Monday, 30 May 2011

James Delingpole - where to begin...

Recently on Radio 4's Today programme, Owen Jones, author of the soon to be published "Chavs", and James Delingpole, a columnist for the Telegraph, had a debate about some comments made by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey and, quite appropriately, a newly-made peer of the realm.

Lord Fellowes believes that "'poshism' is the last acceptable form of discrimination" in modern society, an unsurprising comment given that he himself is a lifelong Tory and is, in his own words, "fat, bald, posh and male".  

However, what I would like to cover in this post is an article subsequently written by Delingpole on the matter, which I find to be both offensive and ignorant. 

Firstly he says, 
"Jones threw in his tuppeny happeny’s worth about the continued dominance of the “Ruling Classes” and about how many MPs had been to public school and Oxbridge and so on, as if somehow this were a major national scandal which needed to be addressed."
I'm afraid that this is a national scandal, Mr Delingpole, it doesn't just appear to be one. According to the Sunday Times, "18 of the 23 full-time cabinet members have seven-figure fortunes, collectively worth about £50m." What is more, the Mirror reports that 16 cabinet ministers went to private school, three of whom are old Etonians (David Cameron, Oliver Letwin and Sir George Young).  This, probably, does not anger James Delingpole. But it angers me, and it should anger anyone who believes in equality. The upper echelons of government are currently overwhelmingly populated by eye-bogglingly rich individuals whose parents paid for their exclusive and top-rate education, thus giving them opportunities most people could only dream of. It is an outrage that these millionaires, who cannot even begin to understand the lives of working people, are now spearheading a programme of austerity cuts to public services. In doing so, they will perpetuate a culture of privilege.

He goes on,
"I wonder how parliament would look if Jones got his way. It would be imbued with a lot more earthy, horny-handed, echt, coal-ingrained, sweat-smelling, demotic, multi-ethnic, gender-balanced authenticity". 
Oh heavens! God forbid we should have any working-class people in government! Or women! Or people who aren't white! Oh they smell, don't they? And can they even read? This appears to be Mr Delingpole's offensive train of thought. I can't speak for Owen, but if I were to get my way, we'd have a properly representative parliament, where the needs and wishes of the people are actually put forward and addressed. Or is this just far too liberal for Mr Delingpole? I suspect he much prefers a parliament of starched collars.

Moving on ,
"The problem with government these days is not that it’s full of rich toffs but that it’s full of career politicos who instinctively want to extend the power of the state and have no understanding of what it is like to be an ordinary taxpayer who just wants to be left alone."
The present government do not want to extend the power of the state, I'm afraid that's a fundamental misunderstanding. The cabinet is cutting the public sector with a blind, ideological savagery, all under the guise of  "giving power to the people". And yes, Mr Delingpole, they have no understanding of ordinary life, I agree. But they do know what it's like to be a "taxpayer who just wants to be left alone". The Tory party is the political manifestation of that group of greedy business owners who do not want state interference as it gets in the way of astronomical profit. Nor do these people want to be taxed, as it's their money and everyone else can go screw themselves. Also, Delingpole does seem to shoot himself in the foot rather by using the word "toffs" without inverted commas. I thought that term was horribly offensive, no?

And sadly he hasn't finished yet,
"Humphrys asked me for evidence that toffs face discrimination, and I suppose the best evidence there is is David Cameron. Here is a man who benefited from the best possible education in the world – Eton and Oxford – and who instead of feeling proud of the fact has been compelled by our prevailing social mores to behave as if it’s a toxic liability."
Being so stupendously privately educated is a "liability" for a man who is trying to detoxify the Conservative brand and stop it being viewed as the nasty party of hereditary privilege. David Cameron should not be proud of the fact that his parents bought his education, nor should anyone for that matter. The majority of the British public find the idea of  success based solely on the accident of birth to be abhorrent; it is in direct contradiction with ideas of meritocracy and fairness. When Cameron first decided not to attend the Royal Wedding in coat and tails (though he did wear them in the end), it was not because posh people are routinely discriminated against and beaten up on the streets (as happens to racial minorities, women and many more). It was because we live in a society where people do not like aristocrats who live better lives than them simply because they happened to be born into a rich family; it was because people do not like those who feel they are entitled to rule. And David Cameron wants to be liked, it's in his political instincts.

But wait, there's more,
"He [Cameron] daren’t reduce the 50p tax rate (though it makes economic sense) lest he be seen to be favouring his rich friends in the City; he daren’t create more free schools by allowing entrepreneurs to run them for profit for fear that this might come across as elitist; he daren’t address the issue of Europe because this is just the sort of thing blimpish, blue-blooded, Tory reactionaries do in the shires, and we can’t have that now, can we?"
No, he daren't do any of these things, Mr Delingpole. Because reducing the 50p tax rate does not make economic sense and it would be advantageous for the City fat cats; free schools are elitist as they turn schools into business and make education a privilege rather than a right and he won't address Europe because, as @scurvekano recently said, "If the government listened to the Tory back-benchers, we'd still be burning witches and fighting for the throne of France." Contrary to some people, I do not believe this to be an inherently Conservative (capital "c") country, because the public majority know the above things and are opposed to them. I think Cameron knows this too, and he has enough political nouse to realise that if he really wants to satisfy his Tory instincts, he's going to have to do so discreetly (see: big society).

And finally, 
"And, of course, the main reason we’ve got the wretched Coalition in the first place is because Cameron was scared of advancing proper Tory principles, lest he be mistaken for the kind of terrible, evil person who went to a school where they dress you in a smart uniform and teach you all sorts of poncy stuff like Latin and Greek and you come away with ghastly behavioural tics like good manners and a strong desire to succeed."
The main reason we have this coalition is because no party won an overall majority as no party was strong or convincing enough.  Cameron is scared of advancing full-bodied Tory policies as the memory of Thatcher is still very much alive in the minds of the people. And you know, James, I love Latin and I love Greek. I don't think they're "poncy", I think they're invaluable. But I go to a state school. However, I'm lucky enough to be able to learn these languages because my Classics teacher refuses to teach in private schools (the usual homes of these disciplines) as he is morally and politically against them. I think everyone should be allowed to learn Latin and Greek, not just those who can afford it.

And, Mr Delingpole, your last sentence is perhaps the most revealing. You believe that those poor people who can't afford public school are obviously beastly creatures who like nothing more than to laze about all their teenage lives and then sponge off the state. I have news for you, Mr Delingpole, but just because you have parents who can't afford private education, it doesn't mean you're an inferior human being.

And to conclude, a bit of advice. James Delingpole, I strongly suggest you stop writing this putrid bile in the Telegraph. Why not find somebody brave enough to give you a hug? You never know, a bit of human contact might just warm up that cold, shrivelled heart of yours.


Life@Cee said...

Very compelling writing.

Life@Cee said...

Beautifully written. I feel like I'm a little better informed about GB politics having read your post.