|The Lady of the Socialist Manor|
I’ve been catching up with Dominic Sandbrook’s three-part telly series on
Britain in the mid1970s on iPlayer. It’s a visual accompaniment to his recently published Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979, which I acquired fairly recently, opened, skimmed but yet to read properly.
I admire Sandbrook as a social historian; I have ever since I read State of
Emergency-the Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974, which I reviewed here some time ago (A Tale Unfolds, 21 October, 2010). He has a nice relaxed style, a wonderful attention to detail and a witty and perceptive way of looking at the issues of the day, be it political, artistic, sporting or cultural. There was something he said in the final episode of his present series, something touching on the Labour Party, that immediately set a train of thought in motion, ending in an amusing – and frustrating - terminus.
Actually, it wasn’t really about the Labour Party at all; it was about Margaret Thatcher. It was simply that she wasn’t such a great innovator but she had a unique quality in a politician – she had the ability to listen. More than that she translated what she heard into policy.
The big issue here concerns the sale of state-owned council housing, generally believed to be one of the great flag ship policies of the first Thatcher administration. But this was nothing new; senior figures in the Labour Party had even flirted with such a move after it became evident, from doorstep canvassing, that it would be enormously popular with ordinary working-class voters, many of whom were anxious to join the property owning democracy.
But it never went beyond an idea, because it was generally understood that such heresy would be blocked by the left, who believe in managed people and managed lives. Thus it was, according to Sandbrook, that the ideological high priests of Labour effectively handed victory to Thatcher in 1979, pledged to set the people free from council serfdom. Irony of ironies: Thatcherism was a new Peasants’ Revolt!
I’ve just come up with the serfdom analogy as I was writing. My original focus was on nineteenth century novels which touch on issues of class, specifically those which deal with forms of noblesse oblige. I’m thinking specifically of the work of Jane Austen, where one of the chief pastimes of gentlewomen is to deliver baskets to the parish poor; mercy, charity and condescension all rolled up in one!
That’s it; that’s the modern Labour Party, condescending and patronising in its attitude to the ‘deserving’ poor. The Islington socialite socialists are the contemporary version of the likes of Emma Wodehouse. Here the awful Polly Toynbee must stand as an avatar, walking around the homes of the lower orders, wearing her bonnet of self-righteousness and carrying her basket of doles, a perfect fright of snobbish condescension.
It’s all a huge joke, of course, though like all good jokes it carries a hard core of truth. Quite frankly I think the Labour Party is a criminal conspiracy against the people of this country. The last government did untold damage, what with its aggressive wars abroad and its profligacy at home. We will be paying for its incompetence for generations to come.
But the people who will pay most are this movement’s ‘natural’ constituency, the working class serfs living in council ghettos. Gordon Brown, the previous Prime Minister, preached to them about ‘British jobs for British workers’, a sound bite of stunning stupidity, even for that charmless Presbyterian ogre. The truth is he headed a government, as did Blair before him, that guaranteed a bonanza for foreign workers at the expense of the native British.
I could take my historical parallels still further. I see a new form of the late
Roman Empire. All the work is done by a class of foreign helots, while the plebs are kept alive by bread, circuses, pot noodles, daytime telly and Simon Cowell. Oh, yes, and there is the occasional basket of cant from the Polly of the Manor. Why people vote for the Labour Party, why the non-labouring poor vote for it when they are treated with such condescension and contempt, is utterly beyond my comprehension.