Or rather, three moderately peculiar things. Why has it become vulgar, as one might say, to talk about class in the most class-ridden country on the planet? Why is it that the people who deplore talk of class rarely seem in need of the Jobseeker’s Allowance? Finally: how many more reasons do Britain’s useless peasants need to start a proper class war?

Take these innocent inquiries in reverse order. You can blame the uncouth for a lot of things, but bringing down the world economy is not one of them. The great unwashed have not made themselves unemployed en masse just as an excuse to catch up with I’m A Celebrity ... It wasn’t they who decided to fork over trillions because their hearts were touched by the plight of investment bankers.

In fact, the working majority have just had a lesson they should not easily forget. They have been shown exactly how things work in their world. The redistribution of wealth is proceeding apace, but not in a manner you would call egalitarian. We have been fleeced, and fleeced royally. So why is no-one taking nominations for the post-revolutionary, first-against-the-wall festivities?

Seriously. If what the observant Naomi Klein has described as the greatest single transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich ever contemplated does not provide a tiny clue, what could?

People are angry. How often have we heard that these last 18 months? People are furious chiefly because of the brazen assumption of entitlement displayed in everything from MPs’ expenses to bankers’ bonuses. It is as clear as the view from the penthouse suite that double standards apply. So what do “people” propose to do about it? Not much. Perhaps this is because, as some individuals are very keen to stress, class is a thing of the past. That’s what the nomenklatura always say, comrade. Tony Blair was especially devoted to the parody of Animal Farm that declared class an antique notion even as he ensured that small groups of porkers grew fatter, richer and more secure.

Does anyone actually believe that class is obsolete? Those who defend the public school-Oxbridge nexus, that reserved lane on life’s highway, deserve to be judged by their choices. Did Blair’s father select Fettes College as the best bog-standard comprehensive available because class had ceased to matter? Did Blair pick the London Oratory for his own kids out of a sense of social solidarity? If class doesn’t matter, the people who spend the equivalent of the average salary on school fees actually do have more money than sense. But I don’t think so.

You are assured that class doesn’t matter for fairly obvious reasons. Class explains a lot. If a lot of things are thereby explained, there might be a fuss from those on the wrong end of the wealth inequalities that grew relentlessly in the Blair years. There might be grumbling, too, when the majority catch on to the way in which a minority acquire every advantage for themselves, and pillage the poor when the bills come in.

It is no coincidence, in other words, that those who dismiss talk of enduring class divisions do very nicely from class divisions. You do not often hear people at the bus stop observing that Blair and David Cameron are just like the rest of us, bless them. That would be silly.

Almost as silly, in fact, as the widespread acceptance that any talk of class is indecorous, “counter-productive”, or – the irony is overlooked – the product of mere class envy. The fact that most of those who control the public realm sit high on the class ladder has nothing to do, of course, with their squeamishness. And the idea that their status must be enviable by definition is not, of course, a dead giveaway. Presumably you have to have spent your formative years in a juvenile internment camp disguised as a top school to understand such thinking.

The Americans order these matters better. Stuck with a high-minded constitution that guides their every thought – all men are created with an equal number of noses, or something – they yet insist that class plays no part in their national life. Any poor child can become president of the United States by the simple expedient of acquiring a ton of money. No-one is afflicted with socialistic thoughts of class. And as so often in American life, saying so makes it true.

This is not my invention. Pay attention to any American politician in these hard times. For whose sake does he fret? The “middle class”. This group is not composed, as a European might expect, of bourgeois professionals. In the US, these days, the definition of the middle class is simple. It is everyone who is neither stinking rich nor sleeping in doorways. Class problem solved.

But it isn’t, of course. Why, in any case, should anyone assume that the route to social harmony lies through the abolition, rhetorically or politically, of the working class? You could achieve the same end with less ammunition – “social upheaval”, if you prefer – by doing away with the self-perpetuating elites who truly picture society as a pyramid with themselves at the towering apex.

There are studies. A recent book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, gives chapter and documented verse for its sub-title’s claim. When egalitarianism is attempted seriously – or attempted at all – the result is invariably greater health, wealth, general happiness and political stability. The idea that economic advantage for the few will “raise all boats” tends to depend on the many having boats.

There is, in any case, a self-evident reason for talking about class: it gives politics a point. If even a crude “class analysis” can provide an arguable description of the world then there is something for politicians to talk about. This used to be the Labour Party’s job. It was never a Marxist movement in any real sense, but it proceeded from the evidence: class is real, it matters, and it explains a lot. It may explain most things.

Blair was after the votes of middle England, however. He was cultivating “aspiration”. He took at face value the Thatcherite belief that working people want only to “better themselves”, and so disown their identities. So new Labour reached what seemed to be the obvious conclusion: don’t mention the class war. It forgot to ask: so what does that leave?

It leaves the structures of power and privilege intact, for one thing. So an essentially Conservative account of society became dogma and led directly to the spectacle of Mandelson relaxing with Russian oligarchs. It also led to the blackest joke of the Labour years: a promise to tackle poverty set beside a determination to indulge, even encourage, greater inequality than anything Thatcher had contemplated. Blair’s Labour picked its side in the undeclared war.

But listen, what’s that? Off in the distance a worm has just turned. Gordon Brown, possibly a touch desperate, is taunting Cameron with jibes on policies devised “on the playing fields of Eton”. Toffs are back on the menu: huzzah. Suddenly Labour is prepared to say that a scheme cooked up by Cameron and George Osborne to cut inheritance tax will benefit a small number of people encompassing – a coincidence, surely? – the likes of Cameron and Osborne.

How very non-U of grumpy Gordon. How common. And how much better late than never. Some in Labour’s ranks, Lord Mandelson not least, will probably squirm to see a party they worked to neuter returning to coarse old habits. But they fail to offer a better account of the confidence tricks we have come to know as meritocracy and wealth creation. Ideas do not lose their force just because it suits some to call them old-fashioned.

Brown, the bankers’ friend, was probably not entirely sincere when he set about Cameron last week. Labour was never keen to eat the rich, with or without a nice Chianti. But the Prime Minister let the cat out of the bag for a minute or two. As the parasites at RBS whine for their bonuses, let’s see if the feline can still be contained.