The intricacies of the English class system are hard to unravel – Cameron and Johnson called Gideon Osborne an“Oik” despite him having changed his name to George. Poor George, you see, wasn’t an Old Etonian. There are few greater sins. Like George I also went to a a “Minor Public School” but when I moved on from my school to the real world I occasionally met my betters from Eton or Harrow or Winchester. They were always polite and often went into Margaret Mead mode and studied me as an anthropological freak.
The problem with Etonians, or today’s ones in politics anyway, is that they may know their Ancient Greeks but they don’t know their Modern Brits. David Cameron glided effortlessly into Number 10 without ever having been to Hackney or Hounslow, let alone Hull or Huddersfield. Though he said that he did meet a black man once.
It is almost unique in the world for the English to create hierarchy whatever they do or wherever they go. The Swires are a Taipan family who were born to rule Hong Kong. I met some of them when I lived there. They were very posh. The graduations of “Honkers” were complex but the Taipans of Swires or Jardines we’re firmly at the top.
Etonians don’t usually run things, they own them. They always find a “dear little man” to do the actual work. Johnson uses Michael Gove and, of course, Dominic Cummings in this way. They aren’t colleagues, they are servants. That’s the role of the Tory MPs as well. Their job is to vote – that’s it. Jacob Rees-Mogg makes his Etonian superiority clear to all of the hoi polloi . He lounges on the front bench and tells them to go and vote.
The posh boys aren’t really interested in ideas, though a passing reference to some obscure Classical poet might occasionally enliven their language. What they do like is power. This may be “soft power” , oiling their way around to achieve their goals almost invisibly. Or it may be very hard power indeed. Johnson is exercising the latter at the moment and the servants, sometimes against their better judgment one suspects, are delivering.
What we have at the moment is Government by Sycophantocracy. Many of the newer Conservative MPs seem very surprised indeed to be in the House of Commons. Moggy tells them what to do – rather like the Duke of Norfolk once telling his estate workers how to vote. Then they get told how to Tweet which they dutifully and consistently do. Lobby fodder with, it seems, a shortage of brain cells. Not a rebel in sight.
The main thing missing from all this is competence. Accidents of birth and expensive education may have told the Swire Brigade how to behave but it didn’t teach them to put out fires. The cartoonish Johnson never, ever, looks as if he’s in charge. David Cameron assumed that having got power the little people beyond the castle gates would do what he told them. Sadly for Britain the occasion the people told him to go boil his head was in the 2016 Referendum. It was an unexpected revolt and a fatal one, and not just for Dave.
There may be a revolution but I doubt it. They may dump Johnson, but I doubt that as well. When it all goes belly up it won’t be the power holders or the sycophants’ fault. It will be the EU’s fault, or our fault or the Oiks’ fault. The new Battle for Britain will have been lost on the playing fields of Eton. The mercenaries may die along the way – the Generals will go to the House of Lords.