Monday, October 11, 2010

 

Of Elites and their Tones of Voice

Over the years I suppose I've become a kind of 'tribal' person politically; not so much pro-Labour these days, but still strongly anti-Tory. Conservative beliefs have always appeared to me to be a rationalisatoion of selfishness- a modernised version of Dickens' Josiah Bounderby. A bit narrow, I know, but few Conservative governments or individual politicians have substantially disabused me of such perceptions. Yet I was struck by a well written article in The Guardian which addressed the new elite from which rightwing leaders have tended to be be drawn.

Simon Head drew upon Cannadine's Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, which charts the decline of the Tory elite's source until Douglas Home's brief period in power 1963-4. After that Tories dug down the social order for their leaders: working class Heath, Lower middle Thatcher, and then the serial failures of Hague, IDS and Howard until Cameron obligingly lent his Old Etonian composure to the post of leader. Socially this post - aristocratic group of leaders had something in common with figures like RA Butler, Hugh Dalton. Oliver Franks and the like whom Head likens to the French nobility who owed their places to their often inherited judicial or administrative posts: noblesse de la robe. It is from such a background that Head sees Cameron and Head emerging:

It is appropriate that Eton and Oxford, Westminster and Cambridge should feature in the CVs of Cameron and Clegg because the ancient universities and the leading public schools have played a dominant role in the history of this singular culture, forging an upper middle class from which a much smaller ruling elite could be heavily recruited. We think, for example, of Eton as the supremely "posh" public school, catering for the children of the old aristocracy and the noblesse de robe.

It is this 'super' middle class- to some extent a gentrified City Bourgeoisie- based on private education that has provided so many of our political class during the last century and still exercises a degree of domination as the present coalition demonstrates. Head notices however that the current duo have managed to change the style of governemnt traditionally associated with a rightwing elite.

One thing they have done is to rid themselves of the most toxic ingredient of their heritage which, following Shelley's "Ozymandias", I'll call the Sneer of Cold Command or snocc for short – an unappealing acronym for what is now thought of as a distinctly unappealing style.

That cold, patronising voice of 'authority' has become anathema to British voters and Cameron has been brilliant in burying it. The tone of his government is so much softer than that of the awful Thatcher and has set the benchmark for his government, witness Andrew Lansley's persuasive performance on the World at One today. It is not just the tone which is liberal, but quite a few of the policies too. No wonder Tories on the right mutter darkly that their leader is not a 'proper' Conservative. I say thank God he isn't.

Comments:
Yo Skip. Lighten up. Your chippiness is showing. Please don't say you would welcome back the authentic voice of the
horny handed labourer,My Lord Prescott ?

FYI Cameron is mis-trusted by many right thinking people because of his attachment to the Brussels Project & refusal to honour the referendum commitment.
 
David
Those are among the reasons I have a sneaking regard for 'Dave' I have to say.
 
A sneaking regard for a pol ?

Gone native have we ?

(walks away, shaking head sadly)
 
David
And not just a 'pol', but one from the 'enemy' tribe!
 
Skipper, old comrade, I fear you're becoming a lost cause. This bunch of gangsters are going to decimate the welfare state, attack the poor, and privatise anything that moves in ways that the most extreme Thatcherites like Keith Joseph could only dream about... and you try to convey the impression that they are some sort of centre-left soft Tories.

Take this... witness Andrew Lansley's persuasive performance on the World at One today....

This a man who is to dismantle the NHS, hand commissioning through GP consortia to the likes of Tribal Healthcare and Serco, detach Foundation Trusts from the NHS... and you are delighted by his manners of gentle persuasion.

If only George W Bush had got that winning bedside manner, Bill, you would have gamely followed him into Iraq with a cheery grin.

Is this really what politics has descended to in the post-Blair era, vote for the guy with the winning smile.

I am beginning to despair.
 
Bob(re yr comment not yet shown) You misunderstand me, not for 1st time. I feared so much worse and am searching for glimmers of reassurance it won't be as bad as I that. maybe I'm naive or wromng but this is how i see it. Time will tell who is right but if I'm wrong I'll own up to it be assured.
 
...Bill, and maybe we'll share a pint or two one day and discuss it!!!
 
Have there been cuts on this website as well? It would be quicker to send messages by carrier pigeon.
 
Michael
Do you mean you have posted comments which have not been published? There has not been one I have rejected so don't know what has happened to any comment you've made.
Skipper
 
No I mean the time it takes to appear. Ages.

There might be a Labour Government by the time this one goes up...

Though prob'ly not.
 
Michael[this might be inserted before the relevant comment]
Well I publish thm immiediately so you'll have to blame blogger technology.
 
That kind of proves my point.
 
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