Golly Ghosh: Blame Cameron's policies not background

Dame Helen Ghosh, one of Whitehall’s most senior civil servants, has come out this week to sensationally claim that Cameron runs his government with “an Eton-Oxford old boys” clique”

Dame Helen Ghosh
Alexandra Swann
On 3 November 2012 13:12

I am writing this column from a wine bar at Waterloo station. Station wine bars are strange places; the sense of transience emanates from every overpriced glass of red. They are not somewhere you would choose to frequent, only somewhere in which you pass time, numbing the boredom of clockwatching and train waiting. 

This is all rather frustrating, but my woes subside when I consider just how minor these temporary irritations are when compared to those of our beloved Prime Minister, David Cameron.

When Cameron became leader of the Conservatives in 2005 he was hailed as their bright new hope, the man to turn around their fortunes and save our country from Labour's overspending and general ineptitude.

Cameron set out to “modernise” the Conservative party and followed that age old trick of thinking that promoting diversity, in the name of female MPs, would change the image of his party; “Cameron’s Cuties” followed “Blair’s Babes”.

But as we all know, 2010 saw Cameron fail to gain a majority, pushing him to launch a hastily constructed coalition which has presided over u-turns, mismanagement, embarrassing public spats between the “partners”, a stream of ministerial resignations and regular accusations that his cabinet, admittedly stuffed with millionaires, is increasingly out of touch with its electorate.

To make matters worse, Dame Helen Ghosh, one of Whitehall’s most senior civil servants, has come out this week to sensationally claim that Cameron runs his government with “an Eton-Oxford old boys” clique”.

But is it fair to criticise politicians for their good fortune of a brilliant education and enduring friendships? The media revel in peddling such criticism but I say no; Eton bashing is as populist and ignorant as ill-informed banker bashing and the very suggestion of female quotas is patronising at best, deeply damaging to the feminist cause at worst.  

Dame Ghosh, having risen to the higher echelons of the civil service herself, is living proof that women with talent can rise to the top. To inflict arbitrary gender quotas, as the EU is considering doing, is to encourage an antipathy to the very meritocracy such sentiments are intended to create.

Unfortunately, between Osborne's transport escapades and “plebgate”, the Conservatives do themselves no favours. To make matters worse, we are barely out of recession, youth unemployment is rocket high and barely a week goes by without a u-turn.

The real problem is that their policies are as bad as their PR.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I am currently working out of Roger Helmer MEP's constituency office which happens to be a stone’s throw from Corby, allowing me to spend my spare time campaigning in aid of Margot Parker, UKIP candidate for the 15th November by-election.

Dame Ghosh might care to note that this by-election was indeed caused by the departure of an archetypal “Cameron cutie”, Louise Mensch. Not only has Mrs. Mensch followed Baroness Warsi and Chloe Smith MP in proving that promoting individuals for their diversity appeal rather than their talent often leads to downfall, but my weekends out on the doorstep have proved to me what we all know.

Outside of Westminster, few people actually care about where the Prime Minister went to school or whether there is a proportionate number of women representing the electorate.

The people in Corby are the ones suffering the most as a result of the recession, high unemployment, open door immigration and welfare cuts.

They care about fixing the economy so their children can find jobs, not about badgers, gay marriage or Lords reform. Yes Cameron is out of touch, indeed the vast majority of Parliament are and certainly the Labour front bench, but this is because of misdirected, rubbish policies rather than Cameron’s “old-Etonian clique”.

Although I think Dame Ghosh is utterly wrong, my experience in Corby does lead me to believe that the coalition would benefit from having a member who has felt the true fear of poverty.

Bashing Cameron for who his friends are is shoddy, but the idea that he deserves criticism is irrefutable.

Alexandra Swann works in the European Parliament and tweets @AlexandraLSwann

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