DANNY Dorling, world-renowned academic and cult figure for many on the geekier fringes of the left, sits before me in his Oxford University office.

The Oxford boy turned Halford Mackinder professor of geography has just written another acclaimed book on inequality – his tenth, remarkably – and is reflecting on who he is.

“I am nerdy”, he says, without much hesitation.

The Oxford Times:

“I remember facts more than other people. I forget names more than other people.

“I am socially awkward, although in this university I’m normal, but in the real world I am socially awkward.”

He sighs. “Middle aged, white, fat…”

Anything positive?, I venture.

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There’s a pause and a smile.

“God knows.”

For a moment he looks in danger of complimenting himself, then thinks better of it.

“I’m smart enough. Not that smart, though. My O Levels were not brilliant – I got an E in English Lit. I got an F in French because I copied somebody who got an E.”

The self-deprecation is said without a hint of pity.

Dorling is relaxed, sarcastic, likeable, ‘unbelievably lucky’ to be doing a job he clearly loves and damning of the things and people he dislikes.

The Oxford Times:

Despite comparing himself to other academics, he’s funnier than the standard perception of an Oxford professor, and far more cutting.

Yet for all the impressive work – the Guardian once wrote an editorial solely ‘in praise of Danny Dorling’ – and scathing take downs – Britain is the ‘dunce’ of the European class – he comes across as one of the most cheerful blokes you are likely to meet.

His voice, punctuated by dropped h’s, is about as intimidating as Bugs Bunny; one of his favourite pastimes is ‘making sandcastles’. He’s 50 years old.

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You get the sense that Dorling exists in a near-permanent state of amazement; astounded and bemused by the fact that people are yet to cotton on to what he sees as common sense conclusions on inequality.

“It’s so bloody obvious,” he tells me matter-of-factly, scanning his messy office, littered with books and another of his favourite things: maps. “Honestly, for inequality in Britain to get statistically worse is actually quite hard.

“The income gap is the widest in the whole of Europe. We are the dunce of the class. Almost every story on the news has an inequality issue underpinning it.”

He compares his position to that of a researcher looking into the link between smoking and lung cancer, 15 years after it became overwhelmingly obvious.

“The immense harm caused by our house prices… it is unbelievably stupid. [Increased] equality is the answer to most of our problems.”

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Does he still get shocked by his research?

“I get shocked by personal examples, the individual stories of people going hungry, children not having underwear and then worrying about changing at PE.

“The stats… a five per cent overall rise in age-standardised mortality rates in the last 12 months shocked me. Infant mortality rose two years in a row recently, that shocked me, but now I’m used to it.”

He’s unapologetic about his work being political and does not pull any punches.

“Everything is political.

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“I think it would be hard to study inequality and not be politically bothered by it. It would be like studying child sex abuse and not giving a toss about it – just saying ‘oh, it’s interesting academically’.”

Yet, for all the bleakness studying inequality brings, he is not without hope. Indeed, his latest book hails the reaching of ‘peak inequality’, suggesting things will soon begin to improve.

Born in Oxford (‘a very small place to grow up’), his mother was a teacher in what became Oxford Academy and his father was a GP for Blackbird Leys and Temple Cowley. Dorling went to Cheney school, before leaving Oxford for Newcastle University in 1986 and only returning in 2013, after something of a tour of the UK at various educational institutions.

You might say he is a critical friend of the city, but it might be more accurate to call him an irritated expert.

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With customary aplomb for condensing complex topics into amusing critiques, he labels Oxford ‘a bit embarrassing’ on the housing front, suggesting ‘somebody dropped the ball’ on the lack of building.

“Who influenced the green belt being really tight?”, he asks, baffled.

“It’s the most ridiculous ‘green belt’ on the planet. The least ‘green’ green belt ever.

“Is there a green belt anywhere in the world that generates more pollution?”

Affordable housing is not his only criticism: the university, which he has been rude about on multiple occasions in his books, is not as elitist as he expected, but ‘still pretty snobby’; while the city ‘can do better’ than just Cornmarket Street – surely – for anti-car initiatives.

And, of course, he brings it all back to inequality, arguing that in a more equal Britain, ‘you would not see Oxford like this’.

A father-of-three (also born one of three siblings) Dorling’s supposed linguistic limitations (he claims to be far better with numbers) are brought into question by his manipulation of sound bites, and analogies, which he uses to make a not insignificant impact on the mainstream press, rather than just a name in academic journals, like most of his colleagues.

That means he is far from harmless to defenders of inequality: when it comes to that argument, he is more equal than most.