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28 October 2015updated 07 Sep 2021 11:31am

Ramekin fury and the rise of the Hollyoaks class in this week’s correspondence

The most controversial issue in last week's magazine? Ramekins.

By New Statesman

Star Letter: The rise of the Hollyoaks class

Stuart Maconie (“Who let the toffs out?”, 30 January) decries the lack of working-class involvement in pop culture and draws sad comparisons between the mid-20th century and today. Yet the comparison is not apt. Half a century ago, the traditional working class Maconie cites (blue collar, urban, non-property-owning) was vast and numerically dominant. As a result, that class was diverse intellectually and likely to spawn lots of ambitiously creative individuals, especially once old notions of deference began to fade.

But democrats need not despair. The new dominant class – white collar, suburban, mortgaged – is far from posh and has already made an extensive contribution to popular culture (for example, bands such as Kasabian – the product of a community college in Leicestershire).

If Maconie delved deeper, he would find that the vast majority of artists are still from “ordinary” backgrounds. It is just that the nature of “ordinary” has changed: less Coronation Street, more Hollyoaks, perhaps.

Richard Kelly


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US and them

The NS Leader (30 January) quotes the US senator Bernie Sanders as saying that the UK, with its aristocracy, “is a class society”. However, when I was young, the UK was a western-European social democracy. Inequality was, by today’s standards, much smaller. We had a strong trade union movement, proper employment protection with living wage rates, progressive tax scales, a humane welfare system and equal opportunity supported by fully funded educational grants. This has been largely eroded by the pernicious influence of American cultural imperialism.

And if Sanders doesn’t think that the US has its own class system, perhaps he should re-examine its history of exterminating the indigenous population, as well as lynching, segregation, mass incarceration, police impunity in the killing of black Americans and the practice of alternating White House occupancy between dynastic political families.

Gavin Lewis


Uncivil engineers

Peter Wilby writes (First Thoughts, 30 January): “Because most engineering projects require long-term planning, many engineers have rigid minds.” Really? Because most journalists are paid by the word, I have heard, many will write what first comes into their heads without knowing what they are talking about.

Martin Evans

London NW5

Group think

In “Battle of the tax bands” (Voices, 30 January), Alan Milburn repeats his belief that social mobility has stalled.

He’s right. On the other hand, we could throw out the idea of social mobility altogether as a just solution to inequality. Why should we be so concerned about the “bright” working-class children succeeding by getting a place at a Russell Group university?

What happens to the majority left behind, reconfirmed as losers?

Kathryn Dodd

London N16

Nats naffed off

So a politician whose party espouses policies that the left-of-centre English public could only dream of has now become, in Kevin Maguire’s eyes (Observations, 30 January), “a pocket chieftain . . . wearing unfeasibly high heels”. Rarely have I seen such an ill-judged observation masquerading as humour: misogyny, racial stereotyping and condescension.

Roddie MacLennan


Next of ramekin

Will Self’s wife is spot on (Real Meals, 30 January) – ramekins have been around for a while.

In my copy of Katharine Whitehorn’s Cooking in a Bedsitter (first in paperback in 1963), she deplores the way that most cookbooks prescribe “a vast battery of equipment without which the simplest dish is doomed to failure” and adds: “I always burst into tears when I get to the bit about the little porcelain ramekins.” You’re in good company, Will.

Philip Kemp

London NW1

Will Self writes like an angel, even when spouting bollocks. From my late auntie Elsie’s 1861 edition of Mrs Beeton: “Chicken, ramakins of”.

G R Inman

Chester-le-Street, County Durham

Will Self, I feel I must support your much-maligned wife. If she wants to buy ramekins, what is it to do with you?

Aileen Orr

Hutton, Scottish Borders

“Ensorcelled” – yet another word new to me from Will Self. He can eat at our place any time. We will gladly chuck out the sourdough, the bowls of olive oil, the Jamaican pimento-spiced chocolate ganache and even our ramekins to be entertained by such a deipnosophist as he. Some sacrifices of essentials do, after all, have to be made.

Bob Ballard


What a relief to see Will Self’s article start with the word “ensorcelled”. In his previous three articles I didn’t have to look up a single word. I was beginning to wonder if an imposter was at work.

Paul Stockton

Via email

No intelligence

What is wrong with Helen Lewis? She seems to think that Ex Machina was a feminist tract that misfired (The Critics, 23 January). If only it had a nude man in it to even things up. Laura Fisk (Correspondence, 30 January) compounds this when she complains that not only weren’t there any willies but Ava was too thin. Girls, girls. You have missed the point. It’s a film about artificial intelligence, not gender. If you must take that approach, rejoice in Ava’s ability to outwit and outsmart the men around her.

Gary Day and Kate Gale

Rushden, Northamptonshire

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