Two arresting pictures of public figures on holiday caught my attention in the last few days: one showing former Prime Minister David Cameron’s sleek minke-pod-ready body squeezed into a pair of £225 Orlebar Brown swim shorts; the other showing the current Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney pretending to be a hippy at Britain’s poshest pop festival, Wilderness in Oxfordshire.
In both cases, my thought was the same: if only these were the private holiday photographs of private people of whose existence we never had to know!
What I mean by this is that I know lots and lots of people just like Cameron and Carney. They have good degrees from good universities; they have big houses in London and stonkingly gorgeous retreats in expensive parts of the country; they’ve married well (Cameron to a baronet’s daughter and heiress; Carney to the sister of Lady Rotherwick, chatelaine of the big house at Cornbury Park where the Wilderness Festival is staged); they’re all mates with Jeremy Clarkson; they’ll all be spending at least a week this summer in Cornwall to go with their Mediterranean fortnight either in a £20,000 a week villa or on a mate’s yacht; they’re all tremendous fun to be with because they’re very comfortably off and actually money does buy you happiness; they’ve all got kids at Eton, Radley and Marlborough or Wycombe Abbey; and so on.
But here’s where the similarity ends: unlike Cameron and Carney you’ve never heard of these people – at least outside the Bystander pages of Tatler – because they keep themselves to themselves.
They’ve spent their lives doing what most people from moneyed backgrounds do: keeping what they’ve got and accumulating more of it in order that their beautiful, immaculately mannered children can go on to enjoy existences as charmed as their parents’.
Personally I have no objection to this because I’m not a class warrior and anyway some of these people are my friends. (Also, I like to think that one day my children will marry into one of those families and I rather like the idea of being able to spend my twilight years in one of the tied cottages on a 20,000 acre Cotswold estate.)
There’s only one set of circumstances where I do find myself set against these people – when, indeed, it occurs to me that the sans-culottes who offed Marie Antoinette and the rest might have had a point: and that’s when you catch them trying to pull up the drawbridge to ensure that no one else gets to enjoy what they have.
The most obvious recent example of this was the Brexit referendum when they voted en masse to preserve their special privileges by keeping us proles locked inside the European superstate.
Usually, the only time they cause genuine harm to the rest of us is when they go into public office.
Even then, this wouldn’t be a problem if they were capable of acting against their class interests. But neither Cameron nor Carney has possessed the moral fibre to achieve this.
Cameron – as he demonstrated in what will surely come to be known as his “Here’s My Middle Finger: Swivel, Plebs!” Honours list – basically saw his six-year stint in office as a chance to swan agreeably round the world improving his contacts book while rewarding his favoured Oxford and Notting Hill chums with gongs and peerages and ensuring he had a few decent non-executive directorships to move onto when he quit Number 10.
Carney, meanwhile, has used his own stint in office as Bank of England Governor to entrench the powers of his own Bilderberg class of Goldman-Sachs-trained technocratic automatons and to benefit wealthy asset owners (like himself, his wife, his sister in law, the Camerons, the Osbornes, people who matter) through aggressive central bank intervention, mostly in the form of money printing.
Was any of this stuff necessary?
Indeed, I can very easily imagine a parallel universe in which Cameron had followed his father into some old City stockbrokers which would then have been taken over by a US investment bank where Cameron would have shone by using his low cunning to invent something disgusting and immoral like Collateralised Debt Obligations before retiring on the proceeds.
In that same parallel universe Carney has never left Canada but, after his stint at Goldman Sachs, is a distinguished academic in Ottawa, like his father. He is still very rich – more than rich enough to ensure his green wife Diana gets to travel by private jet to all those vital planet-saving environmental conferences and to stay in the very finest, organic, artisanal, Fair Trade boutique hotels – but instead of dicking around the UK economy, he’s just teaching a bunch of Canadian kids about how neo-Keynesianism really works.
According this piece in the Daily Beast by socialite Tom Sykes, Cameron has very swiftly reverted to type since leaving office.
Where before he had to be photographed ostentatiously taking budget airline flights to cheapo destinations, he can now splash the cash in more exclusive places like the £15,000 villa he recently rented in Corsica. Even more importantly, having forced his poor children to slum it in state schools, he can now give them a proper education by sending them private – which matters especially in the case of his son Elwen who can now go to Eton.
In this last respect I’m very happy for Dave. There are few greater vicarious pleasures for a father than seeing his male progeny kitted out like a penguin on the Fourth of June, as the hottest girls from the poshest schools from miles around circle like sharks in a feeding frenzy, and you know that providing he’s not gay he’s going to be sorted for top totty for the rest of his life.
But here’s the thing: Cameron would have got all this stuff even had he not been Prime Minister. Not only that but he would have been richer, sooner, and he would have been able to send all his kids to private school straight away rather than going through the motions of their having to slum it with oiks, learning diddly squat, lest someone at the BBC say something horrid about him. Plus, Sam Cam would have been able to enjoy many, many more expensive holidays.
More importantly, as far as we proles are concerned, we would never once have had our lives impoverished or blighted or unnecessarily irritated by a single one of his crap policies.
Is it really not possible for someone to build a time-machine, gone back to 1988, prevented him getting a job at the Conservative Research Department and said: “No mate. Seriously you’ll be much happier on the graduate training programme at Shearson Lehman or Bear Stearns…”?
And while they’re at it, could they not arrange for the young Mark Carney to have some terrible formative experience which gives him a lifelong fear of ever leaving Canada’s borders?