Does class matter in politics?

October 7, 2009

borisThree big speeches have been delivered at the Conservative Party conference so far — by party leader David Cameron, the mayor of London and national bumbler, Boris Johnson, and the party’s spokesman on the economy, George Osborne.

What do all three men have in common apart from their membership of the Conservative Party? They were all educated at elite public schools (Johnson and Cameron at Eton and Osborne at St Paul’s) and all went to Oxford, where they were members of the same dining and social set, the secretive and selective Bullingdon Club.

They have all tried to play down their wealth and upbringing — Johnson has even made an appearance on Britain’s favourite soap opera EastEnders — but there is no erasing the fact that Osborne is an Irish baronet, Cameron is a direct descendant of King William IV and Johnson also has a sprinkling of royal ancestry, even if he has described himself as a “one-man melting pot”.

Opponents have pointed to the wealth and clique of the Conservative leadership to suggest the party is out of touch with ordinary, working-class Britain and unfit to govern. What do you think? Does class really matter when it comes to running the country?

9 comments

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“Class” is irrelevant in modern Britain, despite the vested interests of political groups and commentators who justify their own existence by creating divisions in society where none need exist.Reuters would do better as a “news” organisation to provide its readers with a comparison of the numbers of millionaires and public school boys and girls within the ranks of Labour and Conservative MPs. I haven’t counted them recently but the last time I saw something similar it was Labour that had the edge over the Conservatives. It is amazing how easily people can be fooled by constant repetition of the same refrain.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

It matters, but in subtle ways. If I were forced to choose between one the one hand 42-year-old candidate for PM who’d left school early, built up a business empire that made widgets for export and created plenty of jobs, and spoke like Barack Obama, and on the other, one who’d only ever worked in PR, and then only got the job as a favour, there’d be no contest.In other words, the difference that class makes for the shadow cabinet is that they’ve never had to prove themselves. Running the country may for some of them be the first demanding job they’ve ever had: I recall somewhere else on Reuters’ comment pages that Mr Osborne had bragged in a speech of spending 40% of his time on brushing up on economics, with the reaction amongst his audience being mostly “that little?”

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

One of the problems in Britain today is that everybody thinks they are as “good” and as “important” as everybody else. They’re not. What school you went to probaby isn’t crucial, and your social class certainly isn’t, but your intellect, talents and abilities are. We have to get back to a proper meritocracy, something that Labour has strived to destroy for the last twelve years. Thus, it is extremely rare for ex-postmen to be capable of cabinet office (not impossible but extremely rare), the chances of rap artists producing anything of real merit as poetry are minimal, and the as for pop stars writing classical music comparable to Mozart, that is a one in one hundred billion shot (the latter figure apparently being roughly the number of human beings that have ever lived).

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

Anyone who can make the statement that “class” is irrelevant in modern Britain suffers from acute myopia and a self-delusional psychosis , furthermore those who claim, without smirking behind their hand, that our society is some form of virtuous meritocracy, choose to believe, for reasons better know to themselves, in a world that is far removed from everyday reality leaving the meritocracy thesis at best, as nothing more than a debauched urban myth.Equality of opportunity cannot be divorced from net annual earnings or future income expectation, they are intimately and irrevocably bound together, and so long as the disparity in wealth between the established crony capitalist oligarchs of commerce, finance and politics and the ordinary citizen is allowed to continue to widen, there will always be “social division” and by default “class” distinction.

Posted by trotskywasnotmydad | Report as abusive

Tories will never change. Cameron and Osbourne are just Thatcherism in sheeps clothing. I hope voters never forget that it was the Tories that sold off all of our utilities that are now owned by foreign companies. Most of our manufacturing has gone abroad thanks to our top businessmen. I know labour have been struggling , but I will never vote Tory again.M W Staffs

Posted by Mickw | Report as abusive

‘Class; matters not one iota – it’s who can get the job done that’s important.

Posted by paul | Report as abusive

“Class; matters not one iota – then try submitting a Tower Hamlets postcode along with your application for any high level city position.

Posted by trotskywasnotmydad | Report as abusive

Class indeed matters for the simple reason a sizable percentage of the english electorate like to perceive their leaders to be posher than they are and Cameron and his posse fit the bill perfectly. It may be depressing in the 21st century but alas a reality in our society.

Posted by Nicholas Maguire | Report as abusive

Class does not matter. I live in the North West of England and my background is “inner city” and “working class” yet I have voted Conservative for the past 37 years. So did my parents and family before me who served in WW2.Having been let down because of where I lived primarily by the education system in my formative years and given my comments above, I went on, of my own accord, to secure myself a good job, which has an annual income in excess of £70k per annum.Not brilliant by all means but better than average.Given my background. I regard myself as working class and yet feel so frustrated that my voice is not heard – or listentened to. This Country and people like myself, has so many skills and so much to offer.I have been trying to express my opinion today without success having watched the BBC’s “Question Time” programme last night. I’m no specialist or supporter of the BNP, and I’m not in the the position to comment on their policies but gosh, they do stike a cord for the “common man”.Joyce Pemberton

Posted by joyce pemberton | Report as abusive