He [Boris] was at the home affairs committee, and was asked by Martin Salter, a Labour MP, whether the problem was that young persons carried knives these days because they had become fashion accessories. Boris agreed that we needed to de-glamorise knife crime. "It is moronic, wasteful, and you know, it's not the death of Mercutio."This is ridiculous. Martin Salter is not some barefoot boy from the gutters of Reading West. He attended Hampton Grammar School in Middlesex, where you can be sure that Shakespeare had an honoured place in the curriculum.
Mr Salter looked startled. But not for long. "Who was that?" he inquired. "Your education cost more than mine."
True, there has always been something a bit mockney about Salter: his accent just a little too Ben Elton to be real. (I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that his father was a BBC announcer with a formidably grand accent, but I suspect that is just wishful thinking on my part.)
But why does anyone who was educated in the state sector now feel obliged to affect this sort of inferiority complex? For any intelligent person, the idea that someone from a public school is automatically better educated than you are should not survive your first week at university.
I have heard Diane Abbott say that, as a grammar school girl, she felt superior when she met public school boys for the first time. Their parents had to pay to get them into good schools.
That attitude sounds very foreign now. Why is this? I suspect the abolition of the grammar schools is a part of it. Forty or fifty years ago the best state schools gave a better academic education than any fee-paying school. It would he hard to claim that today, whatever gains comprehensive schools have brought in other directions.
Another culprit is the general anti-intellectualism we see today. Martin Salter displayed this well when he felt obliged to pretend not to know who Mercutio was.
I am with Boris. Hoggart writes:
Now Boris doesn't quote the classics just to show off. He genuinely believes that the great works of the past illuminate our understanding of the present.If you don't believe that, what is the point of education?
Finally, whatever your view on this, please stop using "posh" as a synonym for "educated". We used to understand that they are two very different things.