This is my cover article from today's First Post:
Our new ruling class is ignorant and insular. At least ‘toffs’ had a sense of duty, says DAVID LINDSAY
The New Snobs of Labour have gathered this week in Manchester for their party get-together. Snobbish? You bet. Our country is now governed by an elite that denies being elite. Our ruling class flaunts its state education, yet attended the best comprehensives in the land.
Of course, David Cameron's cocooned background (Eton and Oxford) isn't ideal preparation to lead the country, but David Miliband didn't exactly grow up on a council estate, either. Nor did I. However, like all those from the genuine middle, I grew up around those who did. We went to school with them. We still see them. We couldn't avoid seeing them even if we wanted to.
But for the new ruling class, which we might call the New Labour core vote, those from council estates are, knife crime aftermaths aside, invisible.
When the Glasgow East by-election forced the Gallowgate underclass (life expectancy lower than North Korea in some parts) into Westminster's in-tray, the Government suddenly had to empathise with a depravity they only sporadically admit exists. Likewise, those who govern us have sheared off any connection with the old upper class. Ours is now an elite that knows nothing about either 'chavs' or 'toffs', nothing except that they loathe them.
This hatred stems from when Thatcher banished both the aristocracy and the old working class by declaring only money, and only new money at that, to be 'merit'. New Labour has all too gleefully continued her work.
There have been similar changes in America, where there used to be the tennis-playing, golfing, polo-playing and yachting class of Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Astors, Du Ponts, Carnegies and Joneses, the original 'Joneses' with whom others strived to 'keep up'. That class still exists. But even the last, and the least probable, of its notable scions is now coming to the end of his time as President.
The shift in power, which many still don't admit has happened, is a shame for several reasons. They weren't perfect, but at least the old elites on either side of the Atlantic were characteristically conscious of the responsibilities of the more fortunate towards the less fortunate. When flung together, top and bottom forged constructive relationships. It happened on the land, and it still happens when the military brings together officers schooled to Sandhurst traditions and poor recruits. You can see it now in the affection shared between Prince Harry and the soldiers he commanded in Afghanistan.
But the British ruling class now has little or no connection to the armed forces. That's why Gordon Brown was able to appoint Des Browne as the Secretary of State for both Defence and Scotland, and suggest in doing so that representing the British military was merely a part-time job. That's why the Government had little compunction in sending an army of 'toff' officers, 'chav' squaddies
and nothing much in between to be harvested in pointless, unwinnable wars.
When these soldiers return to Britain they return to substandard medical care and abuse from members of the public during swimming rehabilitation sessions in Leatherhead Leisure Centre. Only the other week Corporal Tomos Stringer was turned away from a Surrey hotel, simply for being a soldier. A recent study has estimated that former soldiers comprise as much as nine per cent of the UK prison population. If you took out the hated 'toffs' and the hated 'chavs' from our forces, there would be almost nobody left. Certainly not the sons, daughters and future members of the decision-making, warmongering circles.
Those circles, a philistine collection of fund-controlling agenda-setters, are equally contemptuous of the cultures of the old upper class and of the working class, insofar as they have allowed it to survive at all. They are just as ignorant of pitmen poets as of TS Eliot, and just as ignorant of grand opera as of brass and silver bands. But they know that they hate them.