For observers of politics, who spend our days gazing into the torrent of asinine waffle that swamps the nation into apathetic submission, there occasionally pops up a statement that shakes us out of the stupor, a dissonance which reveals a truth that we know should have been hidden. It occurs to me that our leader’s somewhat oxymoronic claim that he “wants to spread privilege” is one such statement.
Leaving aside the idiotic phrasing, he was attempting to say that through improving the quality of the school system, every child would have the same type of opportunities that he had. This is indeed a noble aim, but it is also rather disingenuous, as we shall see.
Cameron is trying to convince you that his privilege was to attend Eton, the fabulously expensive private school, and that the education he received there set him up for life. I would imagine it certainly helped, but if you really want to get on in this country, like he did, you need more than that.
The key to a great career is the ‘foot in the door’ job, the one you take after you finish your education, the one that gives you the experience to begin climbing the greasy pole. This is where meritocracy ends and where plutocracy begins, because unless you can afford to work for free, then you don’t get this first job. You might as well not have bothered with all that education. Indeed you might look at the fees you paid for it and wonder if you hadn’t been cheated.
Even money is not enough for the great internships. To get one of these, not only must you be able to work for free, you must also have powerful family connections. Here is where we see Cameron’s true privilege. His internship, at Conservative Central Office, was guaranteed by a phone call from his relatives at Buckingham Palace. That’s how he got on in life. Is this a privilege he wants to ‘spread’? Hell no. Not only does he “accept” that unpaid internships are part of the “modern world”, he is “intensely relaxed” about it. He even boasts about arranging them for his friend’s children. Perhaps that is what spreading privilege really means; spreading it around your own social circle.
If you want to see the effect of excluding the poor and the non-connected from positions of influence, look no further than to our very own House of Commons. To show that this is about the whole British establishment, and not just Cameron’s Conservatives, I’ll examine the Parliamentary Labour Party. At the time of the 2010 general election, the party had between 150,000 and 193,000 members, from which it could select its candidates. Out of the 258 MP’s it managed to get elected, there were two married couples (Ed Balls to Yvette Cooper, and Jack Dromey to Harriet Harman) and three sets of siblings (the Milibands, the Eagles and the Vazs). The party of working people also managed to maintain the hereditary principle with Anas Sarwar, MP for Glasgow Central succeeding his father. Do you think all this is coincidence? No. It is the result of connection and privilege at work. It’s basically corruption, and it stinks.