“You’re not a Tory, are you?” Throughout my time at university, the revelation that I voted Conservative was usually met by some level of disgust or disbelief. Nights out were a safe haven – only killjoys chatted politics – but I remember plenty of kitchen table debates in my first year, defending my apparently terrible choice of party.But for all the pejorative leftism at York, I don’t think bad reactions stemmed from any particular affinity to political theory itself. The truth is most students don’t actually know too much about politics yet plenty are certain being ‘right’ is wrong.
My Tory friends assure me that by the time they start earning real money, the naysayers will have come round to conservatism’s acquired taste, but these days I’m not so sure. Angst is accompanied by apathy and there’s a seated disenchantment with most senior politicos – I’ll even admit Michael Gove is a fundamentally dislikable man. Conservatism and in turn British Politics is in bad way. Detachment has reached new levels and the major parties are doing nothing to attract a new type of voter.
It’s not wrong to fill a cabinet with Oxbridge any more than it’s not wrong to down ten shots of Sambuca, but in doing either you have to face the consequences. Indeed, the Conservative party have been suffering a hangover ever since Cameron became leader in 2005.
Admittedly, the Tories have always been high-born, but amidst a renewed obsession with class war, this time it’s really come to the fore. Consider the social pedigree of our incumbent; Cameron, Gove and Osborne went to private schools whose fees are higher than the average wage. More than a third of the current Commons were privately educated and lots have double barrelled surnames.
Labour is nowhere near as posh, but even the supposed sons of toil aren’t blameless; nowadays it pays to be middle-class and to go straight into politics after Oxbridge. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, went to Oxford from well-heeled north London, graduated in PPE and was soon working for Gordon Brown. Ed Balls is another Oxford grad, who also took PPE and also grabbed a cushy career boost under Brown. Let’s recap; in supposedly modern, meritocratic Britain, the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, the Chancellor and the shadow chancellor all went to Oxbridge. Three of the four did the same degree and all were privately educated bar Miliband.It’s little wonder that people feel alienated or under represented. It’s little wonder that politicians, Tories in particular, are seen as “posh twats.” In persisting with this quasi kingdom of philosophers, Britain risks inculcating new levels of resentment.
I vote Conservative because I agree with the line of policy and family driven ethos, but I’ve become increasingly irritated by their reluctance to reinvent. The same is true of Labour. I’m not saying that cherry picking politicians from Oxbridge is wrong, but there is a bottomless pool of talent that is constantly being overlooked. If there is a glass ceiling for women in politics then there is also one for ethnics, the working class and those educated by the state. The John Major experiment was an example of tokenism gone horribly wrong, but that doesn’t have to be the case now. If the Tories want to tackle issues of image, then grooming Gove for leadership is certainly not the way to go.