GW: Obviously I wouldn't suggest that the culture of condescension can explain the riots. I'm claiming they are an aspect of it.
GW: It's partly education but mostly the media, and above all television. It's tiresome to have to remind people but what had David Cameron done before becoming prime minister? The only job he had was with the trashiest TV company around, Carlton, in which he was the PR man and I remember one of the shows he was promoting was called A Woman's Guide to Adultery.
Now I'm not condemning that programme. Someone is going to do that-Richard Desmond, he does it. Unlike David Cameron, Richard Desmond does not get up and make high-sounding speeches a few years later, quite oblivious, it seems, to the fact that there may be some contradiction with his previous behaviour. That has a certain symbolic value because it's not just him, it's his friends. Let's not get too deeply into the News of the World, but look at that circle. What were those people doing? And the very presence of someone like Andy Coulson in No 10 is sociologically fascinating because here is a man from a very different background who is appropriated, let us say, by Cameron basically as part of his cultural condescension, i.e. to get through and ingratiate himself with the masses.
As it happens, I fought a battle over quality television and had huge arguments with Mrs Thatcher on precisely this theme. What I said to her and my fellow ministers at a lunch at No 10 was: "You cannot go around preaching about the importance of education and sell off television franchises to the highest bidder," which is what she proposed to do. The other ministers were appalled that I'd contradicted her so bluntly, but later she invited me for a private drink. We argued again, she got the point, and introduced a quality threshold. Now, can you imagine doing that with Cameron? I think he'd say, "Oh George, you're being frightfully elitist."
NC: Aren't you and Daniel arguing against the market? I used to mock businessmen who accused critics of anything from Big Macs to pornography of being elitist. Look at these guys in their suits and their cars. How dare they use the language of radicalism and revolution? But in their own terms, what they were saying was, we are the market. We give consumers what they want, if they don't like it they don't have to buy it, no one forces them. So aren't traditional Conservatives in a bind that they don't quite recognise?
When your Conservative colleagues argued against you and said: "Come on George, why shouldn't we sell off television? If a station doesn't produce programmes that people like it will go bust," they were arguing for the market. I suspect you don't like it and I suspect Daniel doesn't like it but you can't bring yourselves to say that actually we need to be a bit more statist, we need more controls on the market, because your ideology prevents you from saying that.
- The Socialism of Fools
- Putting A Value On Human And Animal Life
- American Jews and the Defence of Western Civilisation
- Is China Really a Threat to us?
- Will Germany be a Divided Nation Again?
- Europe, America and the Coalition
- Incurable Romantics
- Staving Off Despair: On the Use and Abuse of Pessimism for Life
- Can the Atlantic Coalition Hold?
- Has Britain Found a Role Yet?
- Life, Death and the Meaning of Cancer?
- Is the Party Really Over for Labour?
- Should Baby Boomers Feel the Pinch?
- Will the Tories Give us the Schools We Deserve?
- What Would Keynes Say?
- How European are the British?
- Speaking Truth Unto the BBC
- Booking a Place in History
- When Britain Feared the Blackshirts
- Brown’s Britain is Bankrupt