For many outside her blessed shores, Britain is a cold, little enigma where some muddied twist of history has permitted a hereditary monarchy to continue existing alongside the Internet. If the British Isles were the USS Enterprise, someone would have declared we had been drawn into a tear in the space-time continuum decades ago.
But it’s not all good for the ruling class, as evidenced by the public jeering which has ensued this week as the Tory government lost a vote to attack Syria in the Commons. I have no problem with a spot of posh-bashing. It is both apropos and healthy in my view. Indeed, the sight of the cabinet’s collective bottom lips last week has been especially satisfying.
I was raised to mock, loathe and pity toffs as the most deviant class in Britain and I have always tried to do so. Apart from a spell in the army, that is, during which I had to bury my hatred of posh-boys before a cast of officers with first names like Tarquin, Gemima and Hugo.
The habit of labor had had the effect of ingraining in my young mind the idea that, far from being a species happily tottering on the edge of extinction due to interbreeding, such people were naturally occurring. At least in Britain where, unlike the United States, for example, the old money is actually old and is self-assured in a way that only the dreaming spires of Oxford can impart.
Cameron, brought low this last week, is such a person. I saw him once in Afghanistan, in all his preppy glory, as he stood amid a veritable phalanx of Special Forces guards as that week’s visiting dignitary.
Then Leader of the Opposition, the Tory chief wore the same crumpled shirt and preposterous cords which comprise the off-duty uniform of Britain’s upper middle, all the way through to Prince William. Cameron’s hair was longer then, but no less disconcerting. He had the pallor you might expect of a man who is rumoured to be re-poured weekly by waxologists from Madame Tussauds.
I looked into his eyes that day and the abyss stared back into me patrician-like. I realized again why I had hate toffs, more than virtually anything else on earth.
My fellow soldiers and I had worked all day in the dust and heat to prepare a little display. Cameron walked away without a word or a glance at our efforts, and I watched his rise from power from there. He was elected as Prime Minister while I languished in prison for resisting that very war, one which he was to take up with all the long-range gusto which typifies recent UK Prime Ministers.
A fifth cousin twice removed of the Queen , the wealth which David Cameron enjoys is partially based on the sacking of India under the long-lived military occupation we refer to as the Raj . This is particularly relevant here as, apart from his regular showings at the head of delegations of arms dealers , my interest in Dave as a distinct specimen really came about when he cried ‘looting’ after the London Riots of 2011.
The term ‘looting’, I discovered, was itself looted from British India, apparently derived from the Hindi term Luthati, meaning to sack or plunder. It is true today that a British soldier deployed to Afghanistan can sit in a sangar (small bunker), drinking char (tea) within easy reach of his gat (rifle) and have no idea that these workaday military terms were plundered by his forebears alongside the subcontinent’s wealth.
This not-knowing seems equally to apply to Cameron for him, the progeny of looters, enriched and elevated by looting and currently in the process of looting Britain’s welfare state, to then denounce looting on television.
This is not to say a man is liable for the sins of his ancestors – not that he would see them as sins at all. There is no need to labour such an argument in the Prime Minister’s case. His own pilfering is damning enough. However, a brief glance at his ignoble line does illuminate the origins and, in a sense, the point of David Cameron and his breed.
To be fair though, not all of the wealth which saw him through Eton and Oxford, and perhaps paid bar bills for the Bullingdon Club, from which a prominent section of his cabinet is drawn, came from subjugating India. Indeed, some of it comes from slavery. Cameron’s family lobbied for and were awarded substantial compensation for freed slaves, when finally that vicious practice was made illegal.
So while Dave lacks Boris Johnson’s edge or Michael Gove’s ‘No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” glare, and unlike George Osborne he doesn’t permanently look like he’s on the cusp of a snivel, he is in some ways more toxic for his blandness.
The reason that there was nothing discernibly human when I looked into his eyes then, and the reason he is more than just a class enemy in the rhetorical sense, is that David Cameron was literally born to rule over the likes of me. He is a case study in the distillation of a centuries-old British ruling class.
It is for precisely these reasons that it was so exquisite to see him looking as sour as a pack of bulldogs sucking wasps off nettles last week. Though this is a much more selfish pleasure than the knowledge that British bombs will not fall on Syrian kids quite yet.