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* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
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The Politics of Harry Potter
HITS: 2047 | 17-06-2004, 22:30 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
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The vogue for books and films about a vanished age of public school boy heroes, matrons and manners is the backdrop to the re-emergence of the politics of deference in Britain. After decades of dumbing down and a public school prime minister like Tony Blair who mangles his Estuary English in a desperate attempt to please the plebs, suddenly posh is the new divine right of politicians.
Although American neo-conservatives like to present themselves as representatives of commonsense man against pointy-headed elitists who oppose wars of aggression and open-cast mining, British neo-conservatives are born-again class warriors. Of course not every journalistic advocate of Cameron is an Old Etonian but that just adds to the delicious atmosphere of deference.[1]
Whereas Murdoch’s US vicar, the Hudson Institute’s Irwin Steltzer, can assure readers of the Weekly Standard that the snobs were against George Bush’s America, our own Lord Rees-Mogg – whose first venture into boosting alleged drug abusers was his immortally comic deferential interview with Mick Jagger long before Cameron was born – drew on all his arts of self-parody to explain how 22 or more family entries in Burke’s Peerage and the Dictionary of National Biography made Cameron nature’s own candidate to rule democratic even demotic Britain.[2] Matthew Parris welcomed “The Peasants Rout” in The Times. He emphasised that the old-style establishment methods were behind Cameron’s triumphant progress. For all the paraphernalia of an election, like Tory leaders before commoners like Heath and Thatcher, Cameron was chosen by the inner party, the magic circle which gently let him slide to the top. As Parris put it: “David Cameron has — well, emerged. The toffs are back in the saddle.”
Helping his more socially-challenged readers to understand the restoration under way and Cameron’s class, Parris replied to a series of queries about the new top toff: “How do I know he’s one? I’m sorry but this is England and you just do. Can’t explain. Is it the relaxed air of command? The hint of a tetchiness courteously suppressed? The apparent listening ear? The voice? The suits? The way he never drops names or pulls rank in a pushy way? The way you don’t know what he’s thinking but do not doubt he thinks?”
Parris’s observation of the phenomenon of the new deference certainly fits this author’s experience too: “It’s being recognised, mostly unconsciously, all across the shires and suburbs of England. People are saying “heard him for the first time last week — like the sound of this chap” or “saw him on Question Time — good, wasn’t he?” and they do not themselves know why they are saying it, but part of the reason is class. In both senses, Mr Cameron has class. What the English will tell you is that he “sounds like a natural leader”; what they mean, although they may not realise that this is what they mean, is that in ways they cannot begin to explain, Mr Cameron sounds like an officer and a gentleman.”
Parris went into a dithyrambic peroration: “This still matters to us. So do not be fooled by all the talk of Tory revolution. This is counter-revolution. Return of the Toffs. What a coup!”[3]
Indeed, what an extraordinary Putsch to pass off on the post-political GSCE generation: a man who makes Anthony Eden seem possessed of the common touch!
The upper classes were under a three-line whip to back Cameron. According to The Sunday Times “A lifelong Conservative who has known Cameron since Eton said: “I don’t like David. He’s hugely arrogant. But everyone from my background is so enthralled about the idea of having a prime minister from among their ranks that to say anything against him would be seen as disloyal.”[4]
The Daily Telegraph’s Vicki Woods quoted her daughter – and her active voting habits - and cited the shopping habits of Madonna’s daughter as evidence of Cameron’s suitability to lead the Tories: "David Cameron. A smoothie, a looker (better-looking than Blair; and with a nice head of lustrous, thick hair). A kind and caring family man. Who is only 38 years old. My daughter - who has a vote, remember, and sometimes two votes owing to the oddities of our electoral system - thinks he's "young”. Which is good." And almost fanciable. And "most people don't mind politicians having Eton and Oxford on their CVs, because you need to have a really strong sense of self-esteem to run a country. Eton must give you that. And Oxford is one of the top 10 universities in the world, so you should earn respect for having gone there…. Mr Cameron's wife is the lovely Samantha Sheffield, the creative director of Smythsons of Bond Street, the crested-stationery purveyors to the carriage trade. Sam has made the boring old company so deeply fashionable again that Madonna's daughter Lourdes now orders her correspondence cards from them. So all laud and honour to her. Pick Cameron.”![5]

[1] Old Etonians like the BBC’s political correspondent, James Landale (born 1968) have not recused themselves as reporters nor advised viewers and listeners of any conflict of interest – including not liking Cameron at school. It is amusing to note that a list of “famous Etonians born in the twentieth century” includes Landale but not David Cameron – evidence of how suddenly Cameron was catapulted to fame. See,
[2] See William Rees-Mogg, “Warriors, statesmen, prelates. Can young David live up to his ancestors?” in The Times (24th October, 2005) @,,1-153-1840130-153,00.html. The Times continued in this deferential vein up to the eve of the result. See Andrew Pierce, “Cameron's royal link makes him a true blue” on 5th December, 2005,
[3] See Matthew Parris, “Return of the Top Toff” in The Times (22nd October, 2005) @ http://www.times,,1065-1837282,00.html,
[4] See John Paul Flintoff, “Focus: Can Boy Wonder save the Tories?” in The Sunday Times (8th October, 2005). Old Etonian Cameron-backer Oliver Letwin told a post-victory “Newsnight” that he was “hardly upper class” because his grandparents had been poor immigrants.- an unconscious echo of the old Etonian complaint, “My whole family is poor – even the butler is poor!” Newsnight (6th December, 2005),
[5] Emphasis added. See Vicki Woods, “Politics is like sex - so pick David Cameron” in The Daily Telegraph (8th October, 2005).



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