The rise of the overclass

Where America leads, Britain so often follows. Already some parts of Britain – Kensington, Chelsea, parts of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire – have become an exclusive enclave for the super-rich, who use Britain as a playground rather than a home. Unlike the ambient population, this privileged caste is not dependant on the state for the provision of schools, hospitals or welfare.

“The only time that I use the state,” one financier worth an estimated £500 million confided in me recently, “is when my driver drives on public roads from the City to my country estate. I don’t like it, but I can’t help it.”

Meanwhile, like the United States, Britain also has to live with a dependent and sometimes criminal class of welfare claimants. The perverse tax system sculpted by former chancellor Gordon Brown has sent out the message that work does not pay, condemning millions to a life of idleness and low self-esteem. Last year’s riots were one consequence of this immoral system.

There is a horrible parallel here. Among both the very rich – the “overclass” – and the very poor – the “underclass” – the idea of responsibility, duty, patriotism and neighbourliness has been destroyed.