What Clegg can teach Labour about the New Conservativism
I tend to agree with Sunny and others that the Clegg’s attack on the top Tories is synthetic. It’ll be kiss and make up on May 6th; there isn’t anywhere else for the LibDems to go now, and I’m doubtful that the Tories will want to jettison them just yet.
What’s more interesting is the way Clegg chooses to describe Cameron and co, synthetically or not. In calling them a ‘right wing clique’, I think he may giving away more than he knows about his experience of dealing with the Cameronian inner circle.
I’ve suggested before that what makes the Cameron regime very different from the Thatcher government is the tightness of the regime’s inner circle, based as it is less on ideological consensus (though there is a broad one) than on deeply embedded class loyalties.
Those in the inner circle are almost exclusively, especially with the departure of Coulson, from an upper class clique that even Clegg has access to. He may be from a rich background but his European family background and marriage make him an outsider to the Eton/Oxford set nowe in charge.
When Clegg calls the Tory elite right-wing, I don’t think he’s talking about their political economy; as a paid-up Orange Booker he is probably further to the right than Cameron is instintively. Rather, I think Clegg is using right-wing as shorthand for even for socially elite than him.
In identifying this, of course, he’s in total agreement with David Davis.
Of course, any pain Clegg suffers at the hands of those who believe they are his betters is an irrelevance to the Left. Even so, I think it’s important for the Left to recognise how Clegg – having seen the Tory elite up close – portrays them, because it should give us confidence to keep casting them in this light too.
To my mind Labour, and much of the Left continues to be just a little too respectful of the Cameron clique, nervous that the calls of ‘class war’ will ring out if we attack the Cameron coterie on the basis of their backgrounds and their inner circle’s utter ignorance of the lives of real people.
In part this remains a legacy of the Crewe and Nantwich byelection, which Labour’s head honchos subsequently decided had been a counter-productive approach. This is unfortunate, because the broad strategy was ok – just partly poorly implemented through the use of poor student-style theatrics (at least that’s what got on the telly) which itself looked like the stuff of an elite with too much time on its hands.
Despite this implementational hiccough, I remain convinced that a key anti-Tory strategy is to keep banging on, not about their background for its own sake, but about how genuinely distant from the real world Cameron and his cronies are, how the policies they are pushing through simply have no connection with the real world (get a job and lose your home, for example), and how hypocritical they are to pretend they are in any way in it together like us.
We should take confidence from Clegg. However whiney he sounds complaining about being outside the clique, there’s a kernel of truth there. And if even he sees it, then it’s pretty bleeding obvious.