I WRITE this sitting in the most civilised queue in the world, in the cloisters of the cathedral awaiting the start of a Darkness to Light service. No one is smartly attired. Old coats, scarves and headgear that look as if they have been borrowed from a scarecrow are the order of the day. Those in the know got here early and bagged the few available tables and chairs while the rest wait in an orderly line, sipping mulled wine and chatting to friends, family and strangers. Princes and paupers, all equal in the sight of the cathedral authorities.

I remember another queue from my youth, outside London’s Albert Hall queuing for an hour or two for the privilege of being able to stand for a further hour or two to listen to world class music at the proms for the princely sum of £1. The only apparent divisions being whether we elected to lean over the railings in the gallery or see the whites of the orchestra’s eyes from the stalls. A motley collection of office and shop workers, cleaners, students, tourists, doctors… Forming a queue, that great social leveller, is a peculiarly British phenomenon, bemused, envied and completely misunderstood by the rest of the world. But it would appear that the levelled queues at the cathedral and the proms are becoming things of the past. In a depressing turn of events, Alan Milburn and the whole board of the Social Equality Commission resigned en masse at the weekend, claiming that the government was so preoccupied with Brexit that it was unable to attend to anything else. Milburn noted that failing to deal with inequality fuels political extremism ‘more anger, more resentment… a breeding ground for populism’. (He is not wrong. Donald Trump’s continued endorsement of the far right drifted across the Atlantic this week. And as a direct result of his endorsement, interest in, following and prospective membership of the banned racist group, Britain First, cited by the murderer of Jo Cox, exploded).

Milburn’s Commission also noted the increasing divide between different parts of the country as London and the south east pull away. “Whole communities and parts of Britain are being economically and hollowed out socially. The growing sense that we have become an ‘us and them society’ is deeply corrosive of our cohesion as a nation.”

We may be largely isolated from the worst ravages of social division in our cosy corner of Wiltshire, but charities such as Alabaré and Trussell Trust tell a consistent and depressing story; that those at the margins are being pushed further and further away from the rest of us. There is no ‘them and us’. In a society riven by division and extremism, all will suffer. Enjoy queuing. It may be the closest you ever get to social equality…