because Bradley speaks with an East Midlands accent, people assume he must be working class.

This is absurd and patronising, but our national life is so dominated by people from the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge that people in the political world seldom come across people with an accent different from their own. 

When they do, they generally assume it's because he or she is working class - as if there are no middle-class people north of Watford Gap.

This makes Bradley a rare beneficiary of snobbery. He has so far largely got away with his repellent views because it has been thought his is an authentic working-class voice with no time for the niceties of middle-class debate. Salt of the earth and all that.

I suspect this view of him will not survive his current manic self-exposure.

In the 19th century accents were more diverse. Gladstone is reported to have had a Lancashire accent (though its hard to detect in the only genuine recording of him), while Charles Kingsley spoke with a strong West Country accent.

The only survival of this you hear today is when a Northumbrian aristocrat is interviewed and turns out to speak with the local accent.

Photo of Ben Bradley by Richard Townshend.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Unfortunately, I can't find it just at the moment, but see if you can find a recording of Lord Curzon - Viceroy of India and Tory Grandee, the man who, it is argued, regarded class as more important than race when it came to governing the subcontinent. By any stretch of the imagination, he was "posh" (grew up in Kedleston Hall etc) but he actually had an appalling childhood. Because of parental absence he was raised by a sadistic Nurse who by today's standards would be regarded as quite mad. Anyway, the reason for this tale is that when he finally escaped her and went to Eton at the age of 12, he spoke with a heavy Derbyshire accent - which stayed with him for the rest of his life.