Magazine article The Spectator

Have I Gone to the Wrong Party?

Magazine article The Spectator

Have I Gone to the Wrong Party?

Article excerpt

I'm still weighing up whether to run for Parliament, but after this week's reshuffle I've concluded I'm in the wrong party.

If you're a middle-aged white male, particularly one who's been to Oxford, your chances of becoming a Conservative minister are negligible. Unless you're a pal of George Osborne's, obviously, in which case it doesn't matter if you have B-U-L-L-E-R tattooed on your knuckles, you'll still get promoted.

In the Labour party, by contrast, coming from a privileged background actually seems to help.

I'm not just talking about the usual suspects, like Lord Longford's niece Harriet Harman and ex-public schoolboy Ed Balls.

I'm thinking of the new shadow education secretary. Under Ed Miliband, holders of that particular office have been getting posher and posher.

Indeed, if you put Andy Burnham, Stephen Twigg and Tristram Hunt side by side it would be a bit like that famous sketch with John Cleese and the Two Ronnies.

It's not that much of a stretch to imagine Twigg saying, 'I look up to him because he is upperclass, but I look down on him because he is lower-class.'

Hunt's rapid rise has struck a chord in me because we're both Hons.

Admittedly, as far as titles go, being an 'Hon.' because you're the son of a life peer is about as unimpressive as it gets.

I'm sure Tristram has never used it, not even when trying to get an upgrade on Air India (which works, by the way). But the distinction between real 'Hons' and bogus 'Hons' is probably lost on Joe Public. As far as he's concerned, we're all posh gits.

It doesn't help that the new shadow education secretary is called 'Tristram'. Michael Gove probably won't need to rub it in by referring to him as 'the Right Honourable Honourable', though I expect he will.

Here's the thing, though. Having a title is less of a handicap in the Labour party than it is in the Tory party. People will point to Cameron's pedigree as proof that this isn't true, but it's precisely because the leader is so obviously to the manner born that the faintest whiff of privilege in the lower ranks is the mark of Cain. He's desperate to disabuse the electorate of the idea that the Conservative party is the party of the rich. …

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