People who travel first class are 'a totally different type of people'
So when Sir Nicholas Winterton, who, it seems, invariably travels first class, says those who travel ‘standard’ are ‘a totally different type of people’, he is not entirely wrong. For he is part of hoi oligoi – the few who are destined to be set apart from the vulgar plebeians. He might, of course, have helped himself if he had not said ‘totally’ with such bombast or used the phrase ‘different type’, which rather suggests there is something sub-human about the herd of commoners.
And yet he is a commoner, by virtue of his membership of the House of Commons. And at the same time he is set apart from the majority as a legislator and knight of the realm (for services to Parliament, not his party), and formerly a second lieutenant in the 14th/20th King’s Hussars.
But the Conservative Party leadership have condemned Sir Nicholas for being ‘out-of-touch’, and dismissed his comments as an aberrant view of an eccentric backbencher who in a few months will no longer be an MP. We are told: ‘They do not...represent the views of David Cameron or that of the Conservative party and should be treated as such.’
The Conservative Party’s rank and file (hoi polloi) have been subject to precisely the same criticism by a front-bencher who in a few months will be a secretary of state.
When Michael Gove refers to the ‘grumbling and rumbling’ of the Party’s ‘backwoodsmen’, he adopts precisely the same hoi oligoi attitude of Sir Nicholas. When David Cameron observes of his Party’s masses (hoi polloi) that ‘they are looking for the perfect son-in-law rather than the perfect candidate’, he too adopts the hoity-toity narrative of the ruling élite – hoi oligoi – the Tory paternalism that is not benign, but which seeks instead to impose a particular worldview upon hoi polloi because they are recalcitrant and don’t know what’s good for them: they are ‘backwoodsmen’.
According to the OED, the term has three definitions:
1. An inhabitant of backwoods
2. An uncouth person
3. A peer who very rarely attends the House of Lords
Now, Mr Gove is an intelligent man, so he cannot possibly believe that Conservative hoi polloi all dwell in the undergrowth, although they may in Surrey Heath. And neither could he possibly be referring to peers who rarely attend the House of Lords, for these, by definition, are hoi oligoi.
Which leaves ‘uncouth person’.
So a Conservative front-bench spokesman is of the view that the Conservative Party has members who are ‘lacking in ease and polish; uncultured and rough’ (OED). And these are they who oppose ‘modernisation’.
Would Mr Gove and Mr Cameron not say of these, in the words of Sir Nicholas, that they are ‘in a different walk of life’?
The reality is that while Sir Nicholas was talking about something as banal as first-class travel and being able to work in peace, David Cameron and Michael Gove are talking about a rather more fundamental (and important) point of political philosophy. Sir Nicholas is concerned with planes, trains and automobiles; David Cameron and Michael Gove are concerned with gender, ethnicity and sexuality, for that is what constitutes their ‘modernisation’.
Sir Nicholas has denied saying that MPs are somehow better than ordinary people: “I didn't say they weren't as good, but they are in a different walk of life. They are doing different things. Very often they are there with children."
He added that first class was ‘very valuable for business people and I include in that category MPs’.
The fact that members of parliament will no longer be reimbursed for first class travel is an undoubted loss of privilege (and, for those whose constituencies are hundreds of miles away from, may indeed mean they are no longer able to work on confidential matters whilst travelling). And so Sir Nicholas may be justifiably ‘infuriated’.
But he is nowhere near as infuriated as the rank and file of Conservative Party members who are slowly waking up to the fact that hoi oligoi holds hoi polloi in utter contempt, and that hoi polloi are considered good enough for bridge evenings, barbeques, quizzes, leaflet delivering and fund-raising. But God forbid that they should ever again acquire the right to determine who joins hoi oligoi, for that is now a centralised competence to the oligarchy itself, and only they are able to recognise ‘the perfect candidate’.
It is perhaps ironic that all those men (for they are) who were selected by hoi polloi under the ‘perfect son-in-law’ regime have become so patronisingly dismissive as to refer to Party members as ‘backwoodsmen’. Doubtless these rank and file dinosaurs ('a clumsy survival from earlier times' [OED]) need to realise that they are ‘a totally different type of people’. And if they do not, they will be sacked.