Socialist Worker

Class prevails as the nervy Tories fall out

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2473

It took a week. Asked about the allegation that he put his penis in the mouth of a dead pig, David Cameron said, “Everyone can see why the book was written and everyone can see straight through it.

“As for the specific issue raised, a very specific denial was made a week ago and I’ve nothing to add to that.”

In fact, Downing Street has said nothing about the anecdote on the record. Which cleared that up.

Meanwhile Lord Ashcroft’s biography of Cameron lays bare in excruciating detail the extraordinary advantages of David Cameron’s background—utterly fantastical in wealth and privilege.

Ashcroft, having donated £8 million to the Tories, was furious that Cameron did not keep to his promise to give the billionaire a ministerial job. 

Ashcroft did not share the aristocratic parentage of his school classmates—who included “eight Honourables, four Sirs, two Majors, two Princesses, two Marchionesses, one Viscount, one Brigadier, one Commodore, one Earl, one Lord and the Queen”. 

Perhaps it is heartening that a boss, based in Belize for tax reasons, cannot buy his way fully into the heart of the British establishment. Perhaps.

Cameron might well assume that he was born to rule. As an aside, since it is the conference season, journalists will again praise his ability to speak without notes. It is a skill learned in the rote teaching of an Eton education. 

On Cameron’s own account he was born with “two silver spoons” in his mouth.

Is it a coincidence that the current chairman of the Tories, Lord Feldman, used to play tennis with Cameron at Oxford? Or that Cameron’s closest advisers include Oliver Letwin, Jo Johnson and Ed Llewellyn, who all went to Eton?

Cameron is the 19th Old Etonian prime minister. Another seven former prime ministers went to Harrow, and six to Westminster. Cameron’s use of patronage to reward his old friends is nothing new. His political hero Harold Macmillan stuffed his government with 35 Old Etonians in the 1950s.

But in the 1970s estate owners briefly gave way to the estate agents at the heart of the Tory party. It saw the Tories elect Margaret Thatcher as leader.


The frustration was that those who were too privileged had become lazy about hammering the poor. The toffs were pushed a little into the background.  

But as the aristocracy like to say, class prevails. Thatcher failed to stem Britain’s global decline, despite her vicious assault on the working class. That had a number of consequences.

One was a fragmenting of the British ruling class consensus in favour of European integration. That fragmentation still gnaws at the Tory party.

The other was that eventually the Tories returned to what they know best—extreme privilege.

And patronage doesn’t buy unity. Ashcroft says Boris Johnson won an extra £90 million to fund London policing in return for “no mischief” at the party conference in 2011.

That shows how corrupt the Tories are but also how nervous.

With Cameron likely to step down in 2018, George Osborne and Boris Johnson have been sniping at each other not very subtly for months.

They all share the right sort of education but they all want the top job to do us over. The hidden obtuse rows in the Tory party always reflect real things.

For the Tories, the prospect of office was enough to calm divisions in the run-up to the last election.

As Britain’s decline and economic crisis continues, those divisions will continue to fester. 

The bosses are divided on Europe and on how hard to push austerity—and so therefore are the Tories. The potential for both to become a rift haunts the government.

As the Tories come together for their conference in Manchester, behind the stage managed tedium there are real divisions that point to their weakness.

It is not unlike a posh party, which for all the embossed invitations involves a drunk posho putting his penis in a dead pig’s head.

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Tue 29 Sep 2015, 15:59 BST
Issue No. 2473
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