Friday, 3 May 2013
Vanessa Feltz made me think
I spent the hour between 11 am and 12 noon yesterday being grilled by Vanessa Feltz (from 2.03) live and on air on BBC London, with occasional contributions from callers. The subject: the middle classes. The occasion: well, the publication of my book Broke: Who Killed the Middle Classes?
As the hour rushed by, I began to get the hang of not listening too closely to Vanessa's cascade of words in case it made me forget what I was about to say. But, do you know, the whole experience made me think.
I have been arguing all this time that the middle classes need to exist, not because they somehow deserve privileges, but because everyone needs the chance of some space in their lives - for culture, education, leisure. And since the fate that overwhelmed the working classes now awaits the middle classes, that space is about to be out of reach for all of us - life will be just too insecure.
But is it actually about the space for leisure?
Vanessa pointed out to me, somewhat forcibly, that she wakes up every morning to go to work at 4am. It is true that I also work the WHOLE time, much to the despair of my family.
But there is a big difference. We both love our work. I am able to work for very little money on subjects that inspire me, simply because I bought a house back in 1986 - so my mortgage repayments are less than £300 a month. If I had bought in 1996 or, even worse, 2006 then my mortgage repayments (or rent) would be so high that I could not do the work I love.
That is the real issue, and it isn't about class - despite the title of my book - it is about whether we will in future have the opportunity to do the work we love. Or whether we will be forced into indentured servitude just to get a roof over our heads.
That's the issue. I sometimes think, as I cycle to the station, that I am the luckiest person in the whole of London - because I have a low enough mortgage to be my own boss and to write about the things that thrill me.
Vanessa asked me what career advice I would give my children. The career advice I always give is that, if you do what thrills you the most, the money tends to follow. That is what I will tell them.
I would like my children to have that opportunity to put that advice into practice, certainly by the time they are my age in the 2050s. I think it is extremely unlikely that they will be able to.