The Witney-Tatton Question
Setting aside the hyperbole and allegations of inverted snobbery, the reality is that David Cameron and George Osborne are indeed ‘posh’ (by virtue of being élite; Eton, Oxbridge, descendants of kings and baronets, well-connected, heirs to fortunes). They may both know the price of milk, but there is an undeniable perception of loftiness and arrogance, no matter how many times ‘Call me Dave’ tries to get down with the people. When Margaret Thatcher walked into Marks & Spencer's, you sensed a genuine familiarity. When John Major stood on his soapbox in the marketplace, there was authenticity. Under Cameron and Osborne, no matter how personally sincere either may be, the impression is one of façade; a condescension in order to attain a calculated end.
According to the YouGov data, 12 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 voters now say they support UKIP. One or two Tory MPs understand the significance of this, but even their plea to the Party hierarchy has echoes of the indifference and aloofness of CCHQ: the monkeys are trained to take their stage directions from the organ grinder. And so, while many traditional Conservative voters abandon their familiar allegiance, the ‘out-of-touch’ Cameron and Osborne (ably assisted by Maude) continue with their process of ‘decontamination’ to eradicate all that is ‘nasty’ (presently defined as Eurosceptic, tax-cutting, anti-immigration, heterosexual-marriage-supporting ‘right-wingers’). The problem is that this is how the vast majority of Conservative Party members would identify themselves. Yet no matter how many of these leave the Party, the process of modernisation continues: sacrificing the Tory right is a price worth paying for attracting the Guardianistas of Notting Hill.
And now the Party is ‘seeking to hire a high-powered business figure to sell the party to the black and minority ethnic minority voters’. There is nothing, of course, intrinsically wrong with this: the vast majority of Asian Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and African-Caribbean Christians would hold fast to great swathes of conservative philosophy, especially those precepts concerning tradition, morality, the family and society. But for some reason Cameron and Osborne are unable to see that ‘gay marriage’ is utterly antithetical to what the overwhelming majority of BME voters would identify as conservative, and that single issue is drowning out a plethora of other policies.
And so we return to Nadine Dorries’ most serious allegation, which is she calls ‘the real crime’; that Cameron and Osborne have ‘no passion to want to understand the lives of others’. It would be a strange democratic politician indeed which had no passion to want to understand the lives of his or her constituents; they are, after all, dependent on votes for the positions of power. But politics is about seeming: the facts are immaterial when confronted by perceptions; reality is of no consequence when faced with an overpowering alternative narrative; truth is smothered beneath a duvet of lies. And in this present climate of austerity, the fact, reality, and truth is that millions are finding it hard to make ends meet. As the cost of petrol, gas and electricity soars inexorably; the price of the weekly food-shop rises month on month; mortgage rates creep up, despite the Bank of England's historically-low base rate; and the fear of unemployment hangs over thousands of families, the cry of ‘We’re all in this together’ rings hollow. Because we're not. Of course, as the Prime Minister says, you cannot solve a debt crisis by adding more debt. But that is precisely what he is doing: while the deficit may be decreasing, the debt goes up and up. And so we come to the Witney-Tatton Question:
For how long will ordinary people tolerate privileged Honourable Members from the rural Tory heartlands and leafy suburbs imposing punitive levels of taxation on the ‘squeezed middle’ while they themselves are completely unaffected and their personal fortunes secure?