Royal wedding reveals the same old class prejudices

Britons find the idea people of moving beyond one's social class both desirable and at the same time

Whilst the candor and the maturity of those two young people describing their intention to spend the rest of their lives together was surprisingly moving, the British media's wall-to-wall fawning coverage of the royal engagement exposed the fact that the United Kingdom remains a deeply class-ridden and sexist society.

If news reports are to be believed, Kate Middleton has not only fulfilled every girl's dream of marrying a prince - albeit one with thinning hair and fading looks - but by bagging the 'ultimate prize' she has also set the bench-mark in social climbing. The press obsess about the fact that Middleton is marrying above her station. Her parents are "in trade" running a mail-order company and were once both airline stewards. Indeed, Kate is the first "commoner" to marry into British royalty in 350 years but instead of being cause for celebration, this fact has been met with sneering snobbery from all sides.

William and Kate's relationship is commonly described as a Cinderella story and like the original fairytale this modern romance is also rife with negative gender stereotyping and ugly class prejudice. Despite the veneer of Disneyfication, this royal fairytale and our reactions to it expose many of the worst aspects of British society. Unlike America where climbing the social ladder is celebrated, Britons find the idea people of moving beyond one's social class both desirable and at the same time repellant. Britons aspire to upward mobility but despise themselves and are despised for it.

Whilst I genuinely hope William and Kate share many long and happy years together I find it hard to buy into the fairytale. Although her prince may have come and Kate Middleton may relocate to a palace, she has not been handed the key to happiness. Her parents may bristle with pride at their daughter's 'advantageous marriage' but after the ball is over the new princess will have to get used to a lifetime of dull social events, official functions and media intrusion. Although it is unlikely that she will ever become a feminist icon or a class warrior, we can but hope that the arrival of Lady Kate may yet challenge rather than reinforce some of Britain's most deep-seated prejudices.

Stefan Simanowitz is a journalist, broadcaster and human rights campaigner, you can see more of his work here.

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Battle of the banners: how the disputes of football took to the skies

Across the top of the screen floated a banner, pulled by a little aeroplane: IN ARSENE WE TRUST.

Last weekend, during the West Brom-Arsenal game, I began to think my hearing was playing up again. I’ve been given hearing aids but don’t wear them. No, not vanity, it’s just a faff to put the things in and the quality of my life, which is excellent, is not being impaired. Anyway, as I live on my own, if the sound on the telly is too low, I put it up. No one knows or cares.

When I’m out entertaining lady friends at my local bistro, I always get a quiet table in the corner and sit facing them, all rapt attention, totally focused on them, so they think. It’s really just to help my hearing.

On the TV screen, I suddenly heard an aeroplane, which was weird, as there was no sign of it, but then hearing problems are weird. Children talking sounds deafening. Some consonants disappear. Could it be a helicopter on the Heath, taking some injured person to the Royal Free? At our Lakeland house, I often heard helicopters: the mountain rescue team, picking up someone who had collapsed on Grasmoor. So I do know what they sound like. But this sounded like Biggles.

Then across the top of the screen floated a banner, pulled by a little aeroplane: IN ARSENE WE TRUST. The score at the time was 1-1, Arsenal having just equalised. They eventually got beaten 3-1. Oh, the shame and irony.

Apparently, earlier in the game, according to newspaper reports the next day, there had been an anti-Wenger aeroplane banner: NO CONTRACT, WENGER OUT. I didn’t see it – or Sky TV didn’t show it.

Where do the fans or supporter groups get all the money? And how do they organise it? There is a theory that IN ARSENE WE TRUST was paid for by Arsène himself. Another, more amusing theory is that it was a group of Spurs supporters, desperate for Arsène to stay on at Arsenal and continue getting stuffed.

There have been a few similar aeroplane banners at football matches in recent years. There was one at Newcastle, when they were playing Sunderland, which read 5 IN A ROW 5UNDERLAND. Sunderland won, so it came true. Sent the Geordie fans potty.

Everton fans flew one in 2015 which read KENWRIGHT & CO TIME TO GO. He is still chairman, so it didn’t work.

Millwall fans did an awfully complicated one in 2011 at Wigan, during the Wigan-West Ham game, which resulted in West Ham going down. They hired a plane to fly overhead with the banner AVRAM GRANT – MILLWALL LEGEND. Now you have to know that Grant was the West Ham manager and Millwall are their rivals. And that they couldn’t fly it at West Ham itself, which could have caused most fury to West Ham fans. There’s a no-fly zone in London, which stops rival fans hiring planes to take the piss out of Chelsea, Arsenal and West Ham. The Millwall supporters who organised it later revealed that it had only cost them £650. Quite cheap, for a good laugh.

There’s presumably some light aeroplane firm that specialises in flying banners over football grounds.

I do remember a few years ago, at White Hart Lane and Highbury, walking to the grounds and looking out for blimps flying overhead – small, balloon-like airships mainly used for promotional purposes, such as Goodyear tyres or Sky’s aerial camera. The results were pretty useless, showing little. I haven’t seen any recently, so presumably blimps aren’t allowed over central London either.

I am surprised drones have not been used, illegally, of course, to display obscene messages during games. They could drag a few pithy words while on the way to drop drugs at Pentonville Prison.

The history of aeroplane advertising goes back a long way. Before the Second World War, Littlewoods and Vernons football pools were fighting it out for dominance, just as the online betting firms are doing today. In 1935, Littlewoods sent planes over London pulling banners that proclaimed LITTLEWOODS ABOVE ALL. Jolly witty, huh. 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution