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Exposing the myth of ‘ordinary bloke’ David Cameron and his ‘Mr Average’ friends

This article is over 13 years, 8 months old
For all its talk of a "national interest" and "we’re all in this together", the government is made up of establishment figures who are a throwback to a previous era. Simon Basketter uncovers the Tories’ parallel universe<
Issue 2224

In the 1950s the establishment joked that a sign should hang outside the elite Eton private school reading, “Cabinet makers to Her Majesty the Queen”. Depressingly the same thing could be said again in the early 21st century.

More than half of the cabinet went to fee-paying schools. Twenty three of them are millionaires. They live a completely different life from the rest of us, and hold working class people in contempt.

The people leading the attacks on our jobs and services are filthy rich aristocrats. At the heart of the web of privilege and wealth lie David Cameron and George Osborne.

David Cameron

Cameron is King William IV’s great-great-great-great-great grandson, which makes him fifth cousin, twice removed, to the queen.

Cameron’s great-great grandfather Sir Ewen Cameron made a killing selling war bonds during the Russo-Japanese war at the beginning of the 20th century.

Cameron’s father, Ian, and grandfather, Ewen Donald, were both Eton-educated senior partners at stockbrokers Panmure Gordon.

Cameron’s mother, Mary Fleur Mount, is the second daughter of Sir William Malcolm Mount, 2nd Baronet, and is descended from a long line of Tory MPs.

As is befitting of people from this background, David was sent to board at Heatherdown

preparatory school, Berkshire, at the age of seven—the school Princes Andrew and Edward attended.

At sports day, the school provided three separate toilets—one for the ladies, one for the gentlemen and one for chauffeurs.

According to one biography of Cameron, at Heatherdown, “among the 80 sets of parents of Cameron’s contemporaries, there were eight The Honourables, four Sirs, two Captains, two Doctors, two Majors, one Brigadier, one Commodore, two Princesses, two Marchionesses, one Viscount, one Earl, one Baron and one Queen”.

In 1978, when he was 11 years old, Cameron enjoyed a trip with Peter Getty, grandson of billionaire John Paul Peter, on a Concorde flight to stay with the Getty family in the US.

Rhidian Llewellyn, the group’s chaperone, said the boys scoffed caviar. Cameron raised a glass of vintage Dom Perignon champagne in his direction and grinned, “Good health, sir!”

Cameron then moved to the ­preposterous Eton school where the rich learn to bully and lead, and then inevitably on to Oxford and its drinking clubs.

Cameron once suggested that his wife, Samantha, “owns a field in Scunthorpe”. In fact it is 3,000 of prime arable acres in the Scunthorpe area of North Lincolnshire that have been in her family since the 16th century.

Her father, Sir Reginald Sheffield, is the eighth holder of a baronetcy

dating back to 1755. He is worth at least £20 million, and probably considerably more. Sir Reginald lives near Scunthorpe at Thealby Hall. He also uses his £5 ­million stately mansion Sutton Park, a few miles north of York (inherited with another 1,000 acres). This is a Georgian house stuffed with antiques.

But the Camerons have more than one millionaire relative. Samantha’s ­stepfather is Viscount Astor, who her mother married in 1976 after her divorce from Sir Reginald.

Cameron has admitted “shooting the odd pigeon”. But he neglects to mention that he is a regular visitor to the 20,000-acre Tarbert estate on the Scottish island of Jura owned by Viscount Astor, where he shoots stag to pass the time.

The sprawling transatlantic Astor family were known as “the landlords of New York” because of the amount of property they own. The Astor family own a property company called Sableknight, with assets of more than £140 million, so they can afford to be generous hosts.

Perhaps that explains how Cameron paid off the £75,000 mortgage on the £1.5 million home in North Kensington, London, he owns with Samantha. This came after they took out a £350,000 publicly funded mortgage on his designated constituency second home in Oxfordshire.

There is no point having all the connections unless you use them. Lady Astor was friends with Michael Green, then executive chairman of Carlton and one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite businessmen. She suggested he hire Cameron, and Green obliged.

At an earlier job interview at Conservative Central Office, a phone call was received from Buckingham Palace. “I understand you are to see David Cameron,” said the caller. “I am ringing to tell you that you are about to meet a truly remarkable young man.” He got the job.

George Osborne

Chancellor of the exchequer George Gideon Oliver Osborne is filthy rich, but we don’t really know how filthy. He is one of only a handful of upper crust millionaires invited to join C Hoare & Co, the oldest secret bank in Britain—and the most elite.

Osborne, heir to the baronetcy of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon, County Waterford, has a mortgage on his £2 million London home with the 338‑year old bank.

This didn’t stop him “flipping” his expense claims and avoiding capital gains tax on a London house. Osborne’s personal wealth is discretely hidden from view at Hoare & Co.

We do know he has around £4 million as the beneficiary of a trust fund that owns a 15 percent stake in Osborne & Little, the wallpaper company co-founded by his father.

Most of Hoare & Co’s customers’ families have banked there for generations. New clients are accepted only if they have been recommended by one, though preferably two, existing clients.

Clients are expected to have a minimum personal income of £250,000 a year. They also usually need to bring at least £500,000 in cash for the bank to invest in its £600 million portfolio of government bonds.

Despite all this, his chums in the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University (see box) used to call him “Oik” because he had gone to St Paul’s public school instead of Eton or Harrow.

A popular jape among his fellow poshos was to hold him upside-down by the ankles and scream, “Who are you?” After several “wrong” answers, each followed by Osborne being dropped on his head, he was finally released after squealing: “I am a despicable ****.”

Nathaniel Rothschild—Osborne’s friend since Oxford—claimed Osborne had tapped Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska for an illegal donation to the Tories during a meeting on the Russian billionaire’s yacht. Former Labour minister Peter Mandelson was also present at this meeting. Osborne denied the accusation.

The closeness between Osborne and the Rothschild family is shown by Lady Serena Rothschild, Nathaniel’s mother. She funded Osborne’s Westminster office and team of researchers when he was in opposition.

Nathaniel is the first and only employee of Atticus, one of the biggest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Atticus employs Finsbury PR to handle its communications. Finsbury is run by Roland Rudd, a close friend of Peter Mandelson. The firm also acts for Oleg Deripaska.

Finally, this scourge of public sector waste once claimed £47 in expenses for two copies of a DVD of his own speech on “value for taxpayers’ money”.

The Bullingdon club and the interlinked world of the filthy rich

The people who appear in the famous photo of the Bullingdon Club featuring David Cameron gives an insight into the world of those who are born to rule.

  • The Honourable Edward Sebastian Grigg, the heir to Baron Altrincham of Tormarton, is current chair of Credit Suisse.
  • David Cameron.
  • Ralph Perry Robinson. At Oxford he paraded round dressed as a monk calling for virgins to be sacrificed. He now lives in Wiltshire, where he makes furniture.
  • Ewen Fergusson, son of the ambassador to France, Sir Ewen Fergusson. He is now at City law firm Herbert Smith.
  • Matthew Benson is the heir to the Earldom of Wemyss and March. His family were wealthy bankers—Benson spent three years at Morgan Stanley. He married Lady Lulu Douglas‑Hamilton, in a ruined castle rebuilt over three floors.
  • Sebastian James is the son of Lord Northbourne, a major landowner in Kent. He leads a new government body ‘reviewing’ state school funding.
  • Jonathan Ford is a banker with Morgan Grenfell.
  • Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.
  • Harry Eastwood is an investment fund consultant.


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