Why I am NQOCD

In a rational world, politicians would be hated for their failures, and this does occasionally happen – Chamberlain will forever be associated with appeasement and Narvik. But more normally, they are hated simply for who they are. Most people who hate Sarah Palin have no idea of what she may have done as Governor of Alaska – they hate her for the way she speaks, the way she dresses, etc. This is particularly the case in Britain, where it is so easy to fall afoul of multiple overlapping class viewpoints – most politicians will be disliked by half of their own party, let alone the country as a whole. As Professor Higgins said, “the moment [an Englishman] talks he makes another Englishman despise him.”

The occasional politician is lucky enough to be hated for his successes – these are the first rank, who substantially changed society for better or worse. William III committed no atrocities, ended any notions of Plantation and gave peace, stability and economic growth to Ireland. But the Catholics hate him anyway – because he won the war and drove James out. We can see this in the 20th century with figures such as Lloyd George, Attlee, etc.

But once in a great while, a politician manages to be hated for all three reasons. At this point an unquenchable torrent of hate bursts its banks, and even the mildest action immediately becomes Satanic. The finest example of this in modern Britain is, of course, Baroness Thatcher.

Thatcher’s first sin was to be resolutely middle-class, thus earning her the scorn of the Tory grandees and liberal upper-middle classes. Baroness Warnock spoke for the latter when she talked about Thatcher’s “patronising elocution voice [and] neat well-groomed clothes and hair, packaged together in a way that’s not exactly vulgar, just low. [It fills me with] a kind of rage.” But I always thought the most interesting insult was that she had “the mentality of a housewife” – like all insults, of course, it says far more about the attackers than the target. What makes it fascinating to me is not just the political stupidity of it (there are lots of housewives, and they vote!) but the mentality it reveals. There are plenty of negative stereotypes of women, but a housewife is probably the most positive of all stereotypes in the popular imagination – that she was actually attacked for coming across as thrifty, domestic, stable and down-to-earth demonstrates how large was the gap between the Liberal Establishment and the popular mindset in the 1970s.

In a past age of deference, Tory patricians had been able to speak for the nation, but this was no longer so. Lord Stockton (about whom I will write more in a later post) famously attacked Thatcher’s policies as being like selling the family Canalettos – a comment that speaks volumes. The key was that the working class saw middle class values and lifestyles as worthy of emulation, not enmity – indeed, this is probably the biggest change in British society since 1970, and one which Thatcher’s government accelerated. Although Thatcher’s background and personality annoyed grandees and Guardianistas alike, it spoke powerfully to ordinary people. When Thatcher said that people of her background needed grammar schools to compete with the privilege of Shirley Williams and Tony Benn, she gave probably the clearest articulation of popular hostility to the leftist elites who claimed to represent the people.

And it is a statement that has enduring relevance today, when we see talk of the regulatory state and the ruling class. Gladstone, ancestor to the Liberal Establishment, famously said that he would back “the masses against the classes,” which is exactly what his spiritual descendants think they do now. But it is the job of popular Conservatism to wrest that mantle from them, because the true division is not middle class against working class, but the broad middle classes against an insular elite. That was the class dynamic of Thatcherism, and for that she earned the undying class hatred of the progressive left.

TBC in a future post.

Advertisements

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] About « Why I am NQOCD […]

    Reply

  2. […] previously stated, the left hated Thatcher for her personality. But what makes the hatred fever-pitched is the nature […]

    Reply

  3. […] February 24, 2011 by I am not… in Uncategorized. Leave a Comment This blog is on the first page of results if you google the term “NQOCD.” In fact, it’s the […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: