I grew up in Britain in the 1960s. A that time, people used to talk about the ruling class. Nobody thought there was anything odd about that - such talk was common currency, on the bus, in the pub and in the workplace. This was because people wanted change, they wanted the ruling clique bust wide open. I have already referred to this in more detail in a recent post - about how things improved, and how people thought that power had become more accessible to all, largely through the opening up of our higher education system. How things have changed! Now you never hear anyone talk about the ruling class. There is a kind of tacit assumption that we all have equal access to the corridors of power - but I beg to differ. I think that the ruling class is back, and with a vengeance.
There is no doubt that over the past 20 years or so we have seen the development of a political class of career politicians. Peter Oborne, the right wing polemicist wrote about this in his book, The Triumph of the Political Class, in 2007. In a nutshell, his argument was that a new self-serving political class had grown up, and become dominant in the UK. I have to say that, on the whole, I agree with him. Prior to the emergence of this class, politicians had often lived and worked in the real world before entering parliament. They had to work their way up the ladder. There were working class MPs. But this has changed. Many of the most important and influential of our politicians have jumped straight from higher education into parliament. Worst still, many are the appointees of our leaders, people who were chums of Tony Blair or are pals of Dave and George. These people are parachuted into safe seats knowing that they will be elected, and they owe their allegiance to the people who 'appointed' them.
This process means that more and more of the people who sit in parliament are hand-picked by a small ruling clique. No one else can get a look in. Its as if the House of Commons is set up like the House of Lords. Sure, you can vote for people, but only people chosen by Dave, or Nick, or Ed. Put like that, its a chilling thought, and what does it say about our democracy? I'm not suggesting this is the whole story because I don't believe that these politicians rule on their own. The new ruling class is an alliance of these leading politicians and big business leaders (capitalists, increasingly from the financial sector). What matters is that we are talking about a cabal of people who have things sewn up, and act in their interests - not the interests of the people in the UK. The resulting irony is that Britain is becoming more like Egypt, with a rotten self-perpetuating elite and a fraudulent democracy, just as Egypt struggles to become, more like how Britain is supposed to be.
What suits this ruling group is a narrow neo-liberal right wing ideology dressed up as economic necessity i.e. the usual suspects - privatisation, de-regulation, ending welfare and pensions etc. - which amounts to a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the elite - the rich and the big corporations. No wonder we are being told to tighten our belts, we are facing the biggest heist in history.
Its not just the fact that our democracy has been subverted by this new ruling alliance that we should be concerned about. Its the fact that some of these 'chums' are unfit to be in positions of power, and never would have been, if they'd had to go through a normal selection process. One topical example that springs to mind is Michael Gove, Minister for Education, and chum of David Cameron, who was parachuted into parliament because Dave thought he was a good egg. But Gove is a deluded right-wing crank who draws his inspiration from Tom Brown's Schooldays. His latest potty idea, that parents should break the teachers strike on June 30th by taking over schools, shows exactly what sort of extremist he now is. Take a look at this priceless photo, which shows just what sort of 'extremist' he used to be.
We can end this situation, but only by re-asserting control over our political parties and our democracy. By using our votes wisely and judiciously at election time and fighting for change. Its going to be a long hard struggle, and we need to get started now!