“What on earth are the Tories doing speaking about equality? It’s not their issue.” To this I say “nonsense”. We’re not just the party of the first Jewish prime minister and the first female prime minister;… David Cameron*
David Cameron wrote an important article in the Guardian, which was a politically adroit statement of what he believes to be Conservative ‘equality’ policies (2015). Politically it’s difficult to understate its importance. The current (2015) attacks on the benefits of the working poor are, he claims, part of a beneficial long-term plan for their ultimate benefit. Political observers know that when prime ministers write articles they don’t make off-the-cuff statements. Each word is weighed and analysed. Prime ministerial articles and speeches matter. So what did he mean by “We’re not just the party of the first Jewish prime minister and the first female prime minister…?”
Cameron’s article is disingenuous. He wants to rebrand the Conservatives as the party of equality. He cites Benjamin Disraeli, as the first British Jewish prime minister and Margaret Thatcher as examples of Conservative equality. Whilst it’s true that Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first, and only, female prime minister it’s untrue that Benjamin Disraeli was a Jewish prime minister. In 1868 Disraeli was a 64 year old Christian who had been a Christian convert since he was twelve. Quite how that makes him Jewish is beyond me. Cameron speaks as though a gap of 111 years between two ‘equality’ defining events** is a triviality and one of those important ‘equality events’ turns out to be untrue at worst and a deliberate misstatement at best. ‘Normal’ Conservative prime ministers are neither Jews or women. There have been twelve Conservative prime ministers between 1868 and 2015. Six, including Cameron, went to Eton College (an elite private school) and seven studied at Oxford University.
Since 2015 Cameron has had the sole power to nominate cabinet members. So how have his ‘equality’ aspirations been revealed? Twelve of the twenty-two members of Cameron’s cabinet have been privately educated (the comparative UK figure is 7% of the population). Ten, like him, went to Oxford University, out of the 116 universities in the UK. Even the elite Russell Group of sixteen universities (excluding Oxford) only provide another seven cabinet members. Cameron inhabits a closed political world, which is the antidote of equality, his alleged ambition.
Cameron’s article was brilliant and issued a clarion call for action, he writes:
But for all the legislation we have passed, discrimination still persists. It’s no longer signs on doors that say “no blacks allowed”; it’s quieter and more subtle discrimination. It’s the disappointment of not getting your first choice of university place; it’s being passed over for promotion and not knowing why; it’s organisations that recruit in their own image and aren’t confident enough to do something different, like employing a disabled person or a young black man or woman. In my opinion, you won’t change these attitudes simply through more laws, but in smarter, more innovative ways.
Meanwhile back on Planet Cameron, his cabinet is a mirror image of himself, presumably because he isn’t ‘confident enough to do something different’ as he puts it so eloquently himself.
Cameron is an adroit politician and utterly unscrupulous. He and his advisers know how to write superb articles and deliver brilliant speeches, which if they were sincere would command my admiration. He is completely insincere. It’s shaming that the throwaway claim that Benjamin Disraeli was Jewish should be so revealing of the inner-Cameron reality: a man who will claim anything so long as it promotes his career.
The Guardian is usually thought of being ‘left’ of David Cameron’s Conservative Party.
**A jaundiced reader might say that ‘equality events’ that happen once in 111 years (his chosen time-scale) demonstrate Conservative inequality.