Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety | 28 March 2009

Our reaction to Jade’s death shows that we are ready to elect an Old Etonian as PM

Our reaction to Jade’s death shows that we are ready to elect an Old Etonian as PM

What does the death of Jade Goody tell us about the way we live now? For some, the fact that her battle with terminal cancer became such a three-ring media circus will be a cause of despair. Are there no areas of our lives that should be regarded as private? From now on, celebrities will have to add another stage to the five that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said all people go through when dealing with their imminent death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and — a phone call to Max Clifford.

I prefer to see it as a cause of hope. For me, the most striking thing about the last few weeks of Jade’s life was the almost universal outpouring of compassion. As recently as ten years ago, whether or not a person took an interest in the plight of someone like Jade would have depended on what class they belonged to. The further you travelled up the class ladder, the less sympathy you would have found. By the time you reached the foothills of the upper-middle class, you would have encountered a familiar combination of snobbery and disapproval — and if you claimed to be moved by the plight of this young woman, you would have been regarded as a member of an alien species.

Something of this attitude was detectable in the chattering classes’ reaction to the death of Princess Diana. The public outpouring of grief — and the profession of concern for ‘her boys’ — was viewed as almost incomprehensible by the educated middle class. Among members of the aristocracy, this public display of emotion produced feelings of revulsion, a phenomenon that was dramatised in The Queen.

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