Thursday, 10 December 2009

Toffs and Proles

The opinion polls seem to suggest that the tactics adopted by some in the Labour Party of painting Cameron and his cronies as 'toffs' because they went to Eton or other public schools does actually strike a chord with people. I suspect that means that it will continue to be used as a tactic as a result; it's a reflection of the state to which political debate has largely been reduced that the fact that a particular tactic works has become more important than whether it is right or not. Nor does fairness seem to enter the equation; on the basis of a definition based on which school someone attended, Labour have more than a few 'toffs' of their own.

Personally, I don't care where any particular politician received his or her education; they didn't choose it, their parents chose it on their behalf. And individuals don't choose whether they're born into a rich or a poor family. Family background and education can shape attitudes of course; but those can change over time; none of us is bound to abide by the values or attitudes inculcated in us by either family or schooling. Backgrounds - under-privileged as well as privileged - can leave us with baggage in later life; but baggage can be discarded.

The question should not therefore be about Cameron's background, but about his attitudes and approach; about whether he's been able to overcome the limitations of his background and see the wider picture.

His use of the NHS and the state education sector does seem to be rather more than just a gimmick. But when it comes to financial issues - key to reducing inequality and privilege in society - he shows much less understanding. His obsession with reforms to the Inheritance Tax system which would benefit a very small number of already wealthy people – including not a few members of the shadow cabinet – suggests a continued keenness to protect the wealthy and privileged. That's a much more legitimate political target than his background.

4 comments:

Robert said...

On the other hand you could say since Brown has not gone to a public school, and he has taken us into the biggest down turn and cock up, it might be said we need somebody with a bit of education, since we had Blair who wanted war so he could run to America and make money, then we had Brown and god look at us now.

I'm all for Cameron taking over if he messed up then perhaps we need to have another look at the parties that are ruling us.

John Dixon said...

Brown actually has quite a lot of education, and Harold Wilson, as I recall, was an economist with a degree from Oxford. Didn't make either of them competent. Blair went to a public school as well didn't he?

I don't think you can pre-judge anyone on the basis of where they received their education; it's more a question of what they actually learned. I've known people spend many years in the education system without actually learning very much at all...

alanindyfed said...

The main benefit of education is to stimulate curiosity, the desire to discover. Intelligence and experience accounts for the rest.

Robert said...

yes but education can be used to rule, army officers are mostly taken from families or through the education and of course through money, so education might be a factor it's not the only one.