I was listening to a rich bastard on the radio explaining why he was feeling disinclined to give any more of his money to the Conservative party. The term ‘rich bastard’ is the one which I was habituated to use when I was a member of the Labour party and which I have disinterred now to give my opening sentence a little more punch. It was axiomatic to us that anyone with sufficient dosh to consider squandering a few hundred thou on a political party must be a bastard and was both immoral and undeserving of his wealth. Wealth in any shape or form appalled us in an almost Freudian fashion – Sigmund, you may recall, equated potty training with the accumulation of money, and the supposedly subconscious link between faeces and money has never quite been expunged from the left. The rich are still seen, rancorously and jealously, as the enemy.
Indeed, the left goes even further these days and does not like to see people who are simply reasonably comfortable and who use the food bank only because it’s a little closer to home than Waitrose and the stuff is usefully free. It is a very odd sort of selling point for a political party – to make yourself the implacable enemy of hard work, success, good luck, happiness etc. But that is what the left has done and that distrust of wealth has migrated to the centre and the centre-right parties, too, both here and across much of western Europe.
Increasingly policies are geared towards benefiting the stupid and the bone idle, or people who have made ‘questionable life choices’. There is no notion of a deserving poor any more – those who have done the right things and work hard but are still skint and could maybe do with a bit of a leg-up from the state. Virtue now tends to be viewed with suspicion and penalised rather than rewarded. The success of capitalism, unforeseen by Marx and Engels, was its adaptability, and its receptiveness to the notion that it must shift from the necessarily rather brutal system in its early untrammelled form to the welfare capitalism we have today.
But it can shift too far – and that seems to be happening now. Welfare capitalism today is concerned with subsidising a magnificently useless underclass, which is in truth a very small proportion of society, and ensuring that the virtuous poor pay for them through their taxes. At the same time, any indication of acquired wealth is looked upon darkly. Look for a moment at the odium heaped upon both Rishi Sunak and Nadhim Zahawi. Meanwhile, Kemi Badenoch is reviled on the left for having prospered from a more modest background without having clambered into any one of the Labour party’s victim bunkers. Labour loves only failure. I assume that’s why it holds the NHS in such high regard.
The rich bastard on the radio had been dismayed by the Conservative party of late and especially its array of ghastly people vying for the job of leader. Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat aside, none have offered much in the way of verve, articulacy or original thought. The rather brittle Penny Mordaunt resembles, for me, a slightly harried public relations executive in a medium to small company, one which perhaps manufactures venetian blinds or wall plugs. She is not even remotely a Conservative, but is perhaps what a certain tranche of Tory leftists wish the party to become: kind of Lib Dem lite. It strikes me as absurd that she should cavil at ‘toxic’ revelations about her stance on such stuff as transgender rights, when all that has been done is to repeat her views so that people become aware of just how gloriously, unashamedly woke she is. She would be an abject disaster at the next general election, possessing absolutely nothing which might appeal to those Red Wall voters in the North and Midlands. The only question which remains for Penny is: did she really believe that ‘trans men are men’, as she once announced in the House of Commons, and has since changed her mind – or was she just parroting the approved drivel because she thought she had to? Not that it matters. Life is too short to delve into Penny’s psyche.
Badenoch and Tugendhat would have provided Conservative party members with a beguiling choice – but sadly they were pitching their bids to the most obtuse electorate in the country, one which cannot see its own annihilation approaching closer every day.
The rich bastard on the radio was part of a trend of Conservative donors deciding to be a little more circumspect with their wonga. They did not much like Boris Johnson’s disorganisation and are even less impressed with whoever might step into those shoes, Badenoch perhaps excepted. How do I know this? Because I spend a reasonably large proportion of my life taking the train down to London in order to solicit money for the Social Democratic party from very rich people.
It is a job to which I am not wholly suited. I have no problem at all in being obsequious, or grovelling. But I find it difficult to lie about my own party: we are on the smallish side and probably not quite poised to take hold of the levers of power. I also cannot ask, outright, for money. It seems rude. So I skirt around the issue and grin too much. Usually I leave empty-handed and am always tempted to say, as I walk out of the door: ‘Look mate, can’t you just bung us that Caravaggio you’ve got in the downstairs khazi?’
More recently, though, I’ve found a certain receptiveness – the consequence of an epic disillusion with the Conservatives. Two fairly major Tory donors will announce very shortly that they are climbing aboard the SDP’s marvellous ship of state. They know we are still a quite small party, but they also know that we stand for something and that, for us, virtue is not a crime.
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