Posh-bashing: Enough to make you want to leave the Bullingdon Club

The actor Benedict Cumberbatch is considering leaving the UK on account of “all the posh-bashing that goes on“. Sick and tired of being “castigated as a moaning, rich, public-school bastard”, he might just up and leave. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. My partner and I have had him on “the list” for years, all thanks to a particularly saucy scene in To The Ends of The Earth. Visits to the SS Great Britain in Bristol haven’t been the same since and for that we have Benedict to thank.

Like Cumberbatch, I too have been a victim of posh-bashing. Unlike him, this was not because I attended a posh school. Au contraire, I attended a normal state school, but was bashed on account of being the type of person who needlessly throws around phrases such as “au contraire” (I also have a ridiculously long name, a barrister dad and degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. I might have a nothern accent, but I know where I stand on the poshometer, and it’s a million miles away from Coronation Street). So Benedict Cumberbatch, I know where you’re coming from (well, not literally, since I didn’t go to Harrow. But generally, I mean). Posh-bashing is mean, and it’s clearly wrong. But is it really that big a deal?

When I mentioned the posh-bashing to my partner – an Old Sennockian, no less – he was less than sympathetic. “Ooh, I wouldn’t mind a bit of the old posh-bashing with Benedict,” he winked, trying (unsuccessfully) to create a cheeky innuendo. See? That’s just the kind of attitude the poshos are up against, and it’s from their own kind (self-hating poshos are the worst). Me, I feel for Benedict, but mainly due to his total inability to get a bit of perspective. Being sneered at for being posh just isn’t all that bad. We all get sneered at for being either too posh or too common (at Oxford even I found myself in situations where, relatively speaking, I was a veritable Hilda Ogden). It’s just not that important.

Of course, the ideal position to be in is that of a very rich person from a very poor background. That way you get all the kudos of being self-made and having suffered and none of the shit that actually comes with being poor. Of course, you won’t be able to pass this unique status on to your children. Send them to whatever school you like and they’ll still be posh kids now. All the same, it’s better than them being poor.

According to Brendan O’Neill in the Telegraph, “posh-bashing has replaced prole-bashing as the nastiest strain in British politics”. It really hasn’t, though. All the “media handwringing over the Oxford Bullingdon Club” isn’t happening because it’s fun. It isn’t fun. It’s depressing that our country is in the hands of people who have so little idea of what middle-class muddling, let alone real deprivation, actually is. Despairing over David Cameron’s cossetted background isn’t the same as salivating over the apparent uselessness of chavs. Neither is it the same as being a bit mean to Benedict Cumberbatch. I’d defend Cumberbatch’s right to be left in peace way before Cameron’s, but still – even the sexiest Sherlock Holmes needs to get a grip.

In 1983 I had a full-on scrap with a classmate who accused me of being posh. Looking back, it was brilliant – everyone standing around after school in a huge circle, clapping and chanting “scrap! scrap!” – but at the time it was terrible. It got broken up by a teacher, just when I was about to win (whatever that would have involved), leaving my nemesis to insist that she was the victor. What with her being the cool, non-posh one, everyone went along with this (but it wasn’t true. Au contraire, I was way harder). Anyhow, a decade later I got my revenge. I had a place at Oxford and my dad was defending my nemesis for ABH. She was working as a hairdresser and, putting our differences aside, I went to her for my “going to university” haircut. She told me my dad was doing a good job and a small part of me couldn’t help thinking “hah! Posh girl won in the end”. But it was a rubbish thought and, quite rightly, it made me feel crap. Posh people always win in the end. The bashing makes no difference at all.

4 thoughts on “Posh-bashing: Enough to make you want to leave the Bullingdon Club

  1. Poor old Bandersnatch Cummerbund. Old Harrovian, Oxford alumnus and owner of the dramatic sphere’s most expressive nostrils.
    We’re mean to posh people. Also, he can’t get a part here that isn’t predictably posh.
    A bit like when, a few years back, Helena Bonham Carter whinged prettily about how much harder life in acting was for pretty, posh young women than for their plainer, more common colleagues.
    That elicited a response from Kathy Burke, who told her, as a member of the “non-pretty working class” to “fuck off, you stupid cunt”.
    Benedict, Helena. Be a working class person who’s too sick to work and then talk about
    hard knocks or media persecution, OK?
    An ex-colleague of mine went to Oxford. Her parents were teachers, her dad was my first comprehensive school head.
    She grew up quite middle-class, but took a strong South Wales valleys accent to Oxford.
    She made friends, some of them posh. But at her graduation, one of her posh pals dragged her away to meet the parents and said: “Mummy, Daddy, this is the one I was telling you about. Go on [prod], SAY something!”
    Even as equals, she was a figure of fun for speakers of the Q’s E to be amused by.
    Benedict Cumberbatch can clear off to the States as soon as he likes. Not like upper crust English actors ever get typecast over there, is it?

    1. Brilliant rant! I now feel ashamed for not feeling even crosser at Benedict Cumberbatch for being such a knob.
      I never met with quite idiocy at Oxford, but I did encounter very rich students who felt they were discriminated against (and that people like me were only around due to “political correctness” – taking a place that poor old Rupert, currently languishing at Durham, should really be occupying…)

    2. I agree with you, but unfortunately things have got so bad that being a person of any class who is too sick to work makes you a target for serious bashing. I am a proper middle class type (who was often accused of being posh back home, but no one here realises Northern Irish people can have class differences…) and since I’ve become ill, I’ve just become generic scum.

      I’m glad I have a fantastic education to help me deal with all the forms, but none of my achievements mean anything to anyone anymore. Going to prep school wasn’t me being entitled. It’s claiming sickness benefits of £91 a week that’s entitled according to the people I meet. I think I prefer it when people mocked my accent and tthe fact I rode horses. It was much more character building. (Which Benedict might find useful what with being an actor?)

      1. I’m sorry you’ve had to put up with so much crap – it is remarkable what now seems to constitute having an unfair advantage (perhaps if we all try harder to be rich and healthy we can fully understand Benedict’s pain).

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