"The fewer working-class people in the Westminster bubble, the less likely that issues experienced by millions are likely to be addressed. That doesn’t mean that people from privileged backgrounds are incapable of understanding these issues, any more than all men are incapable of wanting to tackle the gender pay gap. It is just self-evidently less likely to happen: there has to be space for those with lived experiences to articulate them themselves". - Owen Jones, The Independent, November 2013
I very rarely agree with what Owen Jones says, not because I disagree with either his personal or political politics but because he often does it in such a heavy handed way that it immediately puts me off the subject. There are many writers out there, politically left or right who do this, take the view that the only way to cure a headache is to consistently bash somebody over the head until either they drop dead or put their hands up and capitulate. I said very rarely though because that paragraph above from an article about why those on the right are obsessed with how those on the left view class makes a point I think most people below the top earners in the country can relate to.
That doesn't mean to say that you can have a lot of money and have no experience of what it means to have nothing. Peter Jones, the businessman and member of the Dragons Den team, is now a multi millionaire but in his twenties he went bankrupt twice and spent six months sleeping on the floor of a warehouse because he had to much pride to ask for help. What Jones did have however was the courage of his convictions, the self-belief that enabled him to borrow money against a future income stream that would yield dividends.
Class envy unfortunately is deeply routed in the British psyche, like subconscious racism it is always with us. Football is 'the working mans game' at £50 a ticket (the cheaper end) whilst the English National Opera (£22) and the Royal Ballet (£24) are for 'toffs'.
Last week it was announced that Jeremy Hunt will benefit from a windfall of around £17.5 million for his 49% in Hotcourses, the education listings company. Hunt was described by the Daily Mirror as the 'NHS hatchet man' and Unison boss Dave Prentis said "This man has been let loose to slash the heart out of our NHS and he can pocket £17 million at a stroke".
The real story surely though isn't how much money Hunt is getting but the fact that he is still able to retain his shareholding in the first place. The reason why that should be ringing some alarm bells is
that one of Hotcourses' biggest contracts is a deal to run a website for the British Council, promoting courses in the UK. The council is a quango sponsored by the Foreign Office to promote cultural and educational opportunities abroad. It is part-funded by government grants. So you have a government minister personally profiting because of government grants, isn't that something any government should be seeking to avoid?
Incidentally it's not only the Daily Mirror who had to resort to name calling, The Guardian felt it was their duty to end the article on the sale with the following paragraph:
The eldest son of Admiral Sir Nicholas Hunt, the health secretary was educated at Charterhouse private school and Magdalen College, Oxford, before turning to business and latterly politics.
I love that, I'm being sarcastic here, for two reasons, firstly because it is clearly an example of the inverted snobbery that prevails on both political sides of the coin, but mostly on the left, and because of those last two words. Putting aside the Hotcourses story I would say that Hunt has followed the career path that most of us wish MP's would follow, having had a successful business career and coming to politics at 39
The story about Hunt's relationship with the British Council isn't a new one, it was first mentioned, as far as I know, here in May 2012.