Saturday, April 09, 2016

Why #PanamaLeaks may damage David Cameron and the Tories

"I thought I was running for the leadership of the Conservative party, not some demented Marxist sect," fumed Douglas Hurd in 1990.

That was when he found his Etonian background being held against him in the Conservative leadership election that followed the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher.

Sure enough, he lost out to the Brixton boy John Major.

Fast forward to 2008 when, in admonishing Nick Clegg for an insensitive remark on pensions, I wrote:
Just because Tony Blair and David Cameron have made it look easy to be a public school type in modern Britain and not rub people up the wrong way does not mean that it is easy. Be yourself, Nick, but do be aware of the effect your attitude can have on other people.
Maybe things were changing by then, because in 2010 I observed:
Being "posh" was, until a year or two ago, just about the worst sin imaginable in British society. In as far as "posh" was used as a synonym for "educated" this was a pernicious development. 
It represented a foolish attempt to keep Labour's working-class roots, despite that fact that many of the people using this style of arguing were pretty posh themselves.
All this is a prologue to saying you should read John Rentoul on the Independent site:
The biggest setback of their first government, the cut in the top rate of income tax, damaged them because it trashed the rhetoric of being “all in it together” and reinforced the image of the Conservatives as the party of the rich. At the time, I wrote that, if Cameron lost the 2015 election, the 2012 Budget would have been when it happened. 
That is what makes Cameron’s victory last year all the more remarkable: that he won the grudging votes of people on low incomes who thought he had no idea what their lives were like and yet who still trusted him more than the leader of the people’s party. It is a tribute to Cameron’s skill that he could win with the handbrake of poshness on.
I have seen nothing that suggests anything illegal on the part of the Cameron family. And I suspect that the sort of people who might conceivably vote Conservative at the next election will tend to approve of doing all you can to pass your wealth on to your children.

But the Panama leaks affair may damage the Cameron and the Conservatives in two ways.

First, it reminds us just how damned rich he is. The WebCameron was and his talk of his "Dad" is an attempt to make him sound just like one more father of a middle-class family. The truth is different.

Second, it is a reminder that the idea you will be secure if you "work hard and do the right thing"is not true. You need to come from a family where two or three generations have worked hard and done the right thing - and enjoyed reasonable luck - to be secure. The Conservatives' emphasis on family breakdown in their definition of poverty recognised this truth.

I hope Cameron will ride out this storm: he represents our best chance of winning the referendum campaign and keeping Britain in the European Union.

But I suspect the Conservatives would be wise to choose a successor to him who has not been to Eton.

However, that decision is in the hands of Conservative members. They are not wise and they love Boris Johnson.

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