Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Magazine article The Spectator

Status Anxiety: Toby Young

Article excerpt

Credit: Toby Young

The Times headline on Tuesday was rather cruel: 'Stars turn down No. 10 invitation.' This was a reference to the party the press dubbed 'Cool Britannia II', David Cameron's attempt to recreate the glamour of Tony Blair's star-studded Downing Street reception in 1997. 'They wanted Daniel Craig and Benedict Cumberbatch,' said the Times . 'They got Ronnie Corbett and Bruce Forsyth.'

To be fair, the guests also included Helena Bonham-Carter, Claudia Winkleman, Harvey Weinstein, Richard Curtis, Roger Daltrey, Eliza Doolittle and Kirstie Allsopp. But according to Fleet Street's finest, who were milling about outside with their noses pressed up against the windows, it still compared unfavourably with Blair's bash. 'Seen bigger stars on ITV2 at 1.30 a.m.,' tweeted one embittered journalist. There are several things to be said about this.

First of all, the original event really wasn't all that good. No A-list movie stars turned up then, either. Reading the press reports this week, you'd be forgiven for thinking Blair's Cool Britannia party was a resounding success, but it was written off as a cheap publicity stunt at the time. The press is wildly exaggerating how glamorous it was in order to draw an unfavourable comparison. The only people I remember being there were Noel Gallagher and Meg Matthews.

It's also not a level playing field. Tony Blair had just won a landslide election in 1997 and was still basking in off-the-charts approval ratings. He hadn't had a chance to do anything to alienate the luvvies, such as invade Iraq. Cameron, by contrast, never won a majority and, in his wisdom, decided to hold his Cool Britannia party at the end of his first term in office rather than at the beginning. His government has done plenty of things to antagonise the metropolitan elite, from cutting Arts Council funding to appointing Sajid Javid as Culture Secretary. Quite frankly, I'm amazed Ronnie Corbett turned up.

Then there's the fact that Cameron is a Tory. Most 'creative' types would prefer to be seen with Rolf Harris than the leader of the Conservative party. I always thought the reason Cameron and his cronies wanted to 'modernise' the party is because, at bottom, they can't cope with the social stigma. …

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