Klass Act: Why the rich need to check their privilege

Take from the poor and give to the rich! Um…

I’m not sure about anyone else, but I watched the debate between Myleene Klass and Ed Miliband with a bemused, slightly outraged look on my face. Grannies live in houses that are worth millions? You can buy a garage for £2m? Well, why didn’t you say so! I’ll take two.

I couldn’t believe what utter nonsense was coming out of Klass’ mouth. With all due respect – that is, very little – she really should do her research before engaging in such debates. As for Miliband, I think he handled her remarks in the only logical way – with a confused, slightly annoyed expression, as he attempted to answer her ridiculous questions and statements. While I agree that politicians shouldn’t just “point at things and tax them” (seriously, please don’t start doing that), people like Myleene Klass simply need to pipe down.


As someone who is worth a reported £11m, I’m sure she can handle the proposed mansion tax. Her comments on the tax were the epitome of upper-class hypocrisy, and I for one am sick of hearing about how hard they have it. The super-rich need to take a look around them, before spouting their hard-done-by rubbish.

A friend of mine defined privilege in a very brilliant, simple way. She used being left-handed as an analogy:

The thing is, the world is set up for being right-handed – buttons, zips, books, cutlery, scissors, doors. Right-handed people barely notice this, as it is natural for them, and left-handed people adjust easily enough… It’s not that I expect anyone to reset the table for me the left-handed way, but just to note it is already set the correct way for you if you’re right handed.

How easy is that to understand? The privilege debate usually ends up in a tangle of personal attacks and ridiculous arguments – and I’m aware of wading into deep waters with this article – but I really like the above definition, and believe that certain people should take note of it.

If we tried to point out to someone right-handed that they were advantaged, they would disagree.

This is undoubtedly true, although it is not something that people should take as an insult. We all of us should attempt to acknowledge the difficulties that others face, especially if we do not face those difficulties ourselves. A man might not fully understand the worries of a woman walking home alone late at night, but he can listen to her concerns, and acknowledge that there is a danger she faces that perhaps he does not. We should accept that we are privileged in one way or another, but rather than try to change that privilege, we should simply accept it, and acknowledge the struggles of others. Isn’t that what being a good, decent person is all about? It isn’t much to ask, really.

A book called Unjust Rewards by Polly Toynbee and David Walker reported that the super-rich are ignorant of the vast majority of society:

Our book Unjust Rewards found focus groups of the super-rich clueless about what others earn or where they themselves stand on the income/wealth spectrum. Everyone they know is like them, they say, ignorant of the other 99.9%.
– Polly Toynbee, The Guardian.

And there you have it. People like Myleene Klass just don’t understand the reality of the situation. Just because you sit on a panel every lunchtime and discuss “real life issues”, it does not mean you’re totally clued-up on the real world.

As Ruth Sunderland said in her review of Unjust Rewards, “it’s enough to make you campaign for Asbos for the rich.” Tempting though that may sound, I’ll settle for the mansion tax, thank you.


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