Gina Davidson: Toffs give posh a bad name

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IT’S not often I can say this, and to be honest it’s unlikely to happen again, but I feel David Cameron’s pain. More than that, I can empathise with George Osborne. It’s not nice being decried as posh. Or should that be Posh with a capital P as Lionel Jeffries once sang?

For I too, dear readers, know what it’s like to be labelled as such.

Oh yes, despite my humble beginnings in Southhouse, attending Burdiehouse Primary, and growing up in an area which at the time was one of the more deprived of Edinburgh’s poverty ghettos on the outskirts of the city, I was still “posh”.

What’s more, some of my primary classmates went further, and said I was a snob. Their evidence? That I didn’t live in a council house, that the front garden wasn’t used as a car park, I didn’t swear and quite enjoyed school.

Their views were compounded when I went to a different secondary school to them, which meant I had to wear a uniform. Stones were thrown (though I believe it was much worse for a near neighbour’s child who attended Edinburgh Academy and had to wear shorts).

The reality of course couldn’t have been further from the truth. How can you be posh when your parents are from Muirhouse and Lochend and grandparents from the slums of Stockbridge (as they were classed back in the day) and the mining village of Newtongrange?

But is there anything wrong in being posh? In having a bit of class, as the word is defined in my online dictionary? I don’t think so.

If it is posh to be told that saying “ay?” at the end of every sentence isn’t necessary, of being asked to whom I was referring when I used the word “ken” or believing that using the communal stairwell in the block of flats as a toilet is not the done thing – then I must be guilty as charged.

The problem with the word posh, as Tory MP Nadine Dorries used it to attack her party leader, is that it’s become loaded with other meanings. But being posh doesn’t automatically mean being stuck up or believing that you’re better than the next person. It doesn’t even mean being rich. Even the aristocracy of this country may be posh and well-mannered, but they’re as unlikely to have any spare cash down the sofa as a single mum on benefits. Although it’s unlikely they’re paying for the sofa at BrightHouse.

What Dorries really means about Cameron et al, is that they are privileged and elitist. That their millionare lifestyles, their innate belief that they were born and bred to lead the country, have led to arrogance and being out of touch with us ordinary folks.

Cameron may attempt to suggest he’s as normal as the next man in the Champagne aisle of Sainsbury’s Notting Hill, but if the next man is Francis Maude, it doesn’t help expand his world view.

What people are more concerned about is politicians’ integrity. They couldn’t care less where they come on a posh-o-meter (which I imagine would have Peter Snow flailing his arms around from a nadir of Steptoe-ism to the apex of the Queen; Posh Spice somewhere to the lower end) as long as they can believe they mean what they say.

They might accept that a Prime Minister doesn’t know the price of a pint of milk, but as long as he or she drinks it and doesn’t just take lemon in their tea, the voters will probably accept that.

It’s the constant lack of authenticity from politicians which grates – and let’s face it there are few who are untainted by that crime. Being posh doesn’t come into it.

When I went to high school – James Gillespie’s – I realised what being posh was all about. After all, I now had pals who lived in the Grange, and their use of profanity was way beyond that of my peers in Burdiehouse.

Being able to swear and still sound like you were just asking if you wanted the crusts cut from your cucumber sandwich is perhaps the ultimate definition of being posh. And for that I still doff my cap to them.

Signs are good

BY this time next week the polling booths will have been open for hours – though you might not have realised.

Hopefully you’ll have had your white polling cards on the mantelpiece waiting to be handed over to the clerks in return for your slip of voting paper. Hopefully your letterbox will have been rattling with information from your candidates about just what they can do for you.

You might even have been fortunate, or unlucky enough, as I was, to actually meet one of the candidates face to face and realise that despite years of casting your vote one way, this time you just won’t be able to do it.

But if all of these things haven’t alerted you to the fact that May 3 is an election day, you’ll be hard pressed to discover any public acknowledgement of the event after Edinburgh City Council took the irrational and anti-democratic decision last year to ban all party political lamppost posters.

Of course people should know that an election is on, and not need these colourful reminders. But to my mind, they were the only bit of hoopla about elections apart from the actual count and the best aide-memoir for any election.

If there is the low turnout next week as many politicians fear, then the councillors will only have themselves to blame. Let’s have the posters back.