The middle class can kiss my…

By DeusExMacintosh

David Cameron claimed on Tuesday that he and his wife Samantha are members of ‘the sharp-elbowed middle classes’. This statement was at the same time an attempt to proclaim his ordinariness and a dig at middle-class values. The Prime Minister was in effect saying that he is much like everyone else while deprecating those whom he regards as pushy.

He told a member of the audience at a PM Direct question and answer session that he wants to protect Sure Start children’s centres, which were set up by the Labour Government, from being colonised by ‘the sharp-elbowed middle classes’ — by which he appears to mean those who try to get the best out of the system.

Are Mr Cameron and his wife middle class? Only if that term is absurdly elastic. As the daughter of a landed baronet, Samantha Cameron is inescapably a member of the upper classes. Mr Cameron, the son of a stockbroker, less moneyed than his wife and with fewer aristocratic connections, is more of a borderline case. An argument could be made for his being a member of the upper classes or the upper-middle classes.

Who cares? The point is that he and his wife both come from extremely privileged backgrounds — as he has himself previously freely admitted. Their education and considerable wealth and other advantages put them securely in the top one per cent of Britons. And there is nothing remotely wrong with that. My point is only that describing the Camerons as middle class is pretty meaningless.

They do not share the experience of the great mass of middle-class people, the vast majority of whom are not privately educated and not at all rich. They have not had to struggle in the way most of the middle class have. So I have a problem with the second part of the phrase ‘the sharp-elbowed middle classes’ as it applies to the Camerons.

Are they ‘sharp-elbowed’? Yes, they probably are. For example, they have managed to send their daughter to an excellent church primary school some miles away from where their family home is. That must have involved some arm-twisting.

For several years Mr Cameron also claimed close to the maximum amount then allowable for an MP’s expenses for his mortgage on his second home, a very pleasant country house in Oxfordshire. Was this sharp-elbowed? Entirely within the rules, he was undoubtedly milking the system for all that it was worth. He could have chosen to live in a modest cottage, and drawn less public subsidy.

On the whole I would say that while David and Samantha Cameron are not at all typical representatives of the middle class, he, at least, has pretty sharp elbows. I don’t blame him for that either. We all have to make our way in the world, and the Camerons have no doubt pushed and shoved from time to time like the rest of us.

But I am not sure that this combination of a privileged background and pushiness qualifies him to pass judgment on those who are much less privileged. In fact, one could say that, with all the advantages that life has given him, Mr Cameron has had rather less cause than most to use his elbows.

Stephen Glover, Mail Online

20 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Great post DEM – and it looks as if Cameron and Tony Abbott are using the same focus groups and PR advisors (Didn’t Mark Textor work for both as some stage? I misremember…) The little Aussie battler!

  2. PAUL WALTER
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    He is indeed a sharp customer. Margaret Thatcher without tears…

  3. Peter Patton
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    There is something completely obnoxious about Cameron claiming he’s just your typical middle class “pommie battler.” Even more obnoxious than Malcolm Turnbull’s mewling over being raised in a rented Vaucluse flat. Rented! Quelle horreur!

  4. Bernice
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Peter, if you’d have seen the wallpaper… poor Malcolm.

  5. TerjeP
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I was raised in a shoe box. 😉

    Okay maybe we shouldn’t go there.

  6. Peter Patton
    Posted August 15, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Shoebox!? Looxury!

  7. Peter Patton
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    thing is LE, he knows exactly about his advantages and privileges. For goodness sakes, the guy went to Eton and Oxford, and married an even richer baron’s daughter!

  8. Peter Patton
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    He makes Malcolm Turnbull look like a common oik! 🙂

  9. Posted August 16, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    “Noblesse oblige” seems rare: if the perception of oneself is having no blessing, there is no pressure to feel the obligation.

    DEM’s distress (in other posts), and Cameron’s claims, are linked.

    The comfortable and well off never, in their own minds, have a “lucky strike”, demand (and get from politicians) corporate and middle class welfare as tax breaks and grants and resistance to the notion of windfall profit taxes, with the need to demonstrate not privation but voting or funding power. The need for that largesse is ascribed, always, to external factors, while accrued comforts and indeed luxuries are ascribed to one’s own merits, not fortune.

    The “undeserving poor” are blamed for their own state by the “deserving rich”, the likes of Abbott demanding a greater ratio of resources of time and energy from those with nothing to spare, while spruiking lower demands, lower taxation, on those in better shape.

    Trickle-down economics is alive and well in minds if not in fact.

    I’m suspecting the sum of pride (if not hubris) and compassion, both correlated with fortune, is a constant.

    Recent research covered in “The Economist” demonstrates the rich have less empathy, less propensity to give than the poor. Those comfortable Christians should recall the widow’s mite, but in the context of Treasury not temple.

    Ask a beggar in the street: it’s always a better bet to plead to someone who is threadbare, not tailored.

  10. Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    The comfortable and well off never, in their own minds, have a “lucky strike”, demand (and get from politicians) corporate and middle class welfare as tax breaks and grants and resistance to the notion of windfall profit taxes, with the need to demonstrate not privation but voting or funding power. The need for that largesse is ascribed, always, to external factors, while accrued comforts and indeed luxuries are ascribed to one’s own merits, not fortune.

    If you want the rich to contribute more, tax them less and give them more, if you want the poor to contribute more, tax them more and give them less. That’s trickle down economics.

  11. PAUL WALTER
    Posted August 16, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Only the people that count,10

  12. Posted August 17, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Sharp elbowed middle class? They exist and I tend not to like ’em too much nor they me.

    England’s aristocarcy mainatined its position with the Reform Act. This ‘middle-class is absurdly elastic.

    The way it breaks down, I think, is: 1. Do you have to work? 2. If so, given the intelligence you’ve inherited, assuming the attendant cultivation, how much power and wealth can you accumulate? A public prosecutor has a lot of power but not much money. A criminal defense lawyer may earn a lot more but how much power do they have. They are both ‘middle-class’ in that they both have to work but can become wealthy doing so.

    Others can of course. The ‘upper middle-class’ is what was once referred to as the minor gentry. They’re admitted into the club so to speak but effort and their membership is not assured. But still they get invited in.

    The Camerons sound like the typical bourgeois/aristo alliance: You’ve got the looks; I’ve got the brains. Let’s make lots of money.. I think Dave’s got the looks.

  13. Hugivza
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    One of the delights of having left the UK after university, back when god’s dog was a puppy, is the fact that I do not have to worry as to whether David Cameron is upper, middle, lower class, or any variation in between. Class only has currency within the UK itself. As an old Etonian methinks he protesteth too much to suggest that he is at the apex of the Bell curve.

  14. Posted August 17, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    The Camerons sound like the typical bourgeois/aristo alliance: You’ve got the looks; I’ve got the brains. Let’s make lots of money.. I think Dave’s got the looks.

    {sings}”Oh, there’s a lot of opportunities…”

    Nice to see another Pet Shop Boys fan. 🙂

  15. Taylor
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    George Osborne used strong language today to warn against the practice of austerity economics, especially by governments of the left:

    “Successful centre-left parties root themselves in a progressive belief that governments must live within their means, or the poorest suffer.”

  16. Posted August 18, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Nice to see another Pet Shop Boys fan.

    Mmmm 🙂

  17. PAUL WALTER
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    That’s a nasty mug to look at on the way back after a couple of days.
    Legal Eagle gold logie for that one (7).
    You are a clever woman.

  18. Posted August 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “The middle class are just like pigs”

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