You might have thought that twelve years into a Labour government we might have seen a degree of progressive social change. Yes and No. Social mobility is down, for example. This is something that it extremely bad news for universities, particularly ones which are committed simultaneously to admitting the very best and brightest students as undergraduates and also want to ensure a range and diversity of educational backgrounds for its intake. (By the way, the latter of these is something which the university wants to do anyway and it does not need government urging to take this seriously. What it does need is a government intent on making sure that educational opportunities before 18 are such that students from various backgrounds have a fighting chance of making the necessary standards for admission.)
But now there is something new to make me shout at the telly. Channel 4 is not the most reliable of social indicators, I realise, but a new programme starting tonight, How the other half lives is perhaps the most depressing thing I have heard for some time. An affluent middle-class family takes on a poor family and helps them out in a series of direct acts of beneficence. What's wrong with that? It's just like those scheme where you sponsor a child in the developing world, except now you get to drive up to their flat and see how very very grateful they are. Aaaargh! Wrong wrong wrong. Who chose which family was going to be grateful and deserving enough? What happened to the notion that poor people are entitled to state aid, free from prejudice and the contingency that it might be taken away on a whim if little Alexandra suddenly fancies horse-riding lessons instead? The idea should be that certain people are entitled to aid and that other people are required to share some of their wealth to do so. Making it personalised, while perhaps offering a veneer of direct effectiveness, wraps up what ought to be a matter of principle in a cloak of forelock-tugging and self-satisfied feelings of 'having done something important'. Just take Christine and Charlie from episode one and tax them more, perhaps just a little bit. They can keep their gardeners and so on. They evidently have some money they do not need and are in some sense committed to social change so I don't see why they would mind. Not much of a human interest documentary in that, I suppose, but I'd rather have blank screen for an hour than be offered this.