UK goverment in 'class war'

2009-12-08 15:12

London - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stands accused of launching a pre-election "class war" on the opposition, painting the Tories as rich, posh and out of touch in a desperate bid to whip up voters.

With Britain in its worst recession for at least 50 years and an election due by June, experts say Brown is trying to regain the initiative by accusing the Conservatives of siding with rich people, including despised bankers.

On Wednesday Brown's government is to unveil its annual tax plans including a reported clampdown on bankers' bonuses, in what is seen as an opportunity to stake out his dividing lines - Labour for the poor, Tories for the rich.

"I doubt we would have seen this had it not been for the economic crisis," said Robin Pettitt, a politics lecturer at Kingston University in London.

"They want to associate the Conservatives with the bankers and I guess the implication is that a lot of the bankers went to the same kind of school as the Conservatives".

He said ministers were also trying to tie the Tories, traditionally more free market orientated than Labour, to the kind of financial "orthodoxy" which many critics believe led to the crash, like the payment of big bonuses.

Brown's highly personal argument against Tory leader David Cameron focuses on his education at Eton, the most prestigious of Britain's private schools, where fees are nearly 30 000 pounds a year.

Middle-class voters

Private schools educate many of Britain's elite but have traditionally been viewed sceptically by Labour.

Claiming Cameron is too privileged to understand ordinary Britons, state-school educated Brown jibed last week that Tory tax policy was "dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton". This includes a controversial pledge to scrap inheritance tax on legacies under a million pounds.

Over half of Cameron's shadow Cabinet attended private schools, compared to around seven percent of Britons overall and six out of 23 in Brown's Cabinet.

Perceptions of Cameron's Conservatives as a party for the wealthy were not helped when it emerged last week that Zac Goldsmith, his environmental adviser and a parliamentary candidate, claimed non-domicile tax status - labelled by critics as a tax loophole for the super-rich.

Ironically, one of Cameron's predecessors, Margaret Thatcher, is often credited with weakening Britain's long-entrenched class system, although Cameron's inner circle shows little evidence of this.

If Brown's bid to associate the Tories with wealth works, it could shore up support from left-wing Labour voters, many of whom were uncomfortable when now Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said in 1998 that New Labour was "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, as long as they pay their taxes".

It could also draw in middle-class voters stung by the credit crunch, Pettitt said.

Class and privilege

Despite disquiet among some Labour ministers, including some who attended private schools themselves, Brown's recent rhetoric has been welcomed by many Labour sympathisers.

Ex Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell has written that Cameron's education is "a symbol of a system of class and privilege, and a fairly big barrier to Cameron's efforts to present himself as someone who 'gets' the life of most people".

Cameron has hit back, insisting that "class war" tactics would turn voters off.

"What people are interested in is not where you come from but where you're going to, what you've got to offer," he told the BBC on Sunday.

"If they want to fight a class war, fine, go for it. It doesn't work. It's a petty, spiteful, stupid thing to do."

But newspaper reports of the Tories asking candidates with aristocratic-sounding double-barrelled names to change them suggest they are rattled.

The Conservatives are trying to make their party more diverse, in part through open primaries for general election candidates which should bring in more women and ethnic minorities.

Even without this shake-up, though, the British public look set to swallow any reservations they may have about the Tory party and vote them into office next year.

Another Sunday Times/YouGov poll on Sunday gave them a 13 point lead over Brown's Labour.

Read more on:    conservatives  |  labour  |  gordon brown  |  david cameron  |  uk
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
 

'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB

There are no straight lines in nature. The Samsung  GALAXY...

From R3525.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.