The Brains To Run A Whelk Stall

The idiom of someone not having the brains and ability to run a whelk stall dates to 1894, and as far as I can see was then used of the aristocracy by an early Labourite. But I have later heard it deployed against Labour people by Tories. This is odd, since running whelk stalls was surely a working-class occupation of which Old Etonians had no experience.

I should add that in my youth, the skill of management was universally considered to be hereditary and to reside on the same twist of DNA as riding to hounds. Universally, that is, among the people who were parachuted into upper management straight out of Oxbridge without knowing a thing about the business – the people who did the actual work of the enterprise in the teeth of the worst efforts of the Hooray Henrys were less convinced of the universality.

Now that social mobility in the USA has come to an end, the Americans might perhaps have something to learn from people who have cultivated hereditary ‘leadership’ a lot longer. It is the working classes who actually understand how to do things, bash metal and so forth, and who know that managerial skills are not actually a sacred mystery incarnate in social betters by virtue of good breeding, fashionable clothing and the ability to make the right noises. As the offshoring experiment ends and jobs are brought back to the country where everyone who knew how to do stuff apart from law, advertising and media (that is, telling lies) has long been fired, it behoves the Americans to look at what happened to Britain after the age of self-made entrepreneurs were replaced in industry by we Brits call the public schoolboy, or what Americans would call the preppie.

Posted on December 18, 2011 at 09:44 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, Resistance Is Futile, Miscellaneous

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