Cameron and Class

Bullingdon

This is a 1980s photograph of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, a select crew of partiers and boors from Britain’s upper crust. Unfortunately, Number 2 is now the leader of the Conservative Party, and currently posing as a regular bloke who can relate to people of all classes. He has said he had a "normal university experience."

I was at Oxford a year or so before Cameron, and knew Boris Johnson (Number 8) from the Oxford Union (I was president in 1983). The Bullingdon was easily the worst of the obnoxious class-based clubs. Cameron’s youthful pot-smoking doesn’t help the class image either. It’s hard to explain to Americans but in the 1980s when I was at Oxford, pot was basically an upper-crust activity. I despised it as decadent and aristocratic and never touched the stuff. What’s been remarkable so far about Cameron’s popularity in Britain is that his privileged background – Eton, especially – hasn’t worked against him. This is a big shift. People seem to have left this class hatred behind in the last couple of decades (Thatcher + Blair = Blue State America). But put cannabis and Bullingdon into the same stew and you can see this Guardian blogger doing his best to whip up class hatred. But check out the comments as well. They show a more complex picture of Brits not willing to return to the class hatred of yore.

Here’s a good riposte to the Guardianista:

yeah, cos the only people who get pissed up and make twats of themselves at uni are toffs right?

For the non-Anglo "pissed up" means drunk. "Toffs" are preppies. "Uni" is college. "Twats" … well, here’s another:

"The Bullingdon invented binge drinking and yobbery long before it was discovered by the kind of people the Daily Mail is always denouncing."

Yeah. Binge drinking and yobbery started 150 years ago. Are you English? It’s what we’ve always done. It’s normal. It won us the Napoleonic War. It built our cities.

And besides, look at the clothes those guys are in. Now look at photos of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran from the same time. Oddly those urban non-university kids looked much the same. A bit more makeup maybe.

Another:

As much as this is juicily wonderful background, and as hypocritically loathsome as it is for David Cameron to put himself forward as some sort of man of the people (and generally get away with it), he was right when he said that politicians should be allowed a private life before entering office. His supposed cannabis use won’t become something that can either be touted as a sign he’s a hypocrite or in touch with people. And if you really feel like judging the man, there’s plenty of contemporary material to work with, rather than using his background against him.

Finally:

didn’t this type of class envy go out some time in the 1970s? this really is feeble stuff.

Yes it is.