Memo to LabourList’s Paul Richards… Feel free to keep obsessing. It’ll lose you the next election.

by Stephen Tall on September 23, 2011

I think it’s safe to assume that LabourList’s Paul Richards is not Nick Clegg’s greatest fan.

What prompts me to leap to this conclusion? Well, I guess if you headline your article profiling the Lib Dem leader ‘A snivelling, venal, ruthless social climber’ you’re making some kind of statement.

I’d highly recommend reading Paul’s post in full if only to gain an appreciation of the impotent fury, this red mist, which is clouding the Labour party’s judgment. Here’s a flavour:

Some make the mistake of saying that the reason why Clegg so naturally fits into a Tory government is because he belongs to the same social class as Cameron and Osborne. But it’s much worse than that. Clegg’s background is upper-middle class, but not upper class. Marx was wrong to talk of ‘two great camps.’ Orwell was right when he identified the variegated, strata of class in England (Orwell claimed to be lower-upper middle class. He went to Eton, but had no money or land). Clegg, in myriad nuanced almost-imperceptible ways does not belong to the same social class as Cameron. It’s the difference between shopping at Peter Jones and shopping at Fortnums, or living in Kensington (with a weekend place in Oxfordshire) and living in a respectable villa in Putney.

Clegg went to Caldicott then Westminster School. He didn’t go to Eton. Cameron and Osborne are proper land-owning toffs. In the class-conscious English southern counties people like Clegg aspire to mix with people like Cameron. They long to be invited up to the manor house for sherry at Christmas. Clegg wanted to enter a coalition with the Tories, not just because he shares Conservative instincts, but because he is a snivelling, venal, ruthless social climber, desperate to make the final step from middle to upper-class.

I hope Paul felt better for writing this: better out than in, as they say. But what strikes me most about his article is the wasted energy, the time and effort devoted to expressing such visceral dislike against one individual.

I don’t think for a moment that Paul Richards’ spleen-venting is respresentative of most Labour members, still less the party’s voters. But what it is an accurate parody of is Labour’s inability to project a rational, confident, poised critique of the Coalition: still less any kind of positive alternative.