By David Seymour
It seems hard to believe, but this lot are worse than Thatcher. She thought there was no such thing as society and destroyed working-class communities to prove it. But she left intact most of the social structure of what the middle classes think of as British.
David Cameron says there is such a thing as society but he patently hasn’t got a clue what it is. I didn’t used to accept that his highly privileged upbringing – and those of most of his cabinet – meant he was divorced from reality, but I was wrong.
He has attacked such sacred cows that he has unleashed an extraordinary backlash from the middle classes who feel that crucial foundations of our civilisation are under threat. Listen to Radio Four’s You and Yours on the closure of libraries. Look at the people who have gone on demonstrations against the sell-off of forests. Consider why so many previously contented young people are taking to the streets.
John Major was mocked for reminiscing about a bygone Britain of warm beer and cricket on the village green. At least he had a vision.
What does Cameron think this country is? Not tolerant, that’s for sure. Not after his “bash a Muslim” speech, a far cry from the “hug a hoodie” message. You probably wouldn’t expect better from a Tory, though.
What you would expect from a Conservative is an appreciation of certain basic aspects of British values. One is the public ownership of what should be common land. The people struggled for centuries to get the right to use land belonging to the barons. Today those barons are property developers and bankers buying up great swathes of the countryside.
Cameron wanted to flog off forestry commission sites and no matter how much back-sliding and U-turning there has been, that is a fact.
When the editor of The Lady joins forces with the chairman of Gardeners’ Question Time and half a million people sign a petition, you know a government has problems.
But Cameron didn’t stop there. Not content with destroying our forests, he wants to close our libraries. They aren’t needed in Cameron-Osborne-Goveland.
No You And Yours phone-in has ever before had every caller on one side – and they weren’t supporting the government.
It is never easy to make cuts, particularly ones as deep and fast as these. But what is happening is an attack on the sacred cows of the British middle classes with little or no financial purpose.
Despite what politicians of all parties say, there has been considerable social mobility in the past decades, with much of the working class moving seamlessly into the middle classes. Own your own home. Get a white-collar job. Children off to university and into a better job than you have. Read the Daily Mail.
Suddenly the dream is over. People are waking up to the inevitability not just of a downturn in their lives but the struggle their children and grandchildren face. Huge debt burdens if they go into higher education and little prospect of a job at the end of it. And no hope of buying a home – have to wait for granny to die but her money will have gone to fund her old age.
The forest sell-off and library closures have become symbolic of the far more significant actions of the government. People are protesting, not for themselves but because they recognise that something fundamental about the country and our civilisation is under attack.
David Cameron and his team have shown they have no political antennae. Even Peter Bingle, the chairman of Bell Pottinger public affairs, has pointed that out.
The forests will be saved and so may the libraries. But the government won’t be.
David Seymour was group political editor of Mirror Group newspapers for 15 years.