Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is It About Class?

Discussing where we stand politically with both L6th politics groups this week, it was interesting to hear that class may still be a factor, not only in why we hold the positions we do (and yes, my family is a middle-class Tory one), but also in examining the political integrity of our leaders. Labour have recently tried to focus on the class issue, not least because of the proliferation of Etonians and fellow (if lesser) public schoolers in the Tory high command. After all, Cameron is a scion of that privileged institution, so is London's mayor, so is the shadow Home Secretary...the list goes on. Labour's thinking must be that one Brown advantage might be to play up his humble origins and hope the traditional vote is inspired to move back into play to stop the toffs taking over. Harriet Harman (St. Pauls Girls), tried to make class an issue in her speech to the TUC, although she resorted to the use of 'fairness' as a euphemism in the end. Commentators may disagree on whether she was initiating a new class war on behalf of her leader (see Nick Robinson here and Stephen Pollard in the Telegraph here), but the privilege of the Tory leadership still seems a favourite target.

It's not a great strategy, since class - at least in our leaders - seems ever less important for British voters. In Crewe and Nantwich they gave short-shrift Labour's notorious class-based campaign (which wasn't helped anyway by having a Labour candidate who features in Burke's Peerage). Then there's the fact that the public school educated Blair (Fettes - the Eton of Scotland) and Cameron seem a lot more effective at communicating with ordinary British voters than their state school counter-parts (compare Hague, Duncan Smith or Howard with Cameron, and Brown of course with Blair). Perhaps we've just never lost that feudal feeling of wanting to be told what to do by our social betters!

2 comments:

Pier said...

Well if these few weeks do lead to a change in the Labour leadership - which will most likely see either Harman (please no) or Purnell take over (yes please) - then we may well see all three party leaders coming from very similar backgrounds.

All will have gone to fee paying schools, all gone on to Oxbridge, all career politicians.

This would turn the clock back to god knows when, when the last time all three party leaders came from that some, tiny, sheltered demographic.

The message projected suggests that social mobility within our country is dead.

GM said...

With a husband and wife team, and two brothers in the same cabinet, the political class has been narrowing for some time. Even St. Siobhain is the sister of Baroness McDonagh, former Labour Gen Sec!