In case you didn't know, Miles Knight is doing an MBA at LCE. Yes, after 10 glorious, thrusting years as a consultant (plus an ill-advised foray into dot.commery that we don't mention), Miles has persuaded his company to fund a part-time MBA. Two-thirds of his time is spent at Apela Consulting (one of the big five or four or three) and the remainder at the LCE (best or second-best or fifth-best European school, depending on which survey you believe). The workload, he'll tell you, is pretty onerous. But worth it, definitely. 'Yah, you see, with an LCE MBA, you can add £40k to your salary, minimum. I think of it as taking Me plc to the next level.' At least, this is what the LCE faculty has told him and he's not about to be disabused of the notion.
To say that Knight is self-possessed is to understate the obvious. Watch him swagger across LCE's Palladian lawns among Europe's soi-disant future business leaders; marvel as he buys a round in the pub next to the school on his Amex gold card; gasp as he defends laissez-faire economics, an Economist op-ed made flesh – and with the steadfast conviction of one who has never been poor; thrill as he motors back to his swanky Notting Hill flat into the arms of his tall, blonde girlfriend, herself a high-flying corporate lawyer.
Miles is one of those people whose entire life has been one effortless glide upwards: public school, Cambridge, consultancy, that – ahem – dot.com, and now an LCE MBA! Envious colleagues joke that one of the shortest books in the world would be My Struggle by Miles Knight. Perhaps it's unsurprising that he and his LCE chums strut around with a sense of place that would make an American heiress blush. Miles believes that he richly deserves it all: he is the kind of person who finds the second half of Bonfire of the Vanities profoundly depressing.
Among the LCE crowd, Miles is not atypical, nor even worst among equals. Take his mate Piers. The photo on Piers' LCE application form showed him in front of his Ferrari, the effect rather like one of those Athena posters from the 1980s. Piers boasts that this was the key to his successful application: it 'differentiated me upwardly'. It certainly differentiated him – faculty still refer to him as 'that wanker with the Ferrari', and his successful application was despite this and entirely down to pots of money and connections. Miles considers Piers something of a role model. This is rather disingenuous – Piers is doing an MBA to pass the time until he assumes control of his father's company.
Yet, for all his paint-stripping smugness, for all his sense of entitlement, there are still a few things that keep Miles awake at night. For starters, he overheard two Apela partners talking in the loos the other day about the company's MBA budget being money well spent if 'it keeps that idiot out of harm's way'; Miles doesn't know if he is that idiot (there are six MBAs), but some of his recent suggestions have been received by the hierarchy with a certain froideur. Could they mean him? Apela doesn't suffer fools gladly. And two of his contemporaries have been promoted since he started his MBA course. How big a raise did they get?... £30k? £40k? More?
There are also 'environmental factors'. He has a suspicion that his girlfriend earns more than he does; worse, she's started making noises about pro bono and 'putting something back'. Then there are his pals who went into banking – one of them was talking about retiring the other day; another is buying his fourth house – they're post-economic at 35, for Chrissake!
Finally, there's Dave. An academic under-achiever, instead of learning about risks, Dave went out there and took them, and now he runs a company worth £50 million. He'd never have got into the LCE based on his GMAT scores, and yet he'll be speaking there on the subject of entrepreneurship next term. For once, the irony isn't lost on Miles.
Indeed, what really troubles him, what really wipes the smile off Miles' face is the success of his peers. He is a chronic case of status anxiety, for even if you take home £150k, you're still a pikey if all your mates are on £300k. And what terrifies him is being just rich enough to realise that he's not rich enough. Sometimes, daydreaming in LCE lectures, he finds himself fantasising about becoming a teacher.