MAYBE Dominic Raab had Barack Obama in mind during PMQs this week when he winked across the chamber at Angela Rayner.

The former US president was variously hailed as melting hearts, uniting the political divide and zinging his way through his 2015 state of the union address thanks to that one little gesture.

It's a gesture requiring a certain degree of suave. Mr Raab, therefore, came across more as a sexist cad, relying on an unfortunately Clinton-esque, 'I did not wink at that woman' excuse.

No, he claims he was winking, for reasons unknown, at Ian Murray, the shadow Scotland secretary. At least he wasn't winking at tractors.

Facial twitches aside, far worse was the deputy PM's attempted jibe at Ms Rayner for attending the opera. Why, he asked, was the right honourable lady not on the picket line last week? Why had she failed to stand up for the public? Gosh, the chamber quaked, what fearsome reveal was coming now?

"She was," said Raab, leaning in to deliver the punch, "At the Glyndebourne music festival sipping champagne, listening to opera."

As the chamber reeled, Raab made it a word and a blow: "Champagne socialism is back in the Labour party."

Renowned aesthete Dominic Raab there, perpetuating the myth that the arts are not for the working classes. How very dare some Northern teen-mum-turned-30-something-gran enjoy a middle class pursuit, cutting about Glyndebourne on her legs, supping from flutes like she'd earned it.

In a beautiful riposte, the Shadow Chancellor pointed out Raab fails to know his opera: "The Marriage of Figaro is the story of a working-class woman who gets the better of a privileged but dim-witted villain." Ooft.

Of the great many ills of the British class system, one of the unutterably worst is the notion that certain creative fields are only for certain people. Football, that's alright. Anyone who wishes might go to the football. Musical theatre is egalitarian. Ballet, though – back off working classes. The opera? It's not for the likes of you.

This, of course, is all absolute nonsense but it is self-perpetuating nonsense. The more the myth persists that classical arts are only for the elite, the more elite they become.

Yet the political elite live in fear of the charge of elitism. With the arts seen as being in a wealthy, exalted category Raab likely felt this jibe at Raynor would land with audiences on both left and right. The right would laugh with him at this outrageous fish out of water; the left would be enraged that Rayner did not know her place.

Raab does not know his audience. I suspect plenty of those on last Thursday's picket lines might have like to have been otherwise in the theatre.

There are plenty of us from working class backgrounds raised to enjoy a great gamut of entertainment. My mother, from a Coatbridge, working class family, was an opera and ballet buff. From the age of 17 she would take herself off to the theatre in Glasgow.

That was a passion she instilled in me. Well, the ballet, certainly.

For my birthday last month a friend took me to Covent Garden to see The Royal Ballet perform Like Water For Chocolate. I found the entire experience intensely moving. There was a female conductor, Alondra de la Parra, and that set me off crying because it was the first time I'd seen a female conductor and she was as ludicrously poised and enigmatic as anyone I've ever enjoyed.

One of the lead roles was performed by Reece Clarke, who started at the same Coatbridge dance school I did. I remember him as a tiny boy and now there he is on stage, a 6ft 3inch wonder.

Clarke and his three older brothers, from a working class Airdrie family, all went on to be professional ballet dancers. You want to hope that this - working class professional dancers and musicians - is less of a rarity now but the stats show the arts still to be dominated by the middle classes.

The notion that certain things are only for certain people makes it easier to call these things superfluous and strip them away.

Sheffield Hallam University has become the latest to announce it is ditching its English Literature degree. In England, universities are to be penalised if fewer than 60% of their students are in professional jobs or studying for a further degree within 15 months of graduating. This comes from the same Tory government part-led by a man who thinks only the rich should enjoy opera.

Over the past 10 years the numbers applying for English Literature degrees at universities have plummeted.

In 2020 it looked very like music tuition in schools – state schools, not fee-paying, it goes without saying – was on a path to extinction as 25 of Scotland's 32 local authorities had introduced fees for lessons. Learning an instrument was becoming, quite literally, the preserve of the well-off before the Scottish Government stepped in with additional funding.

North Lanarkshire Council is cutting its secondary school librarians, a decision taken as part of the local authority's 2020 budget process but delayed due, in part, to the pandemic. Reading, eh, such a luxury item.

These – music, literature – are the sorts of things it's easiest to ditch because the defences for them involve a bit of poetic explanation and lateral thinking, ironically the skills acquired by the studying of those disciplines being axed.

The notion that the arts is for the rich makes it easier to slough these subjects when times are tight. There's some telling double think there too, the notion that only courses with explicitly practical purposes are worth investing in and that, in order to be socially mobile, working class students shouldn't have access to anything seen as indulgent.

I'm as biased as they come, I should say. At school I took ballet, tap and modern dance lessons. I played the clarinet, tenor saxaphone and percussion in several Lanarkshire schools orchestras. I was a paired reading tutor for younger pupils. I spent every Saturday in the local library.

And I read for one of those blighted English Literature degrees. Am I sitting on a money mountain now? I am not. Am I providing a useful service to society? I hope so.

But I hold the wild opinion that the vast majority of people provide a useful service to society - a brain surgeon has idle hands without the porter who brings her the patient. A sheriff would have no court to sit in without the cleaner who makes the building habitable.

The Herald would not hit the newsstands without the van drivers who move it from printing press to corner shop.

A porter, a cleaner and a van driver have just as much business at Hay Festival as a barrister has at TRNSMT.

We should all have access to that which we enjoy and politicians might look more at widening access and affordability to all enriching things. Class should have nothing to do with it and we can all wink to that.