Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cricket should tackle its football hooligans - Margin

Snobbery is fundamental to English society. It pervades everything we do. It affects the homes we buy, the way we speak, the clothes we wear, and the jobs we do. So naturally sport is not immune.

My somewhat below average secondary school, when it sought to improve itself, pretended to be middle class. It introduced private school uniforms. It created a Private school ‘house system’ for classes. And it closed the football team and started to play rugby. Exam results didn’t improve, but its reputation shot up.

Of course I should explain that Rugby in Essex is a middle class game. I don’t know why that is when in the South West it is beautifully egalitarian, and in Wales decidedly working class. But what maters more is that a true snob doesn’t pick rugby anyway. He picks cricket every time.

Cricket is rural, middle class, calm, and peaceful. Far from support high wages for top players, this sport once reserved highest regard for ‘gentlemen cricketers’ – men wealthy enough to play for free and not soil the sound of leather on willow with the rustle of folding notes.

In the minds of most Englishmen Cricket has never changed. It represents pleasant village greens, warm bear from wooden club houses, handshakes and gentlemanly conduct. It is the height of honesty and fair play, and remains the picture perfect England that never truly existed.

In that same mind’s eye, those who watch it are well dressed accountants, lawyers, and captains of industry. They know their fine cigars and display good manners at all times. In short, cricket fans are not the rowdy, aggressive, brawling mass of factory scum that makes football a violent and brutal affair both on and off the pitch.

And so it was that more than a decade ago that cricketing legend Geoffrey Boycott reported on radio that ‘football hooligans’ were causing trouble in the stands. Football was violent, cricket was not, and his light hearted tone emphasised the honesty behind his wisdom.

But what now that violence is worse at Lords than Wembley?

English football is still aggressive and loud, and that’s part of why I love it. But so to is English cricket. The Barmy Army has better elocution, but it is just as loud and aggressive as any football counterpart and viciously lambastes those who let it down. And that’s part of why I love it too.

At the same time football is no longer violent. Indeed as a steward for two years not so long ago, I ejected not one fan from Craven Cottage, Stamford Bridge, or Wembley Stadium. Stewarding Lords and the Oval however, was a whole different matter.

Cricket has real violence. While never ejecting a football fan, I helped expel cricket fans by the dozen. Some were in groups. Many were individuals. And heaven help any steward posted near a pretty girl with bare legs. The exploits I saw would lead to arrest, charge, and conviction for sexual assault if they happened in the high street. Yet these men were never even banned from the ground.

Part of cricket’s problem is drink.

Football fans spend two hours at the game, and drink at most a pint or two bought before kick off, and a pint or two bought at half time. Cricket fans can spend all day drinking, buying pint after pint throughout proceedings with little pressure to stop. We rarely had trouble at the Oval at noon, but were over worked five hours later.

And here in lies a problem. English mind are comfortable with the fact that alcohol turn a law abiding family loving builder into a raging, violent and sexually aggressive bastard. But I’m not sure I want to accept it does the same to accountants and lawyers. And society certainly doesn’t.

So can I ignore my own knowledge, for the sake of snobbery, and pretend that the violent outbursts come from working class cricket fans instead of the bankers to blame?

The answer is of course no. England is not yet ready to accept that middle class fans really care about football, or that working class fans really get cricket. Well spoken football fans are labelled ‘corporate’ while working class cricket followers are often just ignored so as to pretend they don’t exist.

So how do we explain unseemly behaviour from the Barmy Army when England are poor? And how do I explain the violence in the stands that stewards struggle to cope with?

Simple, we pretend they are football hooligans and like Richard Remedios on the Guardian yesterday, demand they ‘Go back to football and stay there please.’


Zeph said...

I hate the 'Barmy Army' - just another parade of Brits showing the world how good we are at being drunk and ignorant.

Cricket isn't only middle-class in all parts of the country, in spite of the 'Gentlemen and Players' heritage. There's a big working-class tradition too, especially in rural areas. But as you say, it never used to have violent crowds.

Aren't the cricket hooligans the same obnoxious prats you see staggering about in London every Friday night, having gone straight from the office to the pub? Don't know if you'd call them middle-class, but they certainly think they own the world.

mimi said...

couldn't agree more with Zeph. The Barmy Army have become an embarrassment to most followers of the game. I don't know about the class thing - in cricket I think it varies wildly depending on which part of the country you live in, but from friends with children in the south, if you want your kids to play the game, you pay, from kiddie clubs upwards. There's no state provision for the game in most schools that I have knowledge of.

Zeph said...

Here's another name-check, just cos they're A Good Thing:

(charity which aims to get cricket taught in more state schools)

bluedaddy said...

I'm not sure I know exactly what you are on about here, Margin. You seem to have thrown the kitchen sink at this one. Class, booze, sexism, history, Boycs.

What is your point?

andrewm said...

A cricket-obsessed friend of mine finally made it down to a Test a few years ago and he was disgusted with the crowd. He said it was all about the drinking and no-one actually concentrated on the match.

It's always been a myth that cricket fans are more intelligent than football fans. I think it comes from the fact that cricket has more complex terminology, so you can sound smart to the uninitiated even if you know nothing. By contrast, you can know a great deal about football but sound horribly cliched when you actually talk about it.

Ebren said...

I think the point (and correct me if I'm wrong Mr Margin) is that he hates it when cricket fans see unruly behaviour at a cricket match, by other cricket fans, and label them "football fans".

It strikes me - certainly - as ostrich behaviour. It's not addressing the problem, it's saying the problem is not us at all - it's those football oiks.

It pisses me off. Because the next time there is trouble at a footy game you would never hear someone say "cricket fans run wild at Milan-Man U" - even if every one of those arrested is an Old Trafford (not that one) regular.

Football and cricket have long historical links and there are many double internationals (not mentioning the Nevilles) and a lot more people who played 1st class/top flight for both (only two people have been to both world cups, but Geoff hurst batted for Essex).

But any trouble at cricket and it's the football element. And Margin thinks it's classist.

That might be a southern thing, but there is definately something going on that needs mentioning (and it's nice to learn stewards can be people too).

Margin said...

Andrew M sums it up

Why can rugby and football fans concentrate on their sport while drinking and shouting, but cricket fans can’t?

As Ebren says, I think this comes down to snobbery. Cricket has a snob value that many of its own followers, like Andrew’s friend, have bought into. They consider their game cerebral, and themselves socially superior to counterparts in other sports.

Zeph is right that cricket is and never was truly middle class. It always had working class players and fans. But English society idealizes affluent rural life, and in doing that it imagines a middle class village green, and a cricketing past that never really existed.

None of that would matter if there was no violence. But there is violence.

I might be wrong about the snobbery. There might be some other reason why cricket hooligans get labeled football hooligans. But whatever the reason, that mislabeling means cricket is failing to identify and solve a problem inherent to cricket. And as a cricket fan that annoys me more than the slight against me as a football fan.

Zeph said...

Margin - does this reflect a wider reluctance to admit that the quality of life in the UK is being damaged by louts in suits as much as by yobs in hoodies/football shirts?
Oops, starting to sound like CiF...

mimi said...

Zeph and Mouth: come and discuss it at Pipita's thread. Best to get together.

Margin said...


absolutely - the English aspire to a particular social status just as much as aspiring to material wealth.

We believe that a nice four bedroom house in suburbia with a good job and smart car reflects more than hard work or good fortune, but actually reflects a moral and intellectual status.

And by claiming social superiority over them we can then fix our ideas of social ills on those who in many cases just make different choices to us.

a wonderful example was a policeman in islington i saw give evidence at parliament about the problem with perceptions.

He said that an elderly woman had phoned the police to complain about yobs hanging arround. - The yobs were three hoody wearing teeneagers walking to one of their home's in the same street.

the woman still declared 'well some one should do something - we don't want those problems here'.

offside said...

cricket hooligans? LOL

offside said...

OK, I've actually read it now, and the comments too. Very instructive. I really should visit England one day. Especially as I'd like to have a pint of that "warm bear". Sounds cuddly.

Sorry Margin, I couldn't resist. But apart from that one giggle-inducing typo, faultless writing.

Margin said...

you've never been to England? No wonder you don't know about our warm bears.

Although this doesn't happen in competitive cricket, it is still a custom in village cricket to bring out a bear cub during lunch, having fed it on a nip of brandy - and spectators pet it when it wanders over to eat your sandwiches.

Ebren said...

Must be smarter than the average bear then, they normally go for picnic baskets.

offside said...

I've been through England a couple of times, on my way to Scotland or Wales. Does that count?

Margin said...

Scotland and Wales are pretty much the same as England anyway.

And you should tell any scots or Welshmen you know that an Englishman told you so.

mimi said...

margin: are you trying to provoke me? As a Welshwoman, raised in England and living now in Scotland, I could take great exception to your remark! Apart from Northumbria (which used to be Scotland anyway), there are more differences than similarities between the countries, and not just topographical (English mountains, ha!). We even have our own money up here, you know!

BlueinBetis said...


Thats because you are all so tight that you don't spend it.

he he.

Cricket in Yorkshire has never been middle class, but has always had problems too, West Indies refused to play at Headingly because of the racial abuse, bananas and the like from the crowds. I agree that his has more to do with acknowledging a problem and snobbery in London.

Would I be correct in assuming that a 'cold bear' is white?

offside said...


either that or it's dead.

Zeph said...

Late rant (you've probably all given up on this thread but hey..)

GU OBOs - I know they're a second home for some of you guys, but have you noticed that increasingly they're 75% about what the writer is drinking, how much he's going to drink, where a good/interestingly louche pub is.. and about 25% about the cricket?

So what's a cricket match then, a drinking session with a bit of sport attached?

I bet they have friends of friends who are exactly the cricket hooligans Margin describes.

Oops sorry, Offside, on topic again.

nesta said...

I enjoyed the article and found it most illuminating. All this class sparation is a very foreign concept in the land of pademelons.

can someone explain,
How do you know what class you are in? Do you get a certificate at birth or after high school?

How is it classified? Can you be lower middle or upper lower class?

Is it by birth?

Why would a people want to divide and not unite? From my simple island perspective it seems insane. Are there any advantages to snobbery?

And I should add that one of my fave moments of January was Nix crowdsurfing what was left of the Barmy Army at the SCG after the ComBank Trophy win.

mimi said...

Nesta: it's all down to the historical suppression of the masses by the Normans. They came over here with their motte and bailey castles and their exclusive court society and set a tone that has lasted for not far short of a thousand years.

nesta said...

The Normans hey mim. But how do you know which class you belong. Does your Mum tell you? I just don't get it. It's a democracy, doesn't everyone get equal opportunity and a fair go?

What are the differences between the classes?

If a father works in a factory and his son becomes a doctor is the Son still considered working class? And inversely if a Doctor's son works painting the lines on the road is he working class or Doctor class?

When you are curious for details about the British class system and your family has lived in the New Non Norman World for 10 generations it is all rather puzzling.

I have many other questions. I'll just ask one for now. Under what circumstances do the classes mix socially and are there 'rules of court 'involved?

talishka said...

nesta, class comes down to the root of all, its a simple case of the have,s and the have nots.
But like you i question who decides class. My opinion is it is the rich people who decide class.

offside said...


you can be infuriating sometimes. If only I had editing rights on this site....

talishka said...

hey offside

Zeph said...

Nesta, no blog is long enough to explain, except to say that like the weather, class in the UK is infinitely variable. And it's almost always judged by what you hear when someone opens their mouth - accent and (sometimes) vocabulary.

You might say it's a constant undertone in the hum of national life, but the loud shouty voice now is money, which is what decides most things.

Where do all the social classes meet and mingle? Sport, of course.

Zeph said...

Offside, je m'excuse.... But I have been valiantly backing up the off-topic Aussies on GU. Against some definitely unclassy English.

BlueinBetis said...


Class is something that is always determined by money, and age of said money, in the mother land. Rupert Murdoch for example, would never have class, because he is Australian. Abramovich, likewise. Al Fayed, the list is endless. Compare this to the treatment doled out by the media to David Dein, who has less money than all of them, but ooozes upper-classness, as does Rupert Lowe. We can spot it a mile away, usually all they have to do is open gob, and out it flies.

In my opinion it's perpetuated by our education system. Basically, if you didn't pay for your education, you'll never be in the club. And even paying for it doesn't guarantee it...

Some nationalities have been accepted, but due to your nations historic attachment to ours, you start at an unusual disadvantage. Being a convicted thief per se is not a problem - Lord Archer, but being Austalian, well thats pretty nearly unforgiveable.

I'm trying to be as tongue in cheek about this as possible, but basically it comes out as bitter, since it is a crock of shit that has no advantages for any apart from those with class.

Evidently something I do not have, nor will my children, nor my childrens' children, nor my get the point.

Ebren said...

BiB it's not about the money, and it's not about paying for your educaiton. And it's not about how long the money's been in the family.

There are people who have both of these and will not be accepted.

Kate Fox's excellent "watching the english" is the best disection of English attitudes to class and Englishness I've read.

It's also a good read.

Zeph said...

21st century, money = power in UK regardless of anything else.

In former times (back to the Normans, as Mimi said) being upper-class simply came from owning land. Aristocratic dynasties owned most of the country.
So, Nesta, if you own a decent slice of Tasmania, think of yourself as an aristocrat!

Class-consciousness/snobbery is associated with the UK but I've met plenty of it in Europe too. Goes with the heritage, I'm afraid.

offside said...


I'll forgive you if you bring back Alisson and Chanterelle.

mimi said...

zeph is absolutely right. With money you can buy power and influence. Why else would there be the whole honours for cash enquiry going on?
It is sad that so little has changed, but class is slightly different. New money does not automatically bring class. The really old titled bods, the ones who got kicked out of the Lords, would never accept 19th century peers on their level. And those of us who come from the working classes, will always be serfs in the eyes of such types.
An equality of society will never happen in my lifetime.

BlueinBetis said...

Thanks for the tip Ebren,

Will give it a read. Have you read the Paxman book on Englishness too? I haven't, but saw it, and wondered if it was any good.

I know it's not as simple as, A equals B, but, for me anyway, I've always found that while there is no guarantee that those characteristics will grant upper classness, they are pre-requisites, in that you can't not have them.

But I agree, it's a veritable minefield trying to identify what it is...

nesta said...

Thanks to all for some education and especially Lord Ebren for the link. I not only ordered the book by Kate Fox but another called 'How to be a Brit'. I expect it will be a funny read.

Tasmania has no class system to speak of. No one on the island is mega rich. There are no schools that an average person cannot afford to send their children with a little creative budgeting and a small personal sacrifice.

To emphasise this point you can walk up to parliament at lunch and find your representatives eating on a picnic table under a shady tree. If you are polite you can even join them and not a cop or bodyguard to be seen.

Another example of the classlessness of Tasmanian society can be seen by the actions of the Queen's representative. The Governor Sir William Cox drives his own car and him and his wife pop down to Salamanca most Saturdays and do their own shopping. Just like the rest of us. Also when there is a dinner at Government House for a visitor (recent examples include Bill Gates, the Prince of Wales and the Danish royals) there is a public ballot for tables. 1200 seats in total. That way anyone who wants to go gets a chance to attend.

In regards to land ownership we have a system that grants $21000 to anyone buying their first home. To help everyone acquire their own little nest and stand on their feet. Proud and strong. There are extra taxes if you own more than one property in Tassie although that has been no discouragement to the aristocratic Nesta and his family.

Obviously some are better off than others but they have no more 'worth' than the less so. Our egalitarian philosophy is what makes us one of the most peaceful societies in modern western civilisation. History and the present show that divided nations decline and united communities thrive.

To think that some Brits still consider Tasmanian's as convicts displays a lack of confidence in themselves. Also a shocking education. Transportation finished in 1848. That one of my direct ancestors was an Irish political prisoner would see him labelled a 'terrorist' in today's language. Do you think that in 200 years the Brits will still be labelling the descendents of Guantanamo Bay detainees, terrorists? I hope not.

When in London last, an Australian expat friend invited me over for a dinner party with some of her British friends. At the front door she took me aside and asked me to forgive and 'take it easy' on her guests because of their assumed superiority complex. She explained that although reasonably educated her friends believed that England still possessed 'colonies' and those that lived in them were not as clever as them. I had alot of fun that night challenging delusions and watching the self proclaimed posh squirm in their seats when presented with the truth rationally argued.

That the 'convicts' have built a fairer, healthier and better educated society than the one they left made many guests at that dinner uncomfortable. I still don't know why. We are generally happy to see others succeed.

What follows are the lyrics to The Wailers 'War' taken from a speech by the Ethiopian King Halle Sellassie to the UN. It is printed large on the wall of my 8 year old's classroom. She and all the other children at her school know it by heart.

Until the philosophy which hold one race
Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war.

That until there are no longer first class
And second class citizens of any nation
Everywhere is war

Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Everywhere is war

That until the basic human rights are equally
Guaranteed to all, without regard to race or place
Everywhere is war

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
world citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain but a fleeting illusion
To be pursued, but never attained
Everywhere is war

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers and sisters in sub-human bondage
Have been toppled, utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war.

Everyone has the chance to be rich, educated and happy in Tasmania. If that's what they choose. It is a fundamental of our very young society. We call it democracy and a 'fair go'. The more I read of the British mind and cultural systems the more concerned I am for its' citizens.

Peace and Pleasure

Ebren said...

Hey Mr Betis.

Paxman's book's pretty decent, but having read that (and Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island") Kate Fox's book is just better.

Paxman is funny and readable, Fox's book is the result of an academic anthropologist spending ten years or so doing research (she has also read Paxman and critiques it).

They are both worth a read, but the Fox book is definately better (and doesn't read like a textbook for all the research).

Oh, and I think you can be poor and be in the 'upper' classes.

A lot of the big public schools have bursery programmes. Get into one of those, get to a "good" university, get a job in the city or somewhere like that, and you will be close.

I know one guy that did this - he's accepted by all the city boys and Oxbridge types and has certainly moved "up" several distinctions.

Maybe not to the "top" - but pretty darn close.

offside said...


good quote. Somebody should put that to music.

Margin said...

I'm so pleased I wrote this article.

nesta said...

offside, I presume you already know that the speech has been put to music and you are attempting to be funny.

I met some Tahitians musicians at a Polynesian reggae festival in February and they told me that Bob Marley was still popular among the Tahitian youth and that his humanity and music continue to teach. They also told of an underground reggae club at the Surf Club on Popoti Bay.

In case you were being sincere offside, the best version of 'War' is on The Wailers live album 'Babylon by Bus'. Plenty of other good tunes too.

offside said...


I can tell you are beginning to know me a little.

I've never been to the Popoti surf club (that's on Tahiti and I hardly ever leave Moorea), but yes, Bob Marley's music can still be heard blaring from many a ghetto-blaster throughout Polynesia.


I'm glad you wrote it too, I'm learning a lot.

mimi said...

margin: glad too you wrote this, it's been illuminating.
Books, not a class one, but a wonderful exploration of Britain and the society you find, is Charlie Connelley's Attention All Shipping.
Nesta: Babylon By Bus is one of the soundtracks of my youth, and too seldom played in this house - we do more Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff when in reggae mode. Thank you for the reminder. Sooo many wonderful tracks on that album.

MotM said...

Coming to this late, but perhaps aptly, on St Georges Day.

Cricket in the north is not middle class - we all play it. But as a working class kid from an inner-city comprehensive, my first contact with the middle class was playing serious cricket at 15 with accountants amd lawyers who went on foreign holidays and has second homes. They were educated too, not the autodidacts I was used to.

Second contact was Sixth Form after the vast majority of the kids near my home had left to sign on and the Blundellsands kids were left with a couple of us bright ones. Going to their houses, seeing the manifestations of wealth, seeing possibilities open up, especially teenagers being treated as equals, revealed a world curtained from me corraled as I had been in working class expectations (if not hopes).

I'm going to post this before Blogger eats it and continue in a second post.

MotM said...

Third contact with the middle class (especially middle class girls) was university - what an eye-opener that was. Now the full panoply of U and Non-U was laid before me, and I found that I didn't really care as I had acquired a veneer of charm and quick-wittedness, which worked for all that I wanted.

But I never was and never will be middle class, because the accent, the attitudes and the cultural interests give me away. Though not really at home in either place, I have to say I am more at ease at the Royal Academy than on an estate in Peckham, but I can get by in either.

You may know that I write elsewhere as The Tooting Trumpet and I love my South London home of what is nearly half my life for its working class roots and its extraordinary jumble of people. I am at home in Tooting.

But what of my class? Middle class education and middle class job, but working class roots and attitudes (fear of debt!). What of my kids?

Perhaps they will be cultural Swedes as well as passport-holding Swedes where these things don't matter (or not as much)? I sort of hope so, but the British nuancing of class is a source of much humour and to miss out on that would be a shame.

Finally - I was at the Oval yesterday - no violence. Cricket crowds can be ugly, but often they are not. Football crowds are different and I have enjoyed being in them. But the violence is ALWAYS there, whether in deed (infrequently) or language (frequently) and it would be better if it were not.

Margin said...


Although the cricket issue may be different, perhaps the north and south of England are similar places.

I had a working class youth and a working class education, but now have a middle class job and I compensate my lack of charm and quick-wittedness with a capacity to drink heavilly.

And I recognise a lot of what you wrote.

But like I say, come five o'clock in the afternoon and we always had to kick people out of the Oval -

never kicked anyone out of football though.

nesta said...

Pardon my ignorance and excuse my curiosity, but what is a 'cultural swede'? Is it a vegetable? Or has it something to do with national stereotyping? I truly do not know please enlighten.

MotM said...

Margin - I morph my quickwittedness and charm into talking too loudly when I drink heavily (some might say that I don't need to drink... etc etc). The serious matter is that I actively sought to promote those two qualities as my "right" to be in middle-class circles. Point taken on chucking out, but is the reverse true re restaurants and pubs?

Nesta - stereotyping? Possibly. But you have written eloquently of Tasmania's unique qualities and their roots in its history. My kids will have roots in two cultures and two places and I hope they will take the best of both. (Perhaps the lurcher dog is instructive here though - as a cross between a greyhound and a labrador, the intention is that the lurcher has the athletcism and grace of the greyhound and the brains of the labrador: of course, some have the athleticism and grace of a labrador and the brains of a greyhound...)

offside said...


I'm not sure Nesta knows that Mrs Mouth (now that sounds strange) is Swedish. In which case, your explanation is a bit obscure.

nesta said...

i guessed that offside. I have seen the term 'cultural swede' before but I am still no closer to understanding it.

MotM said...

Yes - I'm grateful to Offside for the clarification and apolgise for my less than clear comment!

Greengrass is better positioned than me to comment on the differences between Swedish and British cultures, but one thing that is striking is that wealth is much more distributed in Sweden than in the UK and (I think) that means that kids from all social strata tend to mix together in the same schools / clubs etc.

There's plenty more here, but I gotta dash!

BlueinBetis said...

Bob Marley is also just about the most popular artist in Africa, even in the Francophone countries they play Bob, and many understand the message behind the music.

That speech by Haile is very nice Nesta, thanks to Margin for writing this, and for all the comments, especially the books, I will read them when I get close to an English book shop... they are noted down.

Margin said...


as far as us Brits are concerned, 'a cultural swede' might be some one who generally does not see class or social division as an issue.

In a recent study of 'class' an accademic group looked at social mobility.

They set a scale from 0 to 1. They decided that 0 meant there was no social mobility. So in that case if your dad was a lawyer you would definately be a lawyer - and if your dad was a brick layer then you would definately be a bricklayer. No variation allowed.

At the other end of the scale - 1 meant your dad's job had absolutely no impact on what you might do for a living. So complete meritocracy.

In europe Sweden scored highest with 0.6ish and the UK scored lowest with 0.4ish. But most of Europe was nearer to the UK than Sweden - meanwhile the USA was about 0.25 which meant far less meritocratic than Europe. (oddly).

however - although I can't find a link now that I want to - I do remember wondering why it only focused on sons and dads - and not mums and daughters too.

nesta said...

Thanks margin for the explanation. I've always thought of sociology as the most inexact of sciences. Far too subjective. It would seem that Tasmania is far too young a society to have devolved beyond meritocracy. Down here no matter where you are from if you're good enough you get the job. Ponting is a prime example. A little snotty nosed kid from an ordinary family in an economically depressed part of the country has the most important job in the country. And does a very fine job of it too.

Margin said...


in economics we are probably more meritocratic than ever - people like me get to go to uni now days for example.

but we have a long way to go still - and the 'snob' aspects have not gone away at all.

Ebren said...

What on earth occurs! Collonials and Oiks on my site!

Get out and take your setees, lounges, serivettes and toilets with you!


Class doesn't matter to anyone with a brain in England. Unfortunately you have to be aware of it as there are a lot of people without brains who wield power.

Gotta think eduactional standards have something to do with social mobility.

Just a thought.

nesta said...

Lord Ebren I too can see the link between education and opportunity. It's as obvious as the day. Anyone who has the drive and nous down in Tassie can go to uni. You don't even need any money, the government will pay. Are there barriers in Great Britain to the less well off going to uni?

Ebren said...

It now costs £3,000 a year to go to university in the UK. While this is in the form of a cheap government loan, there is a tradition of the working class being far more debt averse than the upper middle and upper class.

Also, there is a problem with staying on in education long enough to go to university. Of those people staying on at school until 18, the proportion of people that go to university is the same across social groups. The problem is that the pressure to "go out and earn" means that children of poorer families are far more likely to quit school at 15/16 and get a job.

And it's Prince Ebren of Borthwyk Health to you...

nesta said...

Apologies Prince Ebren all these titles get a bit confusing to us 'cultural Taswegians'.

Having to go out and earn before being allowed to vote or buy a pint sounds kind of Dickensian.

Our kids work at MacDonalds and such at high school to pay off their mobile phone bills. They then work as waiters and bartenders till they finish uni and get a 'proper' job.

The aversion to debt is wise in most instances but there is no severe penalty in Tas for being bankrupt. You just can't borrow any more cash for 7 years. You are allowed to keep one house, a car worth under 5 grand and you can't travel overseas for 36 months. You keep your fridge and bed and there is no stigma attached. "it could happen to anyone' is a common phrase when hearing of someone 'going under'.

If you want to 'get ahead' in life an interest free student loan seems a good investment.

I'm starting to think that 'Shameless' is not fiction but based on reality!

What are the penalties for being broke in Britain?

BlueinBetis said...


You can only have one bank account, with no overdraft. You can't borrow any money. I don't know about the rest of them, since when I declared I had no house, or car. But after one year you can get back on the merry go round if you like.

I thought the funniest thing was that on the very day that my paperwork came through declaring me clean after one year of being bankrupt, there came in a separate envelope, an advert to borrow 10 grand! While there may have been some stigma attached to declaring I'm not aware of it, cos I cheated and ran away to live in Spain. Where the only reason why I am not in huge debt is because the service in the banks is so slow, and you have millions of forms to fill in. None of your quick and easy stuff here.

Unfortunately bankruptcy does not cover student loans. So I still owe that lot a small fortune. I think its disgusting that the first Labour Government in bloody ages did not scrap that system and bring back grants, especially when a lot of Labour MP's benefitted from them. Temporal discrimination I call it.

Ebren said...

Er, BiB...

It was the Labour government that introduced university fees and scrapped grants in the first place.

They introduced them again in a very small way (c1,000 quid less than they were in 1996).

Being bankrupt in the UK is quite serious.

I wrote this as part of my day job:$375775.htm

nesta said...

So eb, it is a crime of sorts to be broke in the UK. What sort of employment can a bankrupt be not trusted to do? We probably have similar laws in Oz. I know you cannot be a company director for 5 years after bankruptcy.

Making mistakes in financial matters is hardly a crime in my eyes. If the financier was foolish enough to lend to people unable or unwilling to pay it back, tough luck I say. The lender should also be punished for its' bad choices.

Outrageous bank levies and market collusion, now that is criminal!

I should add that I have never been bankrupt and have no loans outstanding. That's not good luck but good management (my wife looks after money matters and wouldn't dream of letting me near the cheque book or credit cards).

Ebren said...

Nesta, you have to have some sanction on people - as it's hardly fair for people to borrow shed loads of money, then not pay it back, then get it cancelled and have no problems.

Otherwise companies just wouldn't lend money - and borrowing money is a pretty useful thing to be able to do.

official UK info here:

nesta said...

I agree Eb. Although I have seen some friends lives wrecked by financial institutions selling dreams instead of cash. In essence they were conned and were encouraged to borrow to the nth degree. So the smallest obstacle tripped them over. Their fault obviously but the lenders need to be more responsible. Paying bonuses and commissions to agents to sell cash is fraught with danger.

Basically I think a tighter rein is needed on the advertising of money selling.

Ebren said...

That's fair. Debt is fine if managed - but make sure people know what the risks are. Don't let banks push debt on vulnerable people or lie about it.

I think the most important thing is making sure the person borrowing is well informed and know what they're singing up to.

nesta said...

The banks are pretty responsible here. The market was deregulated a few years back and now anybody can lend anyone money if they fill out the right treasury documents and pay the required fee. This has led to some very shonky dealers entering the market.

A typical ad on late night telly will promote a company who will lend hundreds of thousands with nothing up front. They particularly target the market the banks won't touch. Many a tale of woe has followed. This unrestrained capitalism is new here and many have been bitten. Greed and an easy way to a better life is a powerful motivational tool to get people to sign on the dotted line without fully considering the consequences.

Once again it all comes down to education. Especially an education into the pitfalls of doing business American style.

Margin said...

education is the single biggest determinant of social mobility - but 'class' impacts here too. And in subtle ways.

obviously people like ebren had the advantage of a public school education while us plebs had to cope with a leaking roof in the classroom. (little violin plays)

but thats a marginal issue - hard work and intelligence can and does get top grades at any school in England.

more important is expectation and understanding.

a middle class kid grows up in a household, and often attends a school, where academic effort and a university degree is simply a part of life.

a working class kid often has no family who ever went to univeristy (me for example) and where an understanding of the opportunities available is so limited that aspirations don't stretch to them.

That embeds itself very young - and hence so many poor kids drop out of school after years of under achievement.

thats why Labour has focused more on primary school education than secondary schools during it's ten years in power. It expects that by raising education standards earlier - the expectations placed on those children by their teachers as they progress will grown beyond the expectations of their families.

Margin said...


I have a cousin who never learned to read and write - instead he was sent to work on the markets by his parents when he should have been at school.

hence I hate the working class phrase 'never done me no harm' when said about any lack of education. such people actually keep themselves in their place.

having said that my cousin - who is much older than me - told me to go to uni because a job in an office had to beat roofing in the snow. His kids are now doing just fine at school.

Ebren said...

Short note - in england public schools and state schools are different things.

The educational order goes: State school (free to use), comprehensive (free to use, everyone welcome), grammar school (free to use, selected on academic ability), city academy (free to use, Margin will have to fill you in, I don't know what these are), private school (parents have to pay to send children here), public school (oldest private schools - Eton, Rugby, Winchester, Charterhouse and Harrow are in this group).

Non-Brits have no reason to know this.

This was my one (note the lack of anyone famous to ever attend):'s_College_School

Margin said...

ha - Keith Flint (of Prodigy fame) went to my school. nur!

City academies are state owned but private run schools but are free to attend.

They are new and have been created to replace inner city comprehensive schools where the local comprehensive was deemed to be so dire that it was best just to close it and build a new school.

nesta said...

Good stories and info guys. In Tas we only have two types of schools State and private. The private are predominately owned by the church (all demoninations represented).

In my rural community we have a state primary and secondary school. Also a Catholic primary and secondary school. I was dissatified with both so 7 years ago when my eldest started myself and dozen other families started our own school and it has been very successful. We call it a Community school. Most teachers work on a part time basis and many are volunteers.

We have the local doctor teaching biology. The chemist teaches chemistry and a local engineer teaches physics. A retired Cambridge literature Professor teaches English, philosophy and history and a University lecturer in mathematics teaches, you guessed it Maths. The head violinist from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in tandem with a local folk music legend teach music. A world renowned artist teaches. And our local state Government politician pops in once a fortnight to teach civics, geography and the 'system'.

It has been unbelievably successful and unfortunately we now have to turn families away or put them on a waiting list. We are working at fixing this.

I thought about the old saying that 'it takes a village to raise a child' and put it into practice.

The students we've had that have gone on to other schools (we only cater till age 14) have been hugely successful both socially and academically. This is because all the kids work at their own pace and are effectively tutored in every subject. Retired academics have been most helpful as has the University of Tasmania.

It works because of our tiny population and the goodwill and energy of the rest of the community. Other small towns in Australia have been sending representatives to learn how to set up their own schools. Like the Green movement that started here 40 years ago another quiet peaceful revolution is taking place in the deep south of Tasmania. There is lots more I could tell but that's enough for now.

Suffice to say every single student at our school is expected to go to University. The children don't even know there is another option. They have been educated to believe that your formal education is not complete until then.

The children in every community on the planet only need opportunity to succeed. I think I can say without a sociology report that poor kids are just as smart as rich kids. And rich kids are just as dumb as poor ones.

As you guys noted it really comes down to the parents and not the school the kids attend. I don't think economics comes into it either. Parental attitudes and a loving home environment are much more important.

MotM said...

Great stuff guys - a real, er... education.

I haven't followed the links as this laptop isn't good at that - I will do at work.

Debt aversion? I still have my Mother's threats of the bailiffs in my ears and a Dickensian fear of the Marshalsea!

University funding is a real tricky one because I despised those Labour MPs who, like me, had benefited from grants yet trooped into the lobby to deny grants and install fees for the generation behind them.

But at least three things are in play:

(i) Universities (in common with the rest of the public sector) needed huge injections of cash after the Thatcher / Major years to deal with infrastructure. In short, the buildings were falling down.

(ii) Universities compete in a world market for students and research. With so many fixed costs, any loss of research funding or overseas student fees can pitch a university into financial crisis. State subsidy is essential.

(iii) Even now, with £3k fees, universities are a huge middle class benefit. I don't know the answer to that because marketising education or going for full economic costing will be socially divisive, anti-meritocratic and, given the economic impact of universities on inner cities, political folly.

If I had to comment, I would say that the government are getting most of it right. Spend big tax money at kids' early years, then shift the burden to the individual. But I would ask employers with 100 or more employees to pay a £1k levy to the university that educated any employee they employ for 12 months or more. State funding for training KPMG's accountants or BUPA's doctors makes me angry.

Margin said...


In fairness - although your local community school sounds exceptionally good - similar arrangements do exist for remote parts of the UK. The Government has even set up grants to help people set up more of them as they are quite rare. Most won't be as well resoursed by experts as your local school. But they are well regarded in places like the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

I also should point out that of our 'state' schools - a third are in fact owned by the Church of England. They operate exactly the same as other 'state' schools but with things like prayer at assembly.

And I totally agree that rich kids are just as smart/dumb as poor kids.

after all - an expensive school like eton does not select on ability - only on cash - and so it effectively has a randomized sample of the population as far as talent is concerned. from the very dim to the very bright. Just like my local school had.

Margin said...


the government was dealt a pretty poor hand when it came in in 1997. secondary education was improving despite a lack of capital investment, but primary education was badly depleted and higher education was in dire financial straights.

As such it had to prioritise spending on primary schools because - a) it is universal - and b) research suggests investment in primary education yeilds the biggest results in the long run.

so it had to find an alternative for universities - and since people were already borrowing to pay for rent and food - they simply added fees to the debt.

nesta said...

Yeah margin, I'm aware of several similar schools in the US, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark and Canada. I'm sure there are more.

One difference at our school is that we actively encourage the older retired members of our community to perticipate. This strategy not only benefits the children but the oldies too.

As we all know our elder citizens despite having more life experience than most of us, are often thrown on the metaphorical scrapheap after retirement. It seems such a waste of a valuable resource.

Investing in the primary years is wise as it sets a solid foundation for learning later in life. And we never stop learning do we?

The most important lesson you can teach the young is the love of learning itself. That way every day is new and fresh.

Margin said...


If only we could convince more people of what you just posted. Not least about our elders.

MotM said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

I'm a Governor of a Primary School and, despite Wandsworth Borough Council's legendary tight-fistedness, the improvements to infrastructure and morale over the last seven years are remarkable. Money was thrown at the problem and money (often if not always) worked.

I am a bit concerned about how much more schools have to do in terms of community activities, fund-raising and governance though - there is neither the will nor the expertise amongst volunteers to give up so much time (at least not in London with its commuter journeys and long hours culture).

mimi said...

I've only just caught up with this thread. There are no simple answers.My sister teaches Primary back in England and is hugely frustrated about resources and what she can and cannot do. Seems to me from outside, that there are just too many rules. Blair is at fault. This government has let us down big time. It's hardly astonishing that the up-coming elections, local, and for Scotland and Wales, will attract a very low vote.

nesta said...

I assume that Governor Mersey will be along shortly and I thought he might like some positive information on the LBW trust.

Now I think some were donating cash for every Monty wicket and whilst laudable I don't expect much was raised.

The following is paraphrased from Fitzy's Saturday column in the Fairfax press

In the past few months, I have given one or two gratuitous plugs to the LBW Trust, which is devoted to harnessing the goodwill and charitable instincts of Australians and others to get money towards the education and welfare of younger people in cricket-playing countries who are in desperate need of it.

Patrons include Peter Cosgrove, Adam Gilchrist, Ian Chappell, Sir William Deane, Ian Macfarlane, Mike Coward and Peter Roebuck.

Last Tuesday, the chairman of the trust, Darshak Mehta, received an email from a woman in the ANZ Bank advising that her institution would like to make a donation. The chairman advised other patrons via email of the bank's kind gesture.

Off his own bat, Adam Gilchrist - who one might have thought would have been up to his eyeballs in World Cup matters - found time to immediately write the bank an effusive thank-you letter, which found its way back to Mehta.

Gilchrist is a class act, this is a good organisation, and bravo to the lot of them

We can all give a little bit more go on it won't hurt.

BlueinBetis said...

I agree about the education thing about debt.

In my case, nearly all of my debt was accrued while I was under 25, before I went to university, and then whilst at university as a mature student. I think I'm right in saying it was the Thatcher Government that froze the grant, and stopped the other benefits available to students. And introduced the Student Loan? Originally as a top up to cover the shortfall caused by the the first two actions.

In my case my bank, one of the most ethically responsible, still offered me a loan of 3000 pound on the very day I arrived back in England, after being in Ghana for two years. Not the most intelligent thing to do, in my humble opinion, as I was hardly in a position of stability, financially or emotionally. But "the computer says you can have, blah, blah." Once I had decided that I didn't want to teach in UK schools, or live in the UK, I went to talk to them about this, and they left me with no other option.

The best thing about declaring bankrupt is that it costs over 500 quid, now that is funny! "I've come to say I have no money", "aah, 500 quid please"

I agree it's serious, but believe, for me at least it was the only option available. Partly it was motivated, in the case of one lender anyway, by their complete lack of help, or understanding of my individual situation. I received a court summons, while living in Ghana. The date for the summons was seventeen days before I got the letter. I refuse to feel guilty about this complete lack of interest, intelligence or humanity.

MotM said...

Nesta - There's a small donation that will be on its way to the LBW Trust and also to Tcat's charity. It won't make much difference, but I find comfort in the fact that it will make some difference.

We hear this often of Gilchrist and it's always laudable.

nesta said...

Just an observation obviously without malicious intent.

I was always under the impression that charity was meant to make the recipient 'comfortable'.

As they say, No pain, No gain.

Margin said...


be fair to the govt - it has poured money into primary schools. pretty much doubling spending in a few years.

it attached lots of rules to that because a lot of schools were in a terrible state. kids were bieng taught in unheated demountables (pre-fabricated sheds) because of years of neglect for capital spending.

so the government doled out cash but made it clear that changes like that had to be the priority.

not that blair's education policies have been perfect - far from it - but its hard to find fault at primary school level other than the usual whinges every one always has about their job or their lives.

offside said...

I'm enjoying this little socio-economics corner of the Corner. Do keep going, it's very informative for us in distant lands.

What's the price of a pint these days in England/Scotland/Tasmania?

(and no, I don't mean to lower the tone or turn this into Taproom B, I just think it can be relevant, and I'm curious )

nesta said...


In Tas pubs don't sell pints unless you go to a mock Irish establishment like Bribie O'Riellys. This chain of pubs are run on a corporate model similar to Starbucks/McDonalds. Suffice to say they are mainly inhabited by tourists and hens parties.

Sensibly, we haven't used Imperial measurements since before I was born and so I can only give our regular glass sizes in metric.

I've done a bit of a calculation Duck/Lew style and a price of a pint - if we had them - would be 7.80AUD.

On today's money market that would translate to
3.24 Pounds
6.47 US Dollars
4.74 Euros
1677.89 Zimbabwean Dollars
31.13 French Pacific Francs

The reason we don't have pints or even half pints is because it is customary to serve beer ice cold and the larger glasses get warm in our hot hands and climate before you finish then at normal pace. A typical size is a pot/middie which is 375ml.

Maybe a better indicator would be how much a global product like a can of Coke costs.

Here it is $1.80AUD that is equivalent to 1.09 Euros.

Note: I have included GST (VAT) tax in my prices.

Bottoms up and Cheers.

Margin said...

blimey - your beer costs more than a london pint. London Pride at my local costs about £2.60.

Having said that - even a bottle of london pride is about half a litre - so maybe thats economies of scale at work.

ps - I'll try to include sociology in more articles in future.

offlicence said...

Thanks for the info. Nesta, I don't know where you got your pacific francs, but if your Euro price is correct the equivalent would be 565.6 cfp. Which is about the same as here.

Margin, yes. Good idea.

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