Memo to LabourList’s Paul Richards… Feel free to keep obsessing. It’ll lose you the next election.

I think it’s safe to assume that LabourList’s Paul Richards is not Nick Clegg’s greatest fan.

What prompts me to leap to this conclusion? Well, I guess if you headline your article profiling the Lib Dem leader ‘A snivelling, venal, ruthless social climber’ you’re making some kind of statement.

I’d highly recommend reading Paul’s post in full if only to gain an appreciation of the impotent fury, this red mist, which is clouding the Labour party’s judgment. Here’s a flavour:

Some make the mistake of saying that the reason why Clegg so naturally fits into a Tory government is because he belongs to the same social class as Cameron and Osborne. But it’s much worse than that. Clegg’s background is upper-middle class, but not upper class. Marx was wrong to talk of ‘two great camps.’ Orwell was right when he identified the variegated, strata of class in England (Orwell claimed to be lower-upper middle class. He went to Eton, but had no money or land). Clegg, in myriad nuanced almost-imperceptible ways does not belong to the same social class as Cameron. It’s the difference between shopping at Peter Jones and shopping at Fortnums, or living in Kensington (with a weekend place in Oxfordshire) and living in a respectable villa in Putney.

Clegg went to Caldicott then Westminster School. He didn’t go to Eton. Cameron and Osborne are proper land-owning toffs. In the class-conscious English southern counties people like Clegg aspire to mix with people like Cameron. They long to be invited up to the manor house for sherry at Christmas. Clegg wanted to enter a coalition with the Tories, not just because he shares Conservative instincts, but because he is a snivelling, venal, ruthless social climber, desperate to make the final step from middle to upper-class.

I hope Paul felt better for writing this: better out than in, as they say. But what strikes me most about his article is the wasted energy, the time and effort devoted to expressing such visceral dislike against one individual.

I don’t think for a moment that Paul Richards’ spleen-venting is respresentative of most Labour members, still less the party’s voters. But what it is an accurate parody of is Labour’s inability to project a rational, confident, poised critique of the Coalition: still less any kind of positive alternative.

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20 Comments

  • Oh I don’t know, with Clegg’s personal popularity being astonishingly low and the Lib Dems consistent at 9% in the polls, whereas Labour are consistently above 40%, its probably fair to conclude that the next election will be considerably worse for them than Labour.

  • Norwich Voter 23rd Sep '11 - 9:18am

    If we apply the same kind cod psychology which Mr Richards applies to Nick, are we to conclude his article comes from an internalised self hatred, arising that his own parents sent him to a prep-school? Doesn’t this mean he is really of the same background as ‘the class enemies’ he now professes to despise.

  • From what I recall, Nick is a scion of Russian aristocracy and therefore at least as grand, if not grander, than Cameron Minor.

  • Most of the comments on Labour List about that mean and nasty article by Paul Richards are rightly highly critical of it.

  • Actually, it wasnt that bad an article up until the last two paragraphs, which are what you’ve posted in your article. They do consitute a foolish wast of space and effort on what amounts to an ad hominem attack, when Richards should have stuck to policy and the consequences of coalition governance.

  • If this nonsense about Clegg’s motivations were true, wouldn’t it have been more logical for Nick Clegg just to join the Tories? Surely that would have been a more direct route to an “invitation to the manor house at Christmas” than the relative long shot which was joining the Lib Dems, winning the leadership and then chancing upon a distribution of general election votes that gave the Lib Dems the ability for a once in a generation coalition. When Labour stoop this low criticising the Lib Dem leader it can only be driven by an extreme anxiety about their own leader and his manifold inadequacies. PS – I’d be more impressed by Labour trying to play the Class card if they could actually produce more than a handful of token working class MPs themselves from their last couple of intakes.

  • Paul McKeown 23rd Sep '11 - 2:04pm

    If the number of upper middle class in a political party’s top ranks is an inverted measurement of its merit, then the Labour Party must be a synonym for hell on earth.

  • Geoffrey Payne – saying we have lost our support to labour is an assertion; has anyone measured voting churn? Labour could have picked up support from the 4 in 10 who don’t vote wd GEs and our dip could have gone into this same pool.

  • Liberal Neil 23rd Sep '11 - 6:30pm

    One would expect someone with such a priveleged background to display better manners.

  • Without wishing to go along with Richards’ analysis too much, he ignores the strong Dutch egalitarian influence of Nick’s mother. As he says of her: “She sees all this English class stuff as totally mad”.

  • Maria Pretzler 24th Sep '11 - 8:50am

    I think it’s clear from the first paragraph just how deluded this article is.

    ” It has the same importance as Paddy Ashdown’s speech delivered at the Guildhall in Chard, Somerset in May 1992, which called for Labour to embrace a liberal free market and look to coalition with the Lib Dems, because it could never win again on its own. Ashdown moved the Lib Dems nearer Labour, based on a completely mistaken and deluded reading of the political situation. Labour won a 179-seat majority five years after Chard”

    The point is, surely, that Tony Blair did pretty much exactly what Paddy Ashdown suggested the Labour Party should do. The only thing Paddy got wrong was just how much success Labour could gain from such a move.

    Forget the gratuitous, pointless tribalism – what’s more significant here is that he sounds like he’d rather forget how New Labour managed to win – and if they do that, they really won’t be back for a long time.

  • Simon McGrath 24th Sep '11 - 11:11am

    @Geoffrey payne “For example, the argument by Nick Pearce that our cherished policy of raising the tax thresholds is actually regressive”

    Do you actually believe this rubbish? how can stopping low paid people paying tax conceivably be regressive, except in the minds of socialists? Do you ever think it might be good to talk about our achievements?

  • “If the Lib-Dem’s emerge from the coalition in 2015 and fight the general election as the responsible exponent of
    progressive-left politics at a time when labour is still saddled with the two Ed’s then it could well be the first nail in the Labour movements coffin.

    It wouldn’t happen in just one election, but by 2020 it could well be that Labour becomes the new eternal bridesmaid of the left, and the Lib-Dem’s its most powerful exponent”

    first maybe recover somewhere near the 23% from last election rather than dreaming of polling in the 40s

  • Old Codger Chris 25th Sep '11 - 11:02am

    The phrase “venal social climber” (without the “snivelling”) is surerly more applicable to Mr and Mrs Blair. It’s worse than that, as making Blair a Middle East Peace Envoy is the biggest sick joke since Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize.

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