How The Middle Class Ruined Britain, BBC Two

If you don’t know Geoff Norcott, he’s the BBC’s house-trained right-wing comedian, the one they allow onto Radio 4 and Question Time because he isn’t Jim Davidson or Roy Chubby Brown. For this documentary the Conservative-voting stand-up was given a provocative title and a film crew and set out to examine what he sees as a power grab by the middle class at the expense of working class people like him – though by middle class he really meant Guardian-reading metropolitan Lefties who (as he put it at one point) drink red wine and watch sub-titled movies. Norcott, you won’t be surprised to learn, also voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum so yes, in some senses this was also about Brexit.

What it wasn’t really about was Britain. Sure, the title mentions that place, but although Norcott did make it to Manchester to wander the site of an apartment block for young professionals, and to Nottinghamshire to stand around in a shopping mall with Labour MP Gloria De Piero (who last week resigned from the Labour frontbench), his was otherwise an entirely London-centric story.

Through the prism of that city he looked at how posh parents pretend to be religious to get their children into Church of England primary schools, how they give fictitious addresses to ensure a place at the best secondary schools, about the gentrification of south London areas such as the one he grew up in, and about how privileged young singletons use selective dating apps whose membership is denied to those who didn’t attend a private school. That’s not a Britain many Scots or Welsh would recognise, though clearly nobody at the BBC thought that was a problem.

Eventually Norcott ended up back at the BBC’s headquarters in London’s Portland Place where the film crew even managed to grab a shot of somebody folding up a Brompton bike, just like in W1A. He wondered aloud whether the Corporation would even agree to broadcast the film he had made given that the people he was complaining about were the same avocado-munching, soya milk latte-drinking bunch that had commissioned him in the first place. It was a neat way to end an intriguing if at times unsatisfying personal essay, though here’s the best gag of the lot: How The Middle Class Ruined Britain aired on the same day that Old Etonian Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister by a mere 150,000 Conservative Party members who are mostly white, wealthy and, yes, middle class. So maybe Norcott is right – it just depends which country and which sort of middle class you’re talking about.