Toby Young on Oxford’s notorious Bullingon drinking club, with particular reference to club alumni Dave Cameron, Gideon “George” Osborne and Boris Johnson. The whole thing is worth a read, but hark at Toby’s conclusion:
The lesson each generation of Bright Young Things is taught at Oxford, thanks to their membership of these organisations, is that you don’t have to be to the manor born to become a member of Britain’s ruling class – or even particularly clever.
You don’t need charisma or sexual confidence or a sense of entitlement. All you need is the wherewithal to pretend to be someone who has these qualities. Provided you can do a reasonable impression of a person with the right stuff – and provided you wear the right uniform – that’s enough to propel you to the top.
I sometimes wonder what these contemporaries of mine must be thinking as they sit in their glasswalled corner offices, surveying the world beneath them through their picture windows.
Do they congratulate themselves on having fooled people into taking them seriously? Does it strike them as miraculous that they’ve made it, despite having indulged in behaviour at Oxford that would have seen them sent to jail if they were from less privileged backgrounds?
I doubt it. The discovery that all these young pretenders make when they take their seats at the Cabinet table, or become QCs, or pocket £100million on a complicated land deal, is that the people at the very pinnacle of British society – the people pulling the levers of power – are exactly like them.
There is no such thing as the real McCoy, just a bunch of schoolboys parading around in the contents of the dressing-up box. They don’t feel like frauds, because everyone else in this elite little club is as fraudulent as they are.
But then that’s the dirty little secret at the heart of British public life – and for the lucky few who are invited to become members of the Bullingdon, it’s a secret they discover much sooner than the rest of us.
That pretty much sums up Lord Snooty and his chums’ whole approach to politics, doesn’t it?
Rud eile: It wasn’t in the print edition of the Mail, but you have to give them credit on the web version for running a pic of the fruity Nigella Lawson with this article, on the general grounds that she was a contemporary gilded youth and that you can’t go wrong running pics of Nigella. But why a present-day one? The text helpfully gives you an excuse to run the (in)famous croquet pic: