BILL JAMIESON FEBRUARY 7 2017
Today I do not know whether to weep tears of happiness or sob in despair. I have failed the Sunday Times test to find out whether I am (or am not) a member of Britain’s “liberal elite”.
This is the term that has rocketed up the ladder of public vilification– or dinner party compliment depending on whether you are “in” or “out”.
Well, I’m “out”. But what makes it really bad is that I’m only just out – or “nearly there” in quizmaster Rod Liddle’s dismissive summation of my score.
“Nearly there”? That’s worse than being “nowhere near”. It’s like being consigned in that black hole of the medieval cosmos – not Heaven, not Earth, not Hell – but doomed to eternal Purgatory.
The world of the “liberal elite” snapped sharply into focus last year when the bien pensants of the media and public commentariat reeled in shock and horror at the June referendum vote to leave the EU.
The panjandrums of the national Good – the BBC, the Westminster crowd, the arts establishment, the Guardianistas, the Holland Park set, actors, celebs, creative types and the legions of political pundits – were reduced to spluttering disbelief and outrage that millions of Brexiteers had appeared from nowhere to up-end the Euro apple cart.
Who were they – these bigots, racists, xenophobes, fascists, ignorant little Englanders – who emerged from the darkest corners of the land to vote differently from what they were told was good for them?
And barely had this outrage begun to subside than America voted for that bigoted, vulgar, misogynist, ghastly Donald Trump as their president!
In his book Coming Apart, the American sociologist Charles Murray warned of an “over-educated” top five per cent of America’s population becoming effectively estranged from the rest of the country.
We have always had elites – but never one in living memory as distanced and remote from the rest of the people in its views, its educational qualifications, its cultural aspirations, its lifestyle and indeed political beliefs.
He might have added that few groups more invoke the terms “community”, “engagement”, “conversation” and the treacly “we’re listening” than the very elite that has become strangers to the very meaning of these words.
But who are the “liberal elite” exactly? Rod Liddle’s brilliant test, running to 26 questions, sought to expose our lifestyles, attitudes and beliefs. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be in the liberal elite, or, as Liddle bluntly puts it, “an over-educated elitist snob”.
For example, “What is the top prize in the Thunderball and when is the draw?” Score ten if your answer is ‘What the hell is Thunderball?’
“Who are Matt Terry, Saara Aaltro, and After Midnight?” Score ten if you haven’t a clue.
Have you ever worked in a factory or ever been in a factory?
What is quinoa and how do you pronounce it?
How far from your home is the nearest branch of Waitrose?
Have you ever taken a holiday in an all-inclusive resort anywhere in the Mediterranean? Highest scoring answer: “Well, our villa had a free pool and a nanny”.
If you scored 150 or more you are most definitely in the liberal elite – and when the Brexit result came in you “probably coughed up blood”.
For a score between 0 and 50 “you are a fairly normal person and certainly not over-educated or over-remunerated or aloof”.
My score fell in the category of 101-150 – “not quite there, are you? You are on the cusp of the elite if somewhat cruelly excluded from it”.
Oh, dear. ‘Nearly There’? I’m a dead man walking. There’s no room in this sharply polarised world for ‘dissenting liberal elite’ or ‘liberal elite but Brexit-voting, gluten-tolerant and meat-eating’.
And what of my Scots friends who shop at the Co-op, use public transport, smoke, watch the X-Factor and who voted Remain? On the dark side of Pluto?
The message is clear. As a liberal elite “Nearly There” I must now withdraw from society until I learn to pronounce quinoa, hide all traces of my holidays in Tenerife, and stop going to Waitrose.
Purgatory, did I say? Rod Liddle has consigned me to everlasting hell.