At the End of the Day

Let us end the day by reminding ourselves tonight that this is the twelfth year of the Twenty-first century. It’s a long time since infant orphans were shoved up dirty chimneys. It’s 175 years since a Duke was leader of the Conservative Party. It is 67 years since a landslide victory gave the Labour Party a clear majority government for the first time. It is 86 years since the Butler Education Act established grammar schools, and created the greatest (and fastest) social mobility in British history. It’s 118 years since non-property owners got the vote, over 80 years since domestic servants were commonplace, and 65 years since the first attempt by any government in the world to release its citizens from the fear of unaffordable medical bills.

When Lord Robert Cecil’s useless nephew was given some naval sinecure at the taxpayer’s expense 105 years ago, the Yellow Press remarked, “It’s alright if Bob’s yer uncle”. The phrase stuck, and ‘Bob’s yer uncle’ entered the English language as shorthand for a done deal.

Times have indeed changed. But some things haven’t.

Today, the Prime Minister David Cameron is on the record – in Hansard no less – as saying, “Look, I don’t mind admitting that I’m rather in favour of helping one’s children with a leg up”. He would be, given that he got his first job at Carlton Communications through his mother-in-law. Says a senior Carlton man at the time, “I thought he was a plank. I would’ve turned him down, but my boss got a call from mumsy-in-law, and that was that”.

The Prime Minister’s rival for the Premiership – and Conservative leadership – is the foul-mouthed exhibitionist bully Boris Johnson. So well in is BoJo with the non-dom unelected Telegraph-owning Barclay twins, he gets a column in the paper whenever he has something to say – and the front-page lead when he challenges Cameron about anything – eg, today’s banner headline about Johnson’s challenge to the PM over more runways at Heathrow.

Both these frontal-lobe driven twerps went to the same school: Eton. I’m all for elites that encourage excellence, but c’mon here, Eton College was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as “The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor”. I mean, that’s 572 years ago.

So here we are in 2012 digital Britain, and the only two chaps with a serious chance of winning a national political pissing contest went to the same school as Robert Walpole, William Pitt, Lord North, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Melbourne, and the Earl of Derby. What all these gentleman not called either Cameron or Johnson have in common is that they became Prime Minister…and they were all born before 1800.

For God’s sake, that’s 212 years ago. The French Revolution was only eleven years old. George III still harboured hopes of getting the American colonies back. Napoleon was emerging from obscurity. Even Johnny Carson was a novice.

It seems to me that the choice facing the Conservative Party is whether to be the One Nation Party beloved of Disraeli the outsider…or the One School Party favoured by all those who prefer the idea of equality of Old Etonians to equality of opportunity…or even equality before the Law – aka, a meritocracy.

I would of course love to record here that Her Majesty’s Progressive Opposition wants that same meritocracy. But it doesn’t. Today, leftwingers have been mainly drivelling on about how few women there are in the ‘new’ Camerlot Cabinet. As a political grouping, they adhere to a different kind of leg up: the affirmative action in favour of people who perhaps can’t do the job, but do have the unfair advantage of being in an ethnic, gender or sexual orientation minority. I have for many years complained that I want to be the new lead singer of The Supremes, and it is a dibollockallibty that I keep being rejected simply because I’m not black, female, or capable of singing in tune.

David Cameron made a pledge in 2010 that a third of his Cabinet would be women. He was a mindless pillock for making that promise. Labour’s Harriet Harman wants to pass a law making equal gender representation in Cabinet obligatory. The last thing she would ever want to do is oblige a Tory, but in setting herself this deranged objective she adheres to precisely the same class bigotry: that the club membership is more important than the talent.

There is social class, the political class, the gender class, the minority class, and probably even the Class of ’68. But it all adds up to the same thing: unwarranted privilege. It remains the cancer in British society, and one of the greates shackles holding us back.


32 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. The meritocracy is alive and well and prospering in 21st century Britain, this is what Michael Young (the author of The Rise of the Meritocracy in 1958) had to say in 2001

    ‘The book was a satire meant to be a warning (which needless to say has not been heeded) against what might happen to Britain between 1958 and the imagined final revolt against the meritocracy in 2033.

    Much that was predicted has already come about’

    The full article in the Guardian, Friday 29 June 2001


  2. “As a political grouping, they adhere to a different kind of leg up: the affirmative action in favour of people who perhaps can’t do the job,”

    This statement is specifically aimed towards modern lefties. However I believe this is not the whole truth. Both philosophies promote people to positions of power who “can’t do the job”, from both the old Left/Right of British politics.


  3. “Although Mr Ryan is not a Premier-league educational achiever (Miami University is way off the Ivy League ratings”

    “Both these frontal-lobe driven twerps went to the same school: Eton”.

    I guess it is dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.


  4. Psychiatrist friend said they received a caution upon entering Broadmoor for the first time that they should prepare to like the patients in spite of themselves. And indeed, the foulest baby boilers were indeed most charming conversationalists.

    I am now reflecting on this in light of reading the BoJo biography. In spite of the Guppies, foul tirades at any temeritous crossers and rapacious philandering, he managed to come across as fairly likeable – harmless, even.

    The Johnsons and the Murdochs are both insanely ambitious families; perhaps why they get on?


  5. @SFM; The Old School Tie is the ‘Right’ way and proportional representation is the ‘Left’ way.
    Both bollocks IMHO, as JW states, it should be based on ability.


  6. While in no way wishing to defend the present ‘duff batch’ of ex Eton College politicians in our 2012 UK Halls of Power (various)……I think that purely for the sake of balance, it is worth mentioning a few other former alumni of Eton who, despite their privilege, I happen to hold dear. While alumni Sir Anthony Eden was not one of our greatest Prime Ministers, I believe that that Sir Harold Macmillan, was one of our last true Statesmen ……….and please can we add Tam Dalyell as one of the great socialist politicians of the latter half of the 20th century (…and a VERY good ‘pre-Slog’ bollocks de-constructor !!). Also on my list of great Eton alumni’s would be explorer Captain Lawrence Oates who died with Scott in the Antarctic. I could go on, but my point is that Eton has been capable of producing some very Great British too, on all sides of politics and life.

    Much more recently, in sports, lets add Sir Matthew Pinset, the very inspiring Olympic rower. Whilst on the topic of sport and knowing JW’s love of football. when researching a recent book, I discovered that the Old Etonians won the FA Cup in 1879 and 1882 ….(I’m not sure if that reeks of privilage, John? !!! )….probably does !!

    Nor should we ignore the arts……Patrick Macnee, the actor who played John Steed in the TV Avengers, went to Eton (as supposedly did Steed) and similarly both Ian Fleming and his creation, James Bond, are alumni. ….and finally, just for fun…..other fictional characters apparently attributed to Eton College include Bertie Wooster, Lord Greystoke Tarzan and Captain James Hook from Peter Pan. (and notta lotta people know that !)


  7. Grammar schools much much older than 44 Act, by centuries, actually. You probaly wanted to recall 19944 closing them to fee-payers, making their places free and available only by way of competitive examination.


  8. Yes John, the feminist movement crying daily as if they are a minority victim group and yet, there are more females born than males (and these days they tend to live longer)……….just a small point.

    Part of the problem in most (or a lot) of society and especially in the public sector is that instead of intelligence and ability being the cause of promotion, it is by ‘gaining competencies’ (and knowing the right folk) which are in actual fact, not much to do with ability but more about ‘thinking the right thoughts’ than being able to do the job in which one is supposed to be ‘competent’.

    The whole idea (anyway) of being ‘competent’ is in direct contrast to being able or gifted in a field. Being ‘competent’ should never be enough when utilising taxpayers money.

    Just look at any public sector ‘job advert’ the ‘competence’ requirement is pretty much always listed………..especially for ‘more senior roles’. Which shows that unless you ‘think correctly’ you have not got a clue what they are talking about and stand no chance of getting the job……….the ability to think ‘right thoughts’ is much more important than being able to put forward an effective plan of action in any sphere.

    I should add that knowing several ‘fairly high ranking’ public ‘servants’, when you put facts in the way of what they are suggesting (in any subject) they tend to look at you as if you had just spoken an alien language to them.

    They have mostly been indoctrinated in their (natural) desire for progression.

    Sorry if it was slightly O/T :)


  9. If the ability to do the job was the primary reason for getting it, 2/3 of the cabinet chairs would be empty due to a lack of suitable candidates.


  10. Bob, thank you for that. I do not remember the piece, so must have thrown my last Grauniad in the bin before it was published.


  11. Morningstar: “Part of the problem in most (or a lot) of society and especially in the public sector is that instead of intelligence and ability being the cause of promotion, it is by ‘gaining competencies’ (and knowing the right folk) which are in actual fact, not much to do with ability but more about ‘thinking the right thoughts’ than being able to do the job in which one is supposed to be ‘competent’.”

    In contrast to the super efficient private sector you mean. I’m thinking, oh I don’t know, GS4, practically all banks……

    I believe the most of, if not all of the services provided currently by the public sector are being deliberately run down over time by successive governments in order to create a desire from the public for privatisation.

    The NHS being an obvious next step.


  12. This may be the case. I have no problem with publilc sector provision per se, but it has to be the ‘service’ and not a ‘power and riches trip’ for those doing the running which is the priority.
    Not all private sector companies are good examples either, but unfortunately in a lot of cases, the private sphere has been legally obliged to follow the same nonsense (or must comply with instructions in order to get a contract) as has infected the public sector decades.


  13. And further – they might be awful but – G4s and the banks are doing exactly what they are there to do………..make profits ! (I do not like the way they do it – but it is after all their function) So are they really bad examples of private industry or just of bad public sector dealings ?


  14. @SFM; I would seem to fall in line with Wolfies view but, he does change him mind with his underpants. I think I recall that the IMF had this in mind a while ago, didn’t JW mention it in one of his essays?


  15. GD
    Very fair (and significant) comment: the tradition of elitism based on ability has indeed been perverted by contemporary Old Etonians


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