Home > Terrible Tories > Top 10 Tory ‘out of touch’ statements

Top 10 Tory ‘out of touch’ statements

cameron, davidThe Labour party got a right slagging off for its Crewe & Nantwich tactics of trying to portray Edward Timpson, now MP, as a toff, and from there has developed a reluctance to engage in such tactics, in the belief that the electorate don’t really believe in class distinctions any more, blah-de-blah.

 I’m not so sure. 

I think the reason the tactic failed was largely because it was done so badly.  No evidence was produced that Edward Timpson actually had toff-like attitudes and beliefs, and that he was out of touch with ‘real people’;  the strategy therefore insulted the intelligence of local voters, who know perfectly well there may be a correlation between birthright and attitude, but that a privileged upbringing does not always lead to ‘toff-like’ adulthood behaviours. 

 Anthony Wedgwood Benn, anyone?

 Oh, and there was the fact that the Labour candidate was also part of what was seen (correctly) as a Labour ‘dynasty’ to which ‘real people’ had no access. 

 However, I think we risk throwing the electoral baby out with the bathwater, and assuming that because the strategy was poorly implemented first time around it is now a non-starter.

 I’m testing the water here, but I think if people see (and remember) evidence that senior Tories really simply cannot conceive of what it’s like to be someone on a low/middle income, and not have all sorts of material and institutional privilege chucked your way from day 1, then they will be less likely to vote Tory.

 So here, for starters, and because I love lists, is my list of top 10 pieces of real documentary evidence that the Tory hierarchy by virtue of their privileged upbringing, are incapable of government which takes account of ‘real people’s’ experiences.  The top 10 is limited to Tory parliamentarians or wanabee parliamentarians, as it would have to be a top 100 otherwise.

 No. 10  Anthony Steen, soon to be ex-MP for Totnes, on his inordinate expense claims:  

‘You know what it’s about? Jealousy. I have got a very, very large house. Some people say it looks like Balmoral. It’s the photographs that make it look like Balmoral, but it’s a merchant’s house from the 19th century.’

A fairly obvious one in for starters, only down at No.10 because he’s not going to be an MP.

No. 9 Boris Johnson, and his £250,000 per year for a newspaper column as chickenfeed.

Out of touch, certainly, but down at No 9 because you can never be quite sure whether he really believes what he’s saying himself.  Indeed he plays up the toff to such an extent that there probably is no longer a distinction between what is acting and what is reality.  This is somewhat worrying, as he is the Mayor of London.

 No. 8 Alan Duncan, for his view that MPs are treated like shit and forced to live on rations.

 Again, an obvious enough one. Higher up than Anthony Steed, because he’s still an MP. 

 Don’t worry, that the last MP expenses scandal one in the top 10.

 No. 7 David Cameron, on not knowing how many houses he owns:

 ‘Do not make me sound like a prat for not knowing how many houses I’ve got.’

 Alright, we’re very fair here at TCF.  He’s down at No 7 because it may just have been a bit of slip of the tongue.  He does want to the prime minister, though, you know, and it wasn’t that long after John McCain had made the same mistake.

No. 6 George Osborne at the Tory party conference, with his  ‘We’re all this together’ refrain.

 No we’re not.  You and many other Conservatives are quite well off, George.  Mind you, to be fair, you may lose your job soon. 

 No.5   Chris Grayling, trying to look like he’s in touch with what’s really going on in the real world, but in so doing making it even clearer that he’s not, by comparing the reality of a Moss Side night out with a US television programme:

 Even as someone well aware of the gang problem in our society, it was a shocking and enlightening experience. What was going on there at the time was nothing short of an urban war.’

 See also this good coverage

 No. 4 Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Minister, on not understanding how much, or little, money most people have:  

‘A new scheme that will meet the costs if you have to go into a care home. A one off, up-front payment like an insurance premium, of around £8,000 at age 65. It will mean that all you have worked and saved for will be protected if you become too frail and unable to live in your home.’

While this seems innocuous enough to at first sight, only a few moments’ thought raises the question of where exactly pensioners get £8,000 up front from (£16,000 for a couple). 

For most pensioners with a home that kind of immediately releasable cash is out of the question, not least since for many lower/mid-income home-owners any wealth they have is tied up in the property value, as to do so has been a sensible decision during the housing boom years. 

Releasing sufficient therefore means, perversely, selling some of your home, at a major loss against the property value (and even greater if the home was bought in the property boom years). 

Needless to say, Lansley and his Tory backroom team, doing their back of envelope sums, didn’t take account of the real world.

No. 3 Cameron, on liking bad news:

‘Au contraire, an enthusiastic Tory backbencher like me can hardly wait to switch on the Today programme every morning in order to listen to all the bad news.’

While this is a bit of an oldie, it’s in at No. 3 because it’s indicative of what is now clearly a wider Tory way of doing things – talking up their own political hopes at the expense of the people they profess to be wanting to govern, I mean serve. 

Thus, Osborne and Hammond‘s talking down of the UK’s creditworthiness, and the risk therefore of talking up borrowing costs and therefore the overall national debt, are entirely in keeping with their glorious leader’s Tory Boy boo-boo. 

This serious knock-on effect means the No.3 spot is well merited.

 No. 2. George Osborne, on the way the financial markets work: ‘No one takes pleasure from people making money out of the misery of others but that is a function of capitalist markets.’

 Yes, he really did say that.  And yes, I think he meant it.


 No. 1  John Redwood, arguing that date rape is simply ‘disagreement between lovers’

While it could be argued that this staggering obnoxiousness is not directly an ‘out of touch’/class matter, I would contend it reflects an ongoing rank misogyny within the ruling class, which then reflects itself in Tory party institutionalized practice up and down the country. This is not to say that it does not happen within the Labour movement, but I would argue that there have been greater efforts to drive it forth from there, so a No.1 spot is duly accorded to Redwood, who should be, but will not be, ashamed of his 2007 blog entry.

 No .1 Louise Bagshawe, PPC for Corby and East Northants, telling her prospective constituents that her children attend ‘local schools’.

A surprise in at No.1, it must be said, but justified in our view. 

Bagshawe is supposed to be the acceptable face of the new friendly Tory party, sent off to late night radio stations to tell us all the Tories really have changed.  But here she is, on her carefully thought out website – this is no Cameronesque slip of the tongue, patronizing the people of Corby and Northamptonshire, telling them that she wants to be an MP so desperately that she’ll even send her children to their local schools. 

 For ‘local’, read ‘not private’. Yes, the implicit suggestion  is that Tory wanabee MPs would of course be expected and entitled to enroll their children in private education, but that Bagshawe is so terribly ‘with it’ that she’s even prepared to send her children to state schools.

 This well-considered Tory PR riles me 10 times as much as Anthony Steed’s unthinking snobbery.

 And that’s it.

 For post show, X-Factor Plus-style coverage on the antics of our winner, Louise Bagshawe PPC, please go to our sister channel.

Categories: Terrible Tories
  1. October 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    I disagree with you on Crewe. I was only there for the last few days of the campaign, but it was pretty obvious that

    a) the “toff” tactic actually worked in mobilising our core vote, with a much higher turnout in the most deprived areas than you’d have expected
    b) the core vote alone isn’t enough to win that particular constituency, as the Nantwich part of Crewe and Nantwich is much bigger than you might expect. However it was obvious from the start we weren’t going to win, (not just a function of declining Labour support – it wasn’t a Labour seat before Gwyneth Dunwoody came along, and her massive personal vote held the seat for Labour during a sustained period when absolutely no local campaigning was done), so for all intents and purposes the toff tactic was just intended to limit the size of the Tory majority, which it did successfully.
    c) the studentesque toff stunts were done to grab attention near the start of the campaign but the message got more serious, pretty much along the lines you suggest we should attack the Tories, after that. There are legitimate criticisms to be made about a lack of content to the message, however.
    d) everyone who canvassed there agreed the toff message had been successful in motivating our vote to get out, but MPs’ Commons staff and Progress types who hadn’t been to Crewe mobilised quickly to put a different spin on things so their view on the importance of cultivating white van man voters could be upheld

    Surprised Unity’s stuff on the Tories’ view of what a “typical” family pays in council tax didn’t make your list!

  2. October 14, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    I’m pleased that the toff tactics worked to get out the core vote, if what you are saying is true Tim.

    Personally I think it’s a legitimate criticism that could reach more people than just the traditional Labour voters – but I think that New Labour don’t have the credibility to pull it off. Most of them are Oxbridge types too, and so are their successors. Some are just as wealthy as the Tory front bench.

    I’ll freely admit, though, I have a big chip on my shoulder about a) the wealthy and b) the vast, vast majority of politically-minded people I met at Oxford.

  3. October 14, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    “b) the vast, vast majority of politically-minded people I met at Oxford.”

    Surely you need to re-phrase this?

    Or else you are saying that you have a chip on your shoulder about the most of the people whom you met at oxford, who were themselves politically minded. Which seems rather odd.

    Or is that actually what you meant to say?

    If so, can we get some more detail? I’m confused.

  4. October 15, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Not sure what needs clarification, really.

    I couldn’t quantify it, but I’d say it’s a safe bet to say that of the people I met from OULD, OULC, OUCA or the SU, most of them displayed qualities that – in the real world, among voters who actually work for a living – would get them beaten to a bloody pulp.

    There are exceptions to that, obviously. But there’s a reason I much prefered OU Secular Society pissups to going to Labour Club meetings or events.

  5. October 15, 2009 at 7:25 am


    Fair enough and thanks for that insight. I bow to your greater knowledge on this. Looks like I’ve bought into the official version, which I picked up from other people working there, who told me it was because it was all done so naffly.

    I think we’re on agreement on the main point though, which it could be a legitimate and effective tactic in some places (notwithstanfing what Dave says about Labour, which has some validity).

    It’s going up on libCon at noon, Sunny tells me, so would you be good enough to make the same point there, assuming he doesn’t cut the preamble stuff and go straight to the list (he may well do).

    Agree re: unity, but heh, it was a quick filler post.

  6. October 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Didn’t need to in the end, Paul, as Sunny chopped off the beginning anyway.

    Yes, I think we’re all in agreement on the main point. I also agree with Dave that the tactic won’t be as successful as it could be because of New Labour’s lack of credibility. Being less successful as it could be is not the same thing as being unsuccessful though – it just means we have to be more sensitive about how we use it. I think pointing out how out-of-touch the Tories are on a national level is legitimate, and on a local level it’s also legitimate to go in harder where the Labour candidate is a local person with working-class credentials and the Tory candidate is not.

  7. ad
    October 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    “Louise attended local Catholic schools near her family home in London, before going to Oxford University in 1989.”

    To be honest, I doubt if the average member of the electorate will really see that as a particularly self-incriminating quote.

  1. October 16, 2009 at 12:26 am
  2. August 17, 2010 at 5:11 pm
  3. November 29, 2010 at 11:33 am
  4. April 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm
  5. April 26, 2011 at 9:07 am
  6. November 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm

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