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A Right Eton Mess

April 27, 2011

I have always been fascinated by the occasional (and very peculiar) combination of the sort of narcissistic superiority which goes with being born into privilege and a certain defensive insecutiry which comes with landing a difficult job, secured through connections, rather than merit or ability. Our unelected PM appears to possess both conditions to such astonishing levels, that perhaps psychiatry ought to re-categorise Napoleon as suffering from a Cameron complex.

For some time, I have suggested that there is a deeply dark side to him, which goes beyond mere incompetence. Earlier today at PMQs his mask dropped for just a few moments and my fears were confirmed. What was revealed is worth some scrutiny.

And I am not talking only of his paleolithic, patronising dismissal of Angela Eagle – an MP of 20 years’ experience and the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – with “Calm down, dear” (to the almost audible sound of No.10 PR folks’ sphincters clenching shut). Much has been written already about it.

No doubt much will follow, as the ConDem spin machine tries to offer facile explanations of the It-Was-Just-A-Joke variety; designed to make anyone that didn’t find it funny look like a party-pooping, militant, bitter, puppy-kicking, crazy leftie. Or perhaps they will wait for us after school and give us a “wedgie” or a “dead leg”.

The fact is we all choose to repeat jokes that we find witty. Our PM chose to squeeze into the catchphrase Hall of Fame somewhere between Michael Winner – one of the most odious, misogynistic human husks – and the slightly more dignified rodent that replaced him in that advertising campaign. Maybe it is healthy when a man instinctively finds his level.

But my regular readers will know, I am always much more interested in the befores and afters; the stuff that is barely visible in the outter glow of the spotlight; the worrying shadow in one’s peripheral vision.

Under pressure on the subject of the no-confidence vote on Andrew Lansley, Cameron said:

Inevitably when you make changes in public services it is a challenge taking people with you. But that is the whole point of pausing the reforms and then trying to get them going ahead again with greater support from doctors and nurses.

This, for me, is the real own-goal of the day. In the space of two sentences Cameron undid all the carefully constructed rhetoric of the ConDem PR machine. This was meant to be a big “listening exercise”; proof that the government was not so big-headed as to ignore the legitimate concerns of the professionals on whom the NHS relies.

It turns out that their concerns have already been dismissed out of hand with “people don’t like change”. Cameron confirmed that this has all been a sham, probably to facilitate the coming election, after which the “play” button will be pressed once more. This unscripted statement, is the reason Cameron found himself on the back foot.

Being on the back foot, he did what all deeply flawed individuals do: He went on the attack. He followed his blunder with a lie. Former MP Howard Stoate, he stated, had been defeated in his seat by a Conservatisve. When pulled up on this by Angela Eagle, who pointed out that Stoate had stood down, he became quite red and lashed back with an offensive, childish put-down.

Cameron knows the difference between political bluster and real indignation. The moment he had uttered those three words, he could see from the reaction opposite that he had made a right Eton Mess of it. Instead of apologising, or at the very least moving on, he repeated his comment. And repeated it. And repeated it. Like a bad comedian abusing his audience instead of getting off. And finally, by now a deep crimson colour, he said “I will not apologise.”

We have seen plenty of flashes of the ConDem’s xenophobia, sexism, disregard for the disabled, for the arts, for single mothers, for students. Cumulatively, of course, these things are devastating. However, the single biggest threat to this country is the inability – and it is, I believe, an actual inbred inability – of the three public school boys at the helm to admit they have got it horribly wrong.

Cameron is looking down from the very high bridge of his own unsinkable ship, insisting the iceberg up ahead is just “a jolly big snowflake” and hurling insults at any passengers that dare suggest otherwise. He will do anything except apologise and change course. It is at the very centre of his rich-boy psyche.

It is tragic and funny in equal measure that it was at this point Speaker John Bercow chose to interrupt, admonishing Labour benches for their uproar, because it would “make a very bad impression for the public as a whole”.

With respect, Mr Bercow, a Prime Minister who will stand on the dispatch box, make no statement about the situation in Libya, refuse to answer questions on the Economy and the NHS, give erroneous statistics on immigration, reveal his government’s response to concerns over the Health Bill is a cheap stunt, openly lie, offend and then refuse point blank to apologise, makes a considerably worse impression. At least to this member of the public.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2011 10:59 pm

    Cameron is the monkey, not the organ-grinder. He isn’t worth your time.

    BB

  2. Jill Pay permalink
    April 28, 2011 5:06 am

    The man is a twat – and a dangerous twat at that. I can barely look at his smug, self-satisfied face.

  3. rogerglewis permalink
    April 28, 2011 5:47 am

    Did you see this drivel on the no 10 web site as well.

    http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/statements-and-articles/2011/04/joint-article-on-libya-the-pathway-to-peace-63112
    What a self serving hypocrite the Boy Cameron is.

  4. April 28, 2011 8:24 am

    Was enjoying the read until that winking pic. I now feel dirty and have to go wash my eyes with bleach. *shudders*

  5. April 28, 2011 8:34 am

    This sticking-plaster excuse for a government chills me to the core. As a liberal, intelligent human being I like to mock them, and to refuse point blank to take them as seriously as they want me to. As a woman, as a mother, as an artist, I have to confess that however much I bluff, I am deeply frightened by the power they wield.

    • April 28, 2011 7:47 pm

      We should be no longer frightened by these people.
      Maybe 200 year ago, when there was no chance for ordinary people to communicate. It was a benefit that churches, politicians, KINGS & QUEENS, armed forces, business big fishes had, and took advantage of. Now, we could, potentially, build a network of “normal” citizens, not just from one single town or country but from all over the world. It shouldn’t be about revolution, nor barricades. It should simply be letting them know our determined decision: “NOT THIS WAY”.

  6. Alex permalink
    May 8, 2011 8:08 pm

    I’m resurrecting a discussion that’s been dead for a week or so I know, but I just came across this after reading your ‘Dear Ed’ piece. I just wanted to make some comments on what you’ve said about Cameron’s background. It always saddens me when I see this kind of class prejudice being banded around by people who otherwise purport themselves to tolerant and liberal. Can I ask how asserting that there is a “narcissistic superiority which goes with being born into privilege” or that there is an “inbred inability” for privately educated people to be wrong is any different from right-wingers claiming that everyone on benefits is a work-shy scrounger, or that all Muslims are fundamentalists? Either way, it is crude prejudice that tars hugely diverse demographics with the same ignorant brush. I myself was lucky to have a privileged upbringing, and like Cameron I went to Eton and then Oxford. However, I am a staunch Lib Dem and Green party supporter, as, indeed, were most people at Eton – when we had local council elections in my last year, more than 50% of the pupils old enough to vote voted Lib Dem, and then another 15% or so voted Labour. I strongly oppose what Cameron’s government is doing, as do almost all my school and University friends. We are all deeply against his hugely unfair spending cuts, which will punish those who can least afford it (believe it or not, private school kids are capable of empathy too…), and in particular I am disgusted by how readily he has turned his back on his promise to be “the greenest government ever.”

    I’m writing this not because I feel the need to try and justify myself or my upbringing, but because I want to point out that this kind of prejudice is not only inaccurate in the majority of cases (there are, as always, exceptions), but also hugely damaging to your credibility as a political commentator. If you really want to change people’s opinions and gather support for your views (and I do share the substantial majority of the views you state on here), then you need to cut out the tired, class-prejudice. Think about it; if you read a right-wing commentary that includes a healthy dose of racial/gender/social prejudice (I’m thinking of you, Littlejohn…), you dismiss it out of hand. If, however, the same arguments are made in a fair, reasoned way, without the prejudiced bollocks, you at least give them fair consideration no? Exactly the same thing applies to how those on the right will react to what you’re writing. So please, if you actually want to try and make a difference, cut out the “rich-boy” prejudice. It really does you no credit.

    • May 9, 2011 12:00 am

      Firstly, if you want to have a conversation, it will need to be on things I actually said, rather than altered versions. I speak of an occasional and peculiar combination of things. You are the one that is making that into a generalisation.

      On the broader point of whether a politician’s background is a fair target, I have posted a pretty detailed explanation of why I think it absolutely is. If you don’t fancy reading it, my basic argument is that, when the entire front bench consists almost exclusively of people from such background, it becomes a relevant factor. Especially when they see fit to be condescendingly prescriptive on how others less fortunate than them ought to live. Here is the full post:

      https://sturdyblog.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/nick-clegg-a-tourist/

      • Alex permalink
        May 9, 2011 2:00 am

        Apologies if you feel I got the wrong end of the stuck, but surely you appreciate that phrases like “narcissistic superiority that comes with being born into privilege” and the “inbred ability” of these public school boys to admit fault sound like generalisations? The first phrase in particularly logically implies in pretty clear terms that being born into privilege necessarily goes hand in hand with narcissistic superiority. If that’s not what you actually think, then great; however, I think the point still stands that those kind of phrases come across as prejudice, and it doesn’t do your argument any good to include them.

        I read the post in your link, and in parts agree with you – it is a definitely problem that the range of backgrounds of our current cabinet is so narrow, and clearly privately educated politicians are heavily over represented. However, the main problem is more that there is little diversity, not that that lack of diversity comes in the form of private school/Oxbridge graduates. It would be just as big a problem if they were all priests, or all atheists, or all men or all women. I actually think Cameron et al.’s economic policies have very little to do with their backgrounds. The kind of fiscal conservatism that they are inflicting upon the country is a fairly central tenet of Conservative party values. It wouldn’t matter whether he went to Eton or Slough comprehensive, he’d be doing the same thing; let’s not forget that Thatcher was state educated. Thatcher, Cameron and Osborne’s problem is being Conservative, not being privately educated.

        I’m not sure I agree with you on your evaluation of Clegg. I don’t see how trying to change an unfair system is “condescendingly prescriptive”, particularly if he/his children/friends etc. would likely benefit from maintaining the status quo. I do understand that this policy could be seen as farcically hypocritical, given the Lib Dems support for the spending cuts. However, I really don’t see what that has to do with his background. If the hypocrisy is talking about increasing social mobility, while at the same time supporting a financial policy that suppresses it, surely that would be exactly the same if he were state educated?

  7. rogerglewis permalink
    May 9, 2011 7:57 am

    This is a very important discussion not so much in the content of the discussion but what its outcome might be. What we have in this discussion is the basis or model for a real communication and interaction and in our current political model if we were to Ape our Houses of Parliament particularly the commons a Polemical Rhetorical and essentially adversarial discussion ( Argument ) would follow.
    In the House of Lords something akin to a more reasoned discourse on the questions raised might follow.
    Within the mainstream media I don’t feel that in this intelligent forum it needs to be elaborated.
    ‘Events Dear Boy Events’ from one of Etons finest i think?

  8. February 14, 2016 8:12 am

    Reblogged this on Sid's Blog.

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