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17 October 2012
“I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it.”
That’s what the UK’s Tory Prime Minister, Dave “Flashman” Cameron, told his party’s annual conference last week.
It is true that Cameron knows a thing or two about privilege.
A lineal descendant of King William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837, he attended Eton College, England’s top school for toffs, afterwards swanning up the Thames to the ivy-hung quadrangles of Brasenose College at the prestigious University of Oxford. The son of a wealthy stockbroker, after Oxford he segued effortlessly into public relations and then politics, the old school tie proving no handicap at all to advancement.
Despite his privileged educational background, Flashman’s elementary ignorance of English history was exposed last month when he appeared in the United States on David Letterman’s television programme, The Late Show.
When questioned, Cameron did not know who composed the music for the well-known British patriotic hymn “Rule, Britannia!” – it was Thomas Arne, who lived from 1710 to 1778 – nor did he know the meaning of the Latin words “Magna Carta”, the name given to the charter of political rights agreed at Runnymede in 1215 AD between a reluctant Bad King John and his rebellious Barons. This historic document, known to every school child, is seen as the foundation-stone of civil liberties in England.
Now it seems that Cameron’s knowledge of the English language is not what it should be. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “privilege”, inter alia, as “a special advantage available only to a particular group”.
The Prime Minister apparently wants to spread it around.
But, self-evidently, not everyone can go to Eton, which educates some 1300 boys between the ages of 13 and 18.
Moreover, if scads of people have privilege, it can’t any longer be defined as privilege. He’s got the wrong word.
As Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”.
And that’s not all. Cameron begins his remark by saying: “I am not here to defend privilege.”
Well, if he is not defending privilege, why then does he want to spread it around? Why does he want to spread around something he does not want to defend?
Oh dear! Sounds like he’s got his knickers in a twist.
All this hardly redounds to the credit of Cameron’s alma mater, Eton College, which must be squirming at the public gaffes of its alumnus.
Commenting on Cameron’s remark, Sara Starkey, a reader of the London Guardian, in a letter published in the newspaper on 11 October 2012, said:
“I am fed up to the back teeth that some are born with silver spoons in their mouths and the rest of us are supposed to be grateful for polishing them.”
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.