The year is 2035 and there’s a General Election in what remains of the United Kingdom since Scotland split and Ireland united; the Labour Government led by Prime Minister Cat Smith is low in the polls and faces a challenge from a resurgent Conservative Party and its new leader Ronald Coyne. However, during the campaign, archive footage emerges from Coyne’s student days at Cambridge 18 years before that could prove to be disastrous.
A short video in which Coyne sets fire to a £20 note in front of a homeless man ‘goes viral’ (to coin a quaint old phrase) and Cambridge contemporaries of the time crawl out of the woodwork to recall the incident that led to Coyne being expelled from the Cambridge University Conservative Association. A clearly embarrassed Coyne is relentlessly eviscerated across the media, but denies he is a throwback to the early twenty-first century Tory toffs who comprised the Cabinet of the late Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton. He claims to severely regret his actions when ‘a foolish youth’ and says the incident was an isolated one-off that in no way formed part of his initiation ceremony into an elite organisation akin to Oxford’s Bullingdon Club.
Tories accuse Labour of ‘dirty tricks’ for digging up the footage and leaking it to the media, but after a frenzied 48 hours in which there are calls for Coyne to quit as leader he recovers his composure, stating his commitment to improving the lives of everyone in England and Wales is undimmed. ‘I am not someone whose privileges blind me to the problems of the less affluent and the socially deprived,’ he declares. ‘I believe we are stronger together as one nation, not a nation divided along social, economic, religious or ethnic grounds. It is my avowed mission to unite the people of England and Wales, and one distant moment of adolescent madness excavated by a Labour Party desperate to cling onto power does not alter that fact.’
Did a shameful episode from the Tory leader’s past scupper his chances of gaining the keys to No.10? Tune-in around eighteen years from now to find out!
Of course, this is just me playing with a crystal ball; but when one sees a photo of named-and-shamed Cambridge student Ronald Coyne, he already looks every inch the future leader of the Conservative Party. He has the chinless countenance that virtually ensures him a front-row seat at the Last Night of the Proms, suggesting the Hooray Henry caricature is alive and kicking within young Tory circles; and the disgraceful behaviour captured on camera that has resulted in his university kicking him out of their Conservative society echoes the comments of Andrew Mitchell when describing his prime contact with the homeless as stepping over them to get to the opera.
It seems the enduring image of the fox-hunting Tory toff living in a Downtown Abbey fantasy that couldn’t care less about those on the bottom rung of society’s ladder will never be dispelled; but there’s a certain kind of Tory that is a middle-aged reactionary from around the mid-teens onwards and Ronald Coyne would appear to be the latest model.
The student was unlucky that his arrogant disregard for those less fortunate than himself was recorded, thus singling him out as a special case; but I doubt he’s alone in his attitude, which appears to be endemic and incurable amongst some branches of what ‘The Thick of It’ labelled ‘six-toed, born-to-rule pony-f***ers’, even in 2017. Cameron and Osborne’s thinly-veiled contempt for anyone outside of their own enclosed world was obvious throughout their tenure at the top, reserving their most punitive punishments for the poor and the ill whilst enabling their wealthy City and banking pals to avoid/evade tax time and time again. Their utter inability to comprehend or even try to understand the realities of day-to-day existence on benefits or the minimum wage was reflected in the way they penalised the plebs trapped in that miserable existence under the guise of ‘austerity’.
Naturally, not every member of the Nasty Party adheres to the stereotype, at least regarding their origins – David Davis was raised by a single mother on a council estate and even our old friend little John Bercow is the son of a cabbie; and I think in politics, as with other walks of life, it’s not so much where you come from as where you are now. The Labour Party has its fair share of toffs and smarmy snobs, lest we forget – the oily Chuka Umunna has had his own telling moments where comments about the lower orders are concerned, and there’s always ‘Lady Nugee’ Emily Thornberry, of course.
Despite the visible presence of those who trade on their working-class roots and wear them as a virtue signalling T-shirt, the worst offenders in Corbyn’s camp aren’t so much upper-class or middle-class as Parliamentary-class, a separate strand of detached, out-of-touch wankers that have more in common with Cameron, Osborne and Boris than they have with the majority of the electorate; and they seem to be the only people in the country unaware of it. That’s probably why so many of them were left dumbfounded by the result of the EU Referendum last year. The main difference between them and their enemies on the opposing benches is that Tories start thinking that way before they’ve even been elected to Parliament, as John Mortimer recalled when facing a string of future Tory Ministers who already bore the smug self-satisfied demeanour of the frontbench during his Oxford debating days.
Over 700 signatures have already been accumulated on a petition to have Ronald Coyne sent down, whilst his mother has expressed surprise at her son’s behaviour, claiming he volunteered at a homeless charity whilst still at school; she also denies the family are toffs. Personally, I believe exposure of this nature is punishment enough for Ronald Coyne; he’s been made to look a heartless, arrogant privileged prick and it’s up to him to prove he isn’t. There’s already enough banning and censorship on campus without adding to it. Mind you, I still think he’s got all the makings of a future Tory leader, so we shouldn’t feel too sorry for him.
© The Editor