I took part in the Guardian‘s politics’ programme last week and talked with my colleagues about the conferences. (You can hear it here.) One point that struck me after watching the Tories, was how short the party was of barnacled old buggers, with age and experience and an ability learned from years of hard slog to speak over the heads of the Paxmans and Humphreys and to the country. I suppose the Tories have Ken Clarke and Eric Pickles, but there are precious few others who can put down an interviewer and appeal to the voter.
Far too many people at the top of politics reminded me of Orwell’s passage in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, in which he has his hero gaze with contempt at the book cases in the shop where he works and see
Snooty, refined books on safe painters and safe poets by those moneyed young beasts who glide so gracefully from Eton to Cambridge and from Cambridge to the literary reviews.
Moneyed young beasts gliding gracefully to positions of power is as good a description of the sociology of modern British politics as you are likely to find. And of the sociology of the media too. In class background and experience, the similarities between politicians and journalists are more striking than their differences. It’s not that I dislike Cameron, Clegg or even the Miliband boys (and, yes, I know they did not go to private school, but they are still children from one of the best comprehensives whose parents payed a property price premium to live in the catchment area).
It is just that when times get hard — and they are about to get very hard — political parties need their Tebbits and Mowlams, who do not sound as if they have come from a life of privilege, and can convince the audience that the government is on its side.
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