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New Elites: A Career in the Masses Paperback – 29 Sep 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gibson Square; New Ed edition (29 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903933854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903933855
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,214,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


'Rousing, funny.'
-- John Tulsa, Independent

'You have to read it.' -- Andrew Marr, Telegraph

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Britain is governed by an oligarchy of professional egalitarians,
many of them from privileged backgrounds, whose power and wealth
increasingly depends on the more or less cynical exploitation of populism
in politics, the media and the arts. While in power, the Tory
Party--lamenting low educational standards and intoning sombrely about
family values--had been happy to endorse the increased commercialisation of
television. The profits would go largely to friends of the Party, while for
reasons too obvious to recite their own children would be spared much of
the cultural squalor that crudely populist TV programmes would encourage.

Even so, who would have predicted that an Etonian of three years
parliamentary standing (whose experience of life had been predominantly as
a PR executive for a TV company notorious for its low standards) would be
elected leader of the Conservative party? That person would until recently
have been denounced as a cynic. And if they had, furthermore, suggested
that one of the first things a future contender for the Tory leadership
would do would be to share with us the contents of his iPod and enthuse
about his favourite single, they would have been laughed off as a hopeless

Reality has, in fact, turned out to be a caricature. For the first
time in our history both major political parties are now led by what are
inverted elites: well-born, privately educated men who vie with one another
in affecting populist attitudes. Being from a superior social caste to
Blair, it is in the logic of the new elites that Cameron should stoop
lower, and so he does. A trivial example is their choice of records on
Desert Island Disks: whereas Blair included three classical recordings in
his choices Cameron trumped him by having none at all.

Cameron is to some extent the political expression of the Princess
Diana phenomenon. Diana was the patron saint of these new elites, and
Cameron has clearly learned a lot from her. They not only look a little
alike--it seems to me--but, it has been written, may be distantly related.
She spooned with the masses, and so does he. Both are upper-class figures
who nevertheless contrive to lay claim to victim status: Diana exploited
her difficulties with the royal family to gain public sympathy, and
Cameron, somewhat distastefully, makes political play with his disabled

The politics of sentiment increasingly dominate public discussion, and
sentimentality tinged with cynicism was what Diana was about. The same is
true of Cameron's social politics. The cant of the new elites emerges with
numbing shamelessness in his public declarations. Recently the one-time PR
man for ruthlessly profitable trash TV made a heartfelt speech in which he
said that money wasn't everything--and that the quality of our culture
mattered. In his more mawkish mode it is possible to discern in the
Conservative leader's political pitch a faint echo of Diana's Christ-like
affectations. With her it was a scrupulously choreographed contact with
people sick with Aids. With Cameron it is an ostentatious tolerance of the
lower orders: suffer the hoodies and the hoodlums to come unto me.

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20 May 2001
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29 September 2006
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