One of the features of an indulgent Christmas nowadays, after the wine and pud, is to log on to the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, etc) and read the thoughts and wishes of contacts both close and tenuous. One caught my eye this year – it was written by someone I know to be bright and rational, it read:
“MR X is enjoying the Kings College Choir this Christmas. But, can they sing without looking so privileged next year please”
It struck me as such an odd sentiment at this time of goodwill. It betrays a snapshot into a mind of class prejudice. Make no mistake class prejudice – and I carefully use the word ‘prejudice’ rather than ‘envy’ – clearly does still exist in the UK, just as racism and homophobia exist. Like other prejudices Class has political mileage that can be exploited. Whatever the mock protestations from Cabinet Ministers about a clean fight I expect Labour to play the class card in the coming election because, frankly, it works. The best Tory response to it is rise above it, show how the party has changed and highlight any hypocrisy from the champagne socialist crowd. The worst response is wheeling on some landed gentry and claiming this is about ‘the politics of envy’ – the second the class debate is framed with the word ‘envy’ the subconscious message sent is ‘we think we are better than you and you’re just jealous’. Voters, rightly, see that as smug and aloof. It is a trap that traditional Conservatives fall into again and again.
With that thought, I think I’ll sign off for 2009 – but I’ll leave with one reflection: I hope that this time next year there are many more kids looking more privileged than they are now….. Peace, goodwill and happy new year.