A faint hurrah for the Tory squire?

It’s not the flavour of the week, thanks to Chief Whip Mitchell and his “fucking plebs”; but at some time we’d need to unscramble the Cameroon nouveau-riche from the Old Tory decayed gentry.

It’s implicit, indeed endemic, in some of the strained relations within the ConDem coalition. Was “Gids” Osborne really known as “Oik” in the Bullingdon Club, because he was not an Old Etonian, and as a wallpaper-heir didn’t have quite the same depth of pockets?

Mitchell, son of a wine merchant and minor Tory politico, has definite roots in “trade”. His rise to affluence was through Lazards and lobbying for overseas contracts. Definitively “new money”.

Pritt-y neat

Mitchell, let us remember, came out of the Great Commons Expenses row with some aplomb, but the claim for a glue-stick (all of 13p) stuck to him. He was a beneficiary of a DV3 tax scam: the Dickens and Jones building in regent Street was bought for £65 million, and sold to a subsidiary of the same lot for a thousandth of the amount, thus avoiding 4% (over £2.5 million) in stamp duty — the resale of the lease a year later, at a 300% profit, must have greased the Mitchell wheels, too. He also got away with a sordid bit of lobbying for a cocoa company which, by no coincidence, contributed to his constituency office and to central Tory funds.

Forelock-tugging time

Some time back there was a rather tasty piece by Peter Oborne on the Telegraph site.

His major premiss is that the Cameroons have lost touch with the natural Tory base. He sadly never got round to the Turnip Taliban, who featured the September before the General Election:

White men are the only group left in our society about whom it is safe to be offensive. There is, however, a subset about whom it is not just safe to be rude, but whose humiliation is actively encouraged. We had a prime example this week in Sir Jeremy Bagge, 7th Bt, Old Etonian, Norfolk landowner and leader of the so-called “Turnip Taliban”. Sir Jeremy was depicted as the would-be nemesis of Liz Truss, selected for South West Norfolk despite her adultery with a Tory MP. In these guises he was ripe for savaging, to give the Tory party another fatuous chance to yell: “We’ve changed!”

For some years, people like me have been telling people like Sir Jeremy, with sincere regret, that they are not welcome in the Conservative Party. It exists now principally for people who used to vote Labour. The Conservative Party positively encourages the persecution of such types as Sir Jeremy. How dare he be rich, live in a big house, speak with a plum in his mouth and expect to participate in politics in this day and age? Doesn’t he understand that democracy now excludes people like him?

Surely there’s no great need to identify that as Simon Heffer in mid-froth. The little tizz in South-West Norfolk was merely a sortie in the war that the Cameroonies played over the deselection of a swathe of second-homers and moat dredgers, neatly replacing them with A-listers and media-friendly types. While the “flippers” (Gove, Lansley, Osborne …) escaped the Cameron axe (unlike Cameron’s wisteria on expenses), Sir Peter Viggars went down in hoots of derision for his £1,645 duck-house.

Back to Oborne

This was the bit Malcolm particularly liked:

Tory activists are for the most part virtuous and decent people who have not been drawn into political activity by dogma, ideology or personal interest. More often than not, their party membership is just one facet of a wider engagement with their local community, whether as church wardens, charity workers or presidents of the rugby club.

To be sure, they tend to be relentlessly provincial, but they are the backbone of Britain, the hard workers and strivers who pick up the pieces and make sure their communities work. For New Labour and its cohort of media admirers in the BBC and elsewhere, they have long been an easy target for satire and misrepresentation.

OK let’s ignore the “dogma, ideology” conceit — we are, after all, speaking of the Stupid Party. The gybe against the Beeb has to be passed over as standard operating practice when catering for the “Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells” who buy the Torygraph. The rest of that stands up quite nicely. And such folk, in the raw, are quite admirable. Without them Women’s Institutes and church roof appeals would be lost-and-gone-forever.

And people of quality know better than to scorn “plebs”.

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3 Comments

Filed under bigotry, broken society, Conservative family values, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, George Osborne, Peter Oborne, social class, Tories.

3 responses to “A faint hurrah for the Tory squire?

  1. Doubting Thomas

    Indeed, I recall that when I was a lad at school the MP for Chelmsford was Sir Hubert Ashton, farmer, cricketer and President of Essex County Cricket Club in the halcyon days when they never did anything so vulgar as win any form of trophy. When he retired, the local Tories picked Norman St John Stevas, an exotic bird indeed and by all accounts something the local hierarchy greatly regretted but could not alter. My point is that the defeat of the Tories in 1964 seems to have marked a change when the garagistes and estate agents took over local parties and the long slow decline of the knights of the shire began to be replaced by the vulgarity of men and some women whose fortunes were made in trade. It’s a great pity that Norfolk’s Turnip Taliban was probably the last twitch of the proper toffs in the Tory party. As you say, no vulgar and crude abuse from them to the lower orders. They knew their place. And as a non-tory, I preferred the old party

  2. Malcolm Redfellow

    And as a non-tory, I preferred the old party.

    Nicely put.

    As I recall, “garagists” was a Julian Critchley put down of the Thatcherite nouveau-riche. He was also the originator of the term, “the Great She-Elephant”, which too often is ascribed to Denis Healey.

    Let’s give Sir Hubert Ashton full credit, however. In two seasons (both 1921 and 1922) he made a 1,000 runs for Essex. He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year for 1922, mainly on the back of the “England XI” amateurs seeing off the Australians at Eastbourne — a scorecard worth reviewing.

  3. Pingback: “Politics is rough and I play like it.” | Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service

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