Belfast Telegraph

Julie Burchill: Why go to university when the privileged few get all the good jobs?

I am always amused to read my Fellow Female Columnists berating today's young women for wishing to be rich and famous, and to make an easy, lush living – preferably by seeking a career in the entertainment industry – rather than strive towards undoubtedly worthwhile careers, such as teaching or medicine.

Just why my FFCs chose not to strive for careers in teaching and medicine themselves but instead chose column-writing – showbusiness for plain people – as a way to make an easy, lush living and become rich-ish and famous-ish remains a mystery. But I bet our old mates Signora Kettle and Madame Pot have something to do with it, and I wouldn't be immensely surprised if I found out that even the Empress Don't-Do-As-I-Do-Do-As-I-Say had a hand in their risibly hypocritical hypothesis.

So imagine my glee upon hearing that Emma Watson, the 20-year-old actress who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter films, has decided to skive off her studies at a prestigious American university in order to concentrate on promoting her films and her fashion projects. "I love studying pretty much more than anything but recently I've had so much to juggle that being a student AND fulfilling my other commitments has become a little impossible," as she put it on her website.

Chortle, chuckle, hugs self in sheer molten glee! For THIS is the same girl who my stuck-up FFCs have been holding up – in both her real-life and fictional forms, bless their confused little cashmere socks – as a shining example to young women since way back in the day: brainy, studious, SO not a fame-hungry, fashion-obsessed bimbo chav like all those vile working-class reality star chicks!

Well, last week she announced a new collaboration with designer Alberta Ferretti; Pure Threads is eco-friendly, like her People Tree collections, and Miss Watson used that expensive education of hers to release a statement to equal that of any rag-hag air-head to ease her baby's way: "I believe this is a big step forward for all of the international fashion industry, but also an important step for an increased sensitivity to the problem of ecology."

Yes, ISN'T it good to see young women using their brains – give her time and she could easily be one of my bogus, phoney FFCs for whom so many trees die a death in order that they can boast about their greenier-than-thouness.

Not that I blame her at all. Unless you are going to do something specific like medicine, teaching or digging up old dinosaur bones, I'm damned if I can see any point in university. The dynasties have a hold on all the easy, fun, well-paid jobs now – politics, journalism, acting, modelling. (The latest star-spawn on the block being Max Irons, brat of the foul Jeremy, over whom some tremulous tit in Vanity Fair recently gushed of his imminent film debut and subsequent fame, "Irons has no idea what is about to happen to him." Really? With that surname I think we could all take a bloody good guess!) Universities have become for the most part holding pens for kids who would otherwise be swelling the ranks of the unemployed.

What exactly constitutes a "useful" job these days? And who values the people that do them? Unless you're a self-starting smarty who worked out a few years back that plumbers and electricians could never be outsourced, the more useful a job the more likely it seems to be one that gets cut first. You don't hear of 10 per cent of the modelling industry losing their jobs – but it's just been announced that the police force are going to. Librarians across the nation will be getting the chop, but councils always seem to have enough money to employ market researchers and public relations glad-handers.

The Government currently savaging the armed forces sees fit to spend millions on surveys and censuses, because the Army is largely working class these days and Heaven forbid that any of Cameron and Clegg's useless old boy cronies should lose their pen-pushing jobs. And of course the bankers of Barclays awarded themselves pay and share packages worth up to £47m per trough this week, while insisting that it was "in the interests of the country".

"The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means," smirked Oscar Wilde. One might add that those who do useful jobs will always be rewarded and those who do trivial jobs will not – THAT'S fiction, if you like. If only my FFCs would see that we are part of the problem rather than the solution and stop bashing non-dynastical kids who seek to make a quick buck in a world where the odds are stacked against them, they might not add hypocrisy to their list of disagreeable attributes. Throw those books in the river, Hermione, and go for the green!

Andy, Mandy and the sex-pest: what did you expect?

How shocked am I that Prince Andrew and Peter Mandelson were buds with a slavering sex-pest? About as shocked as hearing Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen and David Copperfield – men so slimy they must surely each employ a full-time bucket-boy to spread sawdust behind them – also were. About as shocked as discovering Virginia Roberts, one of the teenagers involved, reported she was never asked to give Mandy a "massage". That is, not shocked at all.

When a people can be shocked by what the ruling class gets up to, there is some hope for that ruling class. But when it all sounds horribly predictable, I do feel it's rather end-gamey and Decline of the West-y. Whether they have been born to power and position like the prince, or scrabbled madly after it like the politician, the moral compass of the vast majority of those who rule over us seems similarly shattered.

I keep remembering Mandelson boasting how relaxed he was "about people getting filthy rich" while the gap between rich and poor grew bigger under Labour – let's hope he wasn't relaxed about people being filthy sex offenders, too.

I rarely feel nostalgic, but I have an image of King George and Herbert Morrison up in Heaven, looking down at their grandsons, shaking their heads. WHAT a scummy pair of poltroons they are!

A literary template for ludicrous Fergie

The late Patrick Hamilton's funniest book is Mr Stimpson And Mr Gorse; as she gets older, the more Sarah Ferguson resembles the snobbish, idle, acquisitive, Marie-Antoinette-worshipping anti-heroine Mrs Joan Plumleigh-Bruce.

Mrs P-B likes to quote the Walter Scott line "Steel-true and blade-straight, The great artificer made my mate" about herself, and the Dunce from Dummer's line "It is in times of difficulty that character shows itself. I am fiery Irish redhead and I am to remain strong, fight strong and try to do what is right" is a delicious echo of this. As for "The duke is a man who does not know how to tell an untruth" – priceless!

Belfast Telegraph


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