Anyone who knows their Flanders and Swann Songbook will know the original – ‘let’s talk rude’. But I’ve been prompted to this post by Amol Rajan’s programme on BBC TV last night, which made it pretty clear that ‘talking posh’ is still the gateway to the country’s most prestigious and high-earning jobs.

What it showed, all too clearly, is that the simple fact of having a regional accent can act as a barrier to ambition. Even for the most energetic and able candidates.

Which got me thinking about my own back story.

I grew up in the unfashionable part of Woldingham, a Surrey village which apparently, these days, has more millionaires to the square inch than any other village in the UK. (Or at least, it did a few years ago…)

I went to the County Primary School in Woldingham – like most of the other kids in the village. Where the predominant accent was a sort of Surrey drawl.

But I didn’t talk like that.

Why? Because I had a Danish mother who had learned English as a foreign language. And had taken enormous pains to learn it properly, modelling her pronunciation – quite understandably – on BBC English. (My father spoke in much the same way – possibly equally influenced by my mother! – but I saw much less of him because his job as a journalist meant he was rarely at home when I got back from school.)

So, in other words, my mother ‘talked posh’. And, more to the point, she insisted that her son talk in exactly the same way.

The snag with this otherwise excellent idea was that it made me stand out from the crowd. And children who stand out from the crowd get bullied. That was something which began at Woldingham CP and pursued me all through my time at school.

Caterham School was that now extinct breed, a Direct Grant school. After passing my 11-plus exam I had the choice of going there or going to a Catholic school in Croydon. I opted to try for Caterham – and was admitted on a county scholarship, meaning my parents did not have to pay the school’s crippling fees.

Surrey-speak was pretty much the norm at Caterham, too, at least among the local fee-paying pupils, but when I slipped into it myself my mother would always pull me up short. I have recordings of myself as a teenager, speaking a very clear, precise form of BBC English. (I’ve lapsed a bit since.)

And – apart from the bullying – that worked for me. It got me into Caterham. It got me into Oxford. And it got me all kinds of jobs in later life. (Possibly – though I suspect that as a freelance most of the people who hired me were more interested in my ability than my accent. Which, of course, is easy for me to say…)

I don’t talk quite as posh now. But I notice that when I’m recording a presentation – or speaking in public – it’s still pretty much my default speech setting. Because it ensures that I speak clearly, communicate effectively, and can be easily understood. Even by people with slight hearing difficulties. (Like me, as it happens.)

I don’t have a ‘problem’ with regional accents. After all, I studied history of the language at Oxford, and most of our great literary figures had one. (Chaucer wrote Canterbury Tales in an East Midlands dialect, with a good stab at a northern dialect in the Reeve’s Tale. And Shakespeare probably had what we’d now call a Birmingham accent.)

In my book, the colour of your pronunciation matters not a jot – as long as it’s clear and communicates well. Sadly, people recruiting for the top jobs are obviously less broad-minded.

Their loss, of course. But also the country’s – because it pains me to think of all the energy, talent and sheer bloody-minded perseverance that’s being wasted. Especially when it’s equally clear that people with the right accent, but no talent whatsoever, are getting jobs for which they are totally unsuited. The results, sadly, are clear to see in the ever-increasing s**tstorm that is driving our benighted country onto the rocks.

Talking posh, sadly, is no substitute for actual ability. But for those recruiting for our top jobs, that seems to be a lesson they still have to learn.