Labour’s fightback in Crewe and Nantwich, based almost entirely on presenting the candidate Edward Timpson, along with David Cameron, Osborne and Boris J as ‘toffs’, seems like a irrelevance from another age. Their activists turn out grinning, clad in top hat and tails, and hope thereby to get an electoral ride on some ancient class hatreds and bitterness – hatreds of the kind which still send strange little sensations circling around in Gordon Brown’s nether regions.
It is true that Britain in the 1950s was a class-ridden society when Gordon was ‘growing up’. 1963 was the year it all began to change as Britain rocked under the combined weight of the Profumo Affair, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the arrival of Labour governments. Twenty years later the Miners Strike showed that there was still a little life left in supposed ‘class warfare’. But the 1926 General Strike was the last time the workers and the toffs went into direct action against each other. The 1984/5 Miners Strike was more about union power being brought into a scale suited to the modern age of collapsing smokestack industries. There wasn’t any hatred to be directed at private mine-owners. There hadn’t been any since 1947 when the mines were nationalised.
Trying to revive the old game of class hatred in 2008, after yet another generation has lived, and the old one died, must make many kids looking on, wonder what the thing is all about. Even those who were around in the 1950s like me, have to scratch their heads trying to remember how things were then. There are still wealthy folk today, it is true, but these days they are just as likely to talk with regional accents as the plummy voices that went ‘out’ when the Blairs declared Britain to be about Cool, and no longer here to Rule.
Only in the back streets of Kensington & Chelsea, where traffic has yet to penetrate, can a few diehard toffs be spotted, telling each other to …. ‘orff’ or that on the weekend they will be playing ‘goff’. Once a universal item on Britain’s social scene, they have become as rare as Curlews (Pictured) on pastureland. Once their call was heard every day, now only in remote areas where modern mowers cannot scythe their nests.
Labour’s efforts at portraying Tories as ‘toffs’ remind me of the late Screaming Lord Sutch, who turned up on behalf of the Monster Raving Loony Party at elections in the 1960s onwards, dressed in the same way as the Labour activists in Crewe, top hat and tails. He had the measure of Britain’s past. It was completely crazy and didn’t fit Britain’s future. (PICTURE – left is Lord Sutch. Next to him is David Bellamy. Who are the other two? Dare I suggest that if you know the answer, it is likely that you are over 50 years old!)
There was that extraordinary moment in 1963 when the past suddenly stopped and the future spontaneously sprang into life. Gordon Brown’s collapse in 2008 will maybe be seen as another such moment. The voters in Crewe and Nantwich will soon tell us what they think.
UPDATE – Labour ‘toff’ activist is privately educated. See Daily Mail exposure HERE