Peter Oborne’s new book is entitled The Triumph of the Political Class. It will be published in England on 17 September. He has an interesting piece in the Spectator on the demise of England’s Establishment and what has come in its place (the political class).
England, of course, is rather different from the U.S. in terms of the kind Establishment it once had. But you still might find some disturbing similarities:
Though the eclipse of the Establishment is well-documented, the Political Class which replaced it is so far poorly understood. This is regrettable because the Political Class has come to occupy the same public space that the Establishment was supposed to until the end of the 20th century. This new class now stands at the pinnacle of the British social and economic structure. It sets social conventions, and demarcates the boundaries against which both public and private behaviour are defined. Unlike the old Establishment, the Political Class depends directly or indirectly on the state for its special privileges, career structure and increasingly for its financial support. This visceral connection distinguishes it from all previous British governing elites, which were connected much more closely to civil society and were frequently hostile or indifferent to central government. Until recent times members of British ruling elites owed their status to the position they occupied outside Westminster. Today, in an important reversal, it is the position they occupy in Westminster that grants them their status in civil society.
The Political Class is distinguished from earlier governing elites by a lack of experience of and connection with other ways of life. Its members make government their exclusive study. This means they tend not to have significant knowledge of industry, commerce, or civil society, meaning their outlook is often metropolitan and London-based. This converts them into a separate, privileged elite, isolated from the aspirations and the problems of provincial, rural and suburban Britain.
And does this remind you of any group of people in the U.S.?:
The pure and disinterested quality which lies at the heart of friendship is alien to the Political Class. Personal courtesies do exist, but they are tailored to power. Casual acquaintances with something to offer – holiday villas to stay in, celebrity endorsements, expensive gifts, or cash for party machines – are rapidly treated as close friends. However the Political Class is negligent when it comes to people of no utility. They are avoided as if they possessed some kind of infectious illness. When the politician Fiona Jones, who served as a Labour MP from 1997 to 2001, died earlier this year, apparently from alcoholism, not a single MP attended her funeral.