Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Class matters

But I still hold that this election isn't a done deal. The Tories have seen their lead weaken over recent weeks and the lead seems to have dropped below 10% again - which certainly puts the promised Tory majority at risk. It is received wisdom that oppositions don't win elections, it is governments that lose them, but 2010 may see both sides of that equation come true simultaneously.

The Tories are starting to come under scrutiny. In particular, I think that the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, is a liability. I'm trying to be objective, as far as I possibly can be, but I find his attempts to look serious and mature - a serious man for serious times. To me, he just looks petulant, arrogant and rather unlikeable. I don't believe for one second that Cameron is all that he is cracked up to be, but at least he performs well and the act is convincing. Gideon simply isn't up to that standard.

Additionally, I think that the 'class war' approach by Labour is hitting home. It may be resorting to an appeal to the core Labour electorate, but it hurts when Brown accuses Cameron of having his tax policies formed on the playing fields of Eton. I don't think it is effective simply to shout 'Toff' at the Cameroonies - the disaster of the Crewe by-election proved that it doesn't work when it is used as the main plank of the political attack. However, if it is woven into the cloth of a detailed plan, questioning how the children of privilege like Osborne and Cameron can possibly understand what it feels like to struggle, to not have your choice of public school, to not have friends at Buckingham Palace to rely on to get you a job at Conservative Central Office or friends elsewhere to help you get a job running PR for a (then) major media company. As John Curtice puts it
Cameron's poshness will get used against him [effectively] if he's unpopular for other reasons. George Osborne is not as engaging as Cameron, so his poshness is already held against him.
Labour run heavily with the Tory promise to slash inheritance tax because it speaks to that large group who recoil from privilege. The Tory promise to offer a free vote on the repeal of the ban on fox-hunting, while it appeals to their rural electorate, will be used against them, because the imagery of the huntin', shootin' and fishin' set - of which Cameron is unquestionably a part, even though he doesn't like to talk about it any more than he mentions his schooling - is also a convenient shorthand to awaken those who are permanently excluded from that gilded cage. Osborne is the most vulnerable to this label, because of his other shortcomings - not least his economic illiteracy - while Cameron, ironically enough, may just be able to sustain the armour of his 'nice-guy' image enough to prevent the 'toff' label adhering.

Charlie Brooker's description of reading Tatler's 'Little Black Book' accurately reflects the less-than-respectful view that many people now have of those that, in an earlier age, we would have considered our betters. The Tories know that the 'posh' tag can hurt - hence the suggestion that candidates' names should be made more accessible, the glossing over of public schools in biographies - although former grammar and comprehensive pupils are mentioned - and nobody talks about money.

Incidentally, Snowflake 5 reminds us that the Tory inheritance tax cut actually goes further than just putting estates worth under a million out of the the reach of the taxman. The vast majority will benefit from that tax allowance being given to both halves of a married couple, effectively allowing them to hand estates up to £2 million on to their children (there being no inheritance tax between spouses on death).


Praguetory said...

@ I don't think it is effective simply to shout 'Toff' at the Cameroonies - the disaster of the Crewe by-election proved that it doesn't work when it is used as the main plank of the political attack. @

Sad that your objections to this style of campaign only appear to be rooted in its lack of effectiveness,

PoliticalHack said...

Why? My point is how connected the upper reaches of the Conservative Party - those who plan to be our next government - can be to the vast majority of people who cannot even dream of living their life of privilege, solely because of an accident of birth. That's a perfectly legitimate issue. I don't criticise Cameron for having been to Eton, I just wonder how it qualifies him to run the country. Osborne, for example, could be our next Chancellor, but has no practical economic knowledge - as demonstrated by his recent abysmal performances.

Praguetory said...

Shouting toff at political opponents (and when I was in Crewe I met several puzzled Conservative campaigners who were on the receiving end of this abuse from Labour campaigners) should be notable only for its unacceptability.

I can't imagine you being impressed about political opponents debating whether calling people chavs is effective so why is inverted snobbery OK?

You seem to question the legitimacy of Cameron to lead the country. Well unlike Brown he was voted in by the party membership so he has a proper mandate to lead his party. Come the GE, he will lead the country.