Time to stop patronising us 'plebs'
CONCERNING "Thrasher" Mitchell, the Chief Whip, we seem to have moved backwards in electing ourselves governments of all talents. I am not saying we should discriminate against public school boys, yet at seven per cent of total school population they are grossly over-represented in government comprising more than 50 per cent of the Cabinet. Sixty years ago the Attlee cabinet was much more representative of the people it governed. But here we are today, all these years on, with one which would not have looked out of place in Downton Abbey days.
Although Cameron is a personable enough chap himself – one you perhaps wouldn't mind having a pint with – he seems not to have the wit to see any of this. He understands that the nation's finances are in dire need of sorting out, along with welfare dependency and educational shortcomings, but he seems to think that only a Cabinet stuffed full of stinkingly rich public school boys can be relied on to see it through. The irony is that the two crucial success stories of his administration are likely to be the very ones not piloted by his public school chums: welfare reform and education.
The display of petulance, arrogance and not to say downright abuse that the Chief Whip showed his police guardians – in the very week of grief, would you believe, for fallen comrades – opened a window into the mindset of these privileged individuals who really do believe that we are here to serve them, not they us. Theirs, it would seem, is a God-given right to rule and we should get used to it. The public does not like what it sees.
All of this is disastrous to the man who spent years trying to massage the image of the Tory party into a kindlier, voter-friendly mode. In a little over two years' time he is going to have to asks the 'plebs' if they will give him and his pals a fresh run. It is lucky in the extreme that he faces such a deeply unattractive and discredited Opposition, but that won't necessarily save him. If there is visceral hatred for his class, fanned by the likes of the Thrasher, that might be enough to sink him.
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In addition to all this, Tory foot soldiers have neither forgotten nor forgiven the fact that Cameron failed to win an outright majority against the most disastrous government of modern times led by the most unpopular Prime Minister ever. The fact that he failed in these circumstances and was obliged to put himself in hock to a party that hates his own and spends its time sabotaging so many of its most cherished policies rankles still further. And then there are the multiple instances of poor judgment in his appointments. It ill behoves Cameron, therefore, to adopt all too often a high-handed approach with his backbenchers which can be taken as a sign of perceived class superiority. Dollops of humble pie and signs of genuine contrition should be more the order of the day.
But Cameron's troubles don't even stop with those outlined; women (half the electorate) have gone off him too. They have concluded that – Samcam excepted – he doesn't much like them and that Bullingdon attitudes still lurk beneath the surface. There is real anger that he has shortchanged them, having promised them a third of cabinet seats. The recent reshuffle was his last chance to make good on that promise and he failed miserably.
So for the Prime Minister there is much to do and little time to do it in. It worries me also that he doesn't seem much concerned at the drip, drip haemorrhaging of his party to UKIP. Had disaffection not driven so many into their camp he may well have had that precious majority at the last election and the process continues apace. As I see it only one thing stands a chance of bringing large numbers of them back into the fold: he must give them an unequivocal pledge, written in blood, that there will be an in/out EU referendum immediately after the election. Then he must make it clear to them that if they do not respond they will have only themselves to blame for a fresh dose of Labour, but with even more of a Leftish lean. That, together with a hopefully recovering economy, troops home from Afghanistan, robust law and order policies and falling immigration should be enough. Welfare and education success would be the clincher.
In the meantime he must get all his appointments carefully scrutinised beforehand, stop patronising women (or anyone else for that matter) and put the equivalent of a chastity belt on the mouths of certain of his ministers. As for Thrasher himself, he must go – but not before he has received a damn good thrashing himself, to encourage the others
It was always delicious irony that Rugby School (of Tom Brown's Schooldays fame) should spawn a character who would go on to be known as the Thrasher and that the same character would go on to be awarded the Chief Whip's job in government. That same whip must now be used on him. "Flashman" Cameron is just the man to wield it. He's got the perfect credentials.
Tom Mackenzie is the author of Down and Up (Cloud Designing) and writes a blog, lastfoundling.com