A lady at a dinner party I went to recently was inveighing against the sorts of unspeakables who vote UKIP. She ran a very high-end safari travel company. ‘Some of these people,’ she said, searching angrily for the mots justes, ‘some of these people have never even… been to Africa.’
It’s the old snobbery in a new dress. Indeed, this kind of snobbery – of the well-educated and wealthy with vaguely ‘left-wing’, morally superior pretensions, looking down on the unwashed masses and their frightful, antediluvian political views – is one of the most obvious forms nowadays. Goldie Lookin Chain, the greatest rap group ever to come out of Newport in south Wales, nail it perfectly in their celebrated ‘Waitrose Rap’, in which they caricature, among other types, the chap who wears a Barbour jacket, Hunter wellies and carries around a copy of The Guardian. Twenty years ago it would have been the Daily Telegraph.
D J Taylor has written a new guide to snobbery in 21st-century Britain. The title echoes The Book of Snobs, the name commonly given to The Snobs of England, the great comic work by one of his literary heroes, Thackeray, which first appeared in serial form in 1846–7.