Monday, 19 October 2015

Charles Moore, the "posh goddess" Diane Abbott, and my two Labourite university chums

This reminiscence from Charles Moore in this week's Spectator (here) brought back memories of thrusting young Labour hopefuls I knew at Cambridge:
"When I arrived at Cambridge in 1975, a nervous freshman, I remember walking with a friend past Newnham and being introduced to a third-year undergraduate. She was attractive, witty, confident, well-connected, at home in the world of the ‘glittering prizes’ (the irritating phrase which gave its name to Frederick Raphael’s novel of that time). I envied her poise. Her name was Diane Abbott. Later, making many sacrifices for her career, she changed her accent, became ‘working-class’, and had a relationship with Jeremy Corbyn, but for me she will always be Diane, the posh goddess."

Two of my closest friends at Cambridge seemed destined for successful careers in politics. They were both Labour Party members who became chairmen of the Labour Club, and few of us doubted that they'd both end up in a Labour cabinet or shadow cabinet, probably as (shadow) Home Secretary and (shadow) Chancellor.

One of my politically-minded friends,  an economics post-graduate,  came from impeccable lower-middle/working-class London stock - his dad was a printer. He was comfortable with his background, talked about it openly and with affection, but never (as far as I can remember) claimed any sort of left-wing "authenticity" on its account. His easily imitable accent - a mixture of lower-class London and hoity-toity Oxbridge academic - was, I suppose, what used to be known as "Mayfair cockney". It was oddly endearing (as, indeed, was he), and sounded as if it had just ended up that way without any calculated modification. It was simply the way he spoke. He was at his funniest when anger or disgust would see him revert entirely to his roots. I can still hear him growling as he referred to a political enemy - a bearded Liverpudlian left-winger with severely impaired vision - as a "silly blind old cunt". I imagine he'd have been good at dealing with the communist union leaders who eventually destroyed the Labour Party a few years' later.  And he would undoubtedly have been a gift to Mike Yarwood.

I never saw him dressed in anything other than an old dark-blue suit, crumpled white shirt and skinny tie (probably red to denote his political leanings). He was invariably baggy, messy and imperfectly shaved: he looked as if his clothes - and the rest of him - needed a good iron and a bit of a polish.

My other friend was a middle-class chap from Walton-on-Thames, whose father was a fairly senior civil servant, and who had been to school with me at KCS, Wimbledon. He had a standard educated South London accent, which, I noticed, he only ramped up to full posh when trying to crush an opponent in an argument, and which he dropped a few rungs down the social scale when addressing an audience of earnest young socialists. I don't think any of this was deliberate. Although his family lived in a large house in a pleasant suburb, he never mentioned this fact, but chose instead to bang on about his working-class left-wing grandfather, who had, in his youth, "fought the police" in Bristol, because they were instruments of the brutal capitalist boss class... or some such old bollocks. Given how often we heard about this supposed example of class warfare in action (which might of course have simply been an example of yobbish hooliganism) one might have imagined that fighting the police was his grandfather's chosen profession. Whatever, the ever-present memory of granddad's brave struggle against the forces of law and order evidently helped fuel his extreme left-wingery. He made a great effort to be chummy with the young men who served up our grub in college, which, unsurprisingly, seemed to embarrass them.

Neither of my friends carved out any sort of career in politics. The printer's son made the mistake of identifying Roy Hattersley as a future Labour leader, became a teacher at a distinguished private boarding school, decamped, first, to the SDLP, and is now a local councillor> He is, naturally, a Tory. The civil servant's son moved ineluctably leftwards, but neither practiced at the Bar (which had been his plan) nor became a politician. I've no idea what went wrong, as his brand of middle-class extreme left-wingery was all the rage in the Labour Party during the decade after he left university. Although there's no suggestion that he modified his political views, he was making a real name for himself in the Lord Chancellor's department (mainly under arch-Tory, Lord Hailsham) when he died. He might, I suppose, have risen to real prominence under Tony Blair - but not, presumably, as an MP. (My friend's younger brother became a Labour MP when Blair swept to power in 1997.)

So here's what I can't figure out. How did neither of these two extremely clever, articulate, energetic, charming, ambitious young men fail to make careers in front-line politics, while a charmless, dim-witted, hypocritical, nonsense-spouting waste of space like Diane Abbott is a front bench spokesperson, and is never off our fucking television screens? Mind you, I suppose we should be thankful that Labour seems to have such an unerring instinct for promoting its most gormless representatives.


  1. Um... is it 'cos SHE if BLACK? as Mr Baron-Cohen might have said.

    Wait.. that wasn't a trick question, was it? Is there a prize?

  2. I once invited the young man from Walton-on-Thames to a cup of Rosy Lee.hoping that a nice cuppa in an upper working class end-of-terrace would be just the ticket to take his mind off all those enormous houses nearby with their manicured lawns,full of the ghastly middle classes sticking pins into effigies of Harold Wilson.
    Now we know.
    I was in awe of his I.Q.The smartest thing I did was never to discuss politics with him,instead regarding his position (which many regarded as a teensy weensy bit spurious) as a huge joke.
    Sorry that his does not answer your question Mr.Gronmark;If it was not for the notion we all treasure that education like politics is completely meritocratic,and people are never ever 'pushed up' because of the colour of their skin-perish the thought-one may be inclined to agree with GCooper.

  3. May I also add that the young man in question was not only enormously clever,but was a really decent bloke.

    1. He certainly was when he was in his teens, once you got him to stop the commie posturing. I think you were more successful at that than I was.

      I met up with him a few times after that and, as the Blogmeister says, he had gone even further to the left and was even more determined to let you know it. Oddly, as Quintin Hogg's Private Secretary, he had a ceremonial role for the State Opening of Parliament which required him to wear a rather fetching uniform of black tights, buckled shoes and breeches and to walk backwards, as if some anti-Marxist deity with a sense of humour and a good memory had decided to play a cruel trick on him. He didn't find mild joshing about it very funny.

      I think there was a bit of a public scandal about his campaign for the leadership of the Cambridge University Labour Association, which I assume was what scuppered his intended political career. In today's Labour Party it is more likely to be a qualification for high office. Judging by the Shadow Cabinet, it's not entirely clear exactly what selection criteria they use other than general unpleasantness, class-hatred and dogmatic mediocrity. Ms Abbott should do well.

  4. Just to satisfy my curiosity, was the Walton on Thames chap's brother called Howard?

  5. I think her colour must have helped her career enormously, and nothing else would explain her success (within the Labour Party and the BBC). She has certainly not been shy about bringing up the subject, and has made some rather racist comments about white people which, had the shoe been on the other foot, would have seen her expelled from the Labour Party. I thought she was in trouble when it emerged in 2003 that she was sending her son to a £10,000 a year private school rather than to one of the vibrant comprehensives in her constituency - but obviously, I'd underestimated just how much hypocrisy left-wing egalitarians can get away with as long as they spout the correct opinions. I know it's old news now, but her later attempts to justify her actions threw up some interesting views about white people:

    "I’m a West Indian mum and West Indian mums will go to the wall for their children. It’s that kind of atavistic streak that we have. I can see them in the market on a Saturday morning. A kind of ‘touch my children and we’ll turn quite difficult’...Interestingly, until now, it’s the one thing that’s got me the most positive response from black women locally. They would come up to me and shake my hand. Because ultimately in their eyes it’s about doing the right thing for their children. But obviously people from other cultures didn’t see it that way at all."

    Actually, you horrible, phoney, posturing, racist creep, "people from other cultures" (that would be us white folk, by the way) have exactly the same attitude to our children - the main differences being that white fathers tend to stay around to look after their children rather than deserting their families, and white mothers seem somewhat more adept at stopping their offspring joining gangs.

    No doubt this ghastly blabbermouth has torn a strip off Jeremy Corbyn for divorcing his wife when she tried to do the best for their son by refusing to send him to the local - failing - comprehensive.

    Anyway, Abbott made one particularly telling point - she said attending private school had been "the making of" her son. In which case, it's rather hard to understand why she's so determined to prevent other people making a financial sacrifice in order to provide their children with the advantage enjoyed by her little darling. She can't have wanted him to have an unfair advantage in life, can she? And isn't it odd that so many non-atavistic white people who - she implies - couldn't care less about their children are nevertheless prepared to pay a bloody fortune to give their kids the best start? For his sake, I hope Diane Abbott's son hasn't inherited her looks or her brains.

    The friend I refer to in my blog had two children. I've no idea where they were educated. And, yes, there were question marks over his election, which were covered in The Guardian and would have done him no good at all - especially as his campaign manager was a right-wing Labourite. When he subsequently ran for the presidency of the Union Society, relying on a personal vote, he did very badly, and that might have persuaded him that party politics might not be a suitable route to the top.

    Looking through a list of presidents of the Cambridge Labour Club, I spotted the name of Tim Stanley (2003) - who turns out to be the conservative (Cameroonian variety) journalist who writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator. This evidence of people (half) coming to their senses always cheers me up - and explains why Stanley is so spectacularly wet and liberal on some subjects: the virus hasn't entirely left his system.

  6. Thank you very much for not publishing a photograph of Ms Abbott [ If you write about the unravelling scandal about Kid's Company could you repeat the favour with regard to Batman and Botney - the latter currently swanning around Venice with his chum Howard Jacobson talking cock. If Batman can get through £46 M of taxpayers money without having to account for it can you imagine what Abbot could do with £ 17 B + over at DfID?].

    I have been reading about the Great Megamouth Shark which was discovered in 1976 which was the same year that Ms Abbott started her career as an administration trainee at the Home Office [I wonder what they do?]. The female Megamouth can grow up to 1,250 kg, has a huge gob obviously and tiny teeth and is scheduled for extinction as it fulfils no obvious purpose [it basically hangs suspended under the surface of the ocean with its jaws apart waiting for jelly-fish. The jelly fish diet gives it a dark, glistening sheen]. So there is some hope, I suppose. Surely this stupid cow cannot go on for much longer?

    1. I hate to think how many civil servants with double starred firsts in Mathematics will be required to explain to the Great Megamouth MP what all those noughts actually mean. They'd probably end up translating it into terms she can understand - such as cheeseburgers and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. But that'll only be when she's recovered from the shock of learning that there's no such thing as a Magic Money Tree.

  7. Race is a Social Construct and Racial Affirmative Action is a Social Imperative.