Class conscious

In a second-hand shop the other day, I bought a book called The Snob Spotter's Guide, which turned out not to be a snob spotter's guide at all, but something altogether more nebulous. As if anyone needs a snob spotter's guide, anyway. Snobs are simply the people on whom the plebs - meaning me and, with all due respect, you - can gain no purchase, however much skill, charm, intelligence or flirtatiousness is expended.

There again, though, my wife maintains that I am horribly snobbish, and it is certainly true that I feel sick whenever I hear a Capital Radio DJ say . . . well, almost anything, but especially "If you wanna bell this show, call . . ." or "Have we made your day or what, love?" when a housewife phoning in has just won a holiday which, to hear him crow, you'd think the DJ had funded from his own pocket.

Nonetheless, I like to think that I'm on the side of victims of snobbery, such as Cannon and Ball (seldom feted on the arts pages), John Prescott or - the starkest example - Glenn Hoddle, who was bludgeoned so mercilessly for his lack of grammar ("I never said them words"). Sure, the guy has the haircut and pastel-shaded shirts that imply white socks down below, but if you listen to him talking when not under pressure, as I did recently when he was featured on a Five Live programme called Past Masters, he's very articulate.

Talking of football, I was delighted when Middlesbrough beat Spurs recently, because no place in Britain is more subjected to snobbery than Middlesbrough. Though it is closely surrounded by the most beautiful and under-populated countryside in England, London-based sports journalists, when previewing football fixtures involving Bryan Robson's team, always write something like: "The only good thing about Middlesbrough is the road from there to London."

Actually, their jokes are funnier than that, but not much. And they're composed, no doubt, from the pinnacle of metropolitan sophistication represented by some hard-won pebble-dashed semi in south London, moderately handy for Clapham Common and all its lovely dog dirt. Oops, shouldn't have said that; I'm only lending weight to the wife's case.

This article first appeared in the 17 April 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The rise of the ergonarchy