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Finally, the British public are getting ‘a bit angry’ with our Wounded Leaders society … while our government is in a trance.

Grenfell has shown the extent Britain has forgotten about its welfare state commitment in the intoxication of financilalsed capitalism in a Kensington dominated by luxury dwellings, with no hope of replacing any extra decent social housing …..  and the people are getting a bit angry.

It seems Thatcher was nearly right – there is almost no such thing as society in the UK. This anger’s got the mainstream in a twist.

When you are not watching mainstream news much it is striking what you see when you go back to it. I can only hack small amounts of Channel 4 News these days, but the Andrew Marr Show usually gets the big hitters, so it’s tempting.

What did we have today, though? Smoothy Spectator editor Fraser Nelson and Marr, who had blatantly conspired as Tory sympathisers now renouncing Mrs May as ‘toxic’, then a good dose of ancient cricket commentator Henry Blofeld and bit of Shakespeare with occasional shots of Bendict Cumberbatch – all designed to lull us all to sleep  …. as if the nation wasn’t bloody furious?

It is clearly hypnotic propaganda from Auntie Beeb I am afraid. ‘There, there – no need to be angry, children, watch some nice public-school chaps and go to sleep.’

So I turned to the small screen. Comedian Frankie Boyle, interviewed by Owen Jones,  has a knack of saying what we all know about British politics and why our separately ineffective leaders won’t be able to get ‘the best deal for Britain’ through their ‘strong and stable’ negotiations:

“The UK is a self contained culture that just doesn’t want to … doesn’t care to understand”.

Right, Frankie, you said it.

I am under no illusion that the extraordinary success of my 2014 Guardian article, re-posted a year ago with more than 200K Facebook shares, was down to my brilliant writing. I wish. No, it because I was offering a cogent  explanation of the catastrophic leadership besetting British political life for much too long. Here Boyle says it better:

“They’ve got some of the worst people in the world. The whole thing that they are is a group of people pretending to represent a constituency that they don’t represent. They represent the interests of other people, they represent the interests of capitol, and they are the class enemy really of the people they say they represent. The sort of people that are going to go into that are broken sociopaths. You know there’s a whole public school system that’s designed to break theses people’s psyches to a point where they can spend their life lying to these groups of people, on behalf of these other groups of people. You know, and that doesn’t breed talented people who can connect with the public.”

And this is made worse by the mainstream media, who when they are not trying to put us to sleep, favour an absurd adversarial style, so bullying each other in public is routine and normalised. We do not know how to do coalitions or have reasonable discussions with neighbouring nations. We have regressed to political immaturity. And the people are getting fed up, chaps.

In political terms we see this immaturity daily – especially in the House of Commons, where it is taken for granted that members routinely and mercilessly turn on one another. Jeremy Corbyn had to survive many months of this kind of treatment, and, despite the fact that in Britain we like to think we are the champions of cricketing ‘fair play’, we are more addicted to this kind of hostile adversarial style in our debating chamber and media than anyone else, just like we are still more divided by class than any other European country.

What is the origin of this normalised bullying style? No question that it’s learned in the posh boarding schools where most of our traditional leaders were brought up.

These, and our elite universities, have a lot to do with maintaining our divided social class system. I believe that that this kind of education accounts for the terrible political leadership we have had in Britain in the last decades. Cameron’s government had over 60% ‘public-school’ educated people in the cabinet. While old-Etonians Boris and Cameron are the obvious examples, Jeremy Hunt, Liam Fox, Andrew Mitchell, Amber Rudd, etc., went to other elite boarding schools.

But the staggering add-on is that Britain is a ‘top-down’ society not a social democracy like European nations, so this boarding schools problem actually affects the whole nation! Even non-boarders adopt the mannerisms of those who did and appear totally trance-like. Is this why characters like Theresa May and Michael Gove, who did not board, seem so empty and duplicitous?

Before the war and before the welfare state, Britain’s leaders were traditionally drawn from such a class, but the routine duplicity and sense of entitlement was ameliorated by a kind of noblesse oblige. However, when neoliberalism took root in the 80s and Thatcher promoted rank individualism this went out the window. The fallacy that free-market ideology was anything but laissez-faire and constituted economic theory was unchallenged by the new breed of elites, particularly Tony Blair (same school as Marr).

Of course we know the economic story: From 1973 ‘real’ wages in the Western world stagnated and have declined ever since. The credit revolution hid the problem of wages and the financialsation and borrowing bonanza of the late 90s further disguised it. This created a massive bubble that burst in 2008 and was hastily put back together by bank bale-outs and austerity. The poor got poorer and the rich got richer.

Thatcher had destroyed the unions and the welfare society was coming down too. This is what the tower symbolises. Many people are very angry – finally. I’ll come back to that later … I am too angry right now.


  1. Interesting Nick you’ve written Grenfall for Grenfell in your excellent commentary!

    I think there was a social democratic interlude when Labour gained power in another unexpected landslide after WWII. Unfortunately leader Attlee [Northaw School preparatory school; Haileybury College; and University College, Oxford] lacked the motivation and insight [he lacked knowledge of the boarding school syndrome you pioneered] to integrate boarding schools into a comprehensive educational system. Their dissociated products have come back to exert their entitled assumptions on the rest of society, including of course the editors and presenters of the mainstream media [MSM]. That is until the results of the 8 June election…

    In retrospect it seems that the EU referendum was a wake up call for the young voters that if they didn’t sign up and vote the old would dictate the future [Corbyn fudged the Brexit issue enough not to put them off and offered an incentive in abolishing tuition fees – and HOPE!]. The MSM was largely bypassed by social media with few of the under-35s getting their info with the MSM. And May fell victim to her arrogance [or that of her public school educated advisers] and apparent complete incapacity to connect feelings [if she has them] to body language: not only does she have a stiff upper lip she seems to have an immovable lower jaw! Corbyn presented a social democratic agenda with passion and conviction, which he took directly to people – mostly recently at the Glasto festival, where he quoted, to great applause, Shelley’s “we’re many, they are few” – his campaign slogan! What a blissful moment!!

    What better time for the psycho-emotional critique of the boarding school [and detached, nannied upper-class child rearing customs] to reach a wider audience beyond we “survivors”; what better time for the boarding issues conference at Brighton Uni in September? The dysfunctionality of the dissociated “wounded leaders” so produced becomes plainer by the day; its perpetuation of a deeply divided and unhealthy class society stares everyone in the face. As even The Daily Telegraph was moved to put it: the have nots and the have yachts have come together over Grenfell.

    As another social democratic moment seems to approach, this time we must not pass up the opportunity to bring to an end the class apartheid in British education. If we do the cancer of class division will at some point return to tear individuals [many “survivors” on both sides of the divide] and society apart again.That’s the very least we owe the tragic victims of Grenfell. Their deaths can be traced back to such dysfunctional divisions, where individuals and society lose touch with “the welfare of others”. Without security of attachment and livelihoods we soon become unwell, or descend into the despair of violence as the jihadis remind us…It has to stop!

    Comment by Simon Partridge on 27/06/2017 at 2:48 pm
  2. Thanks, Simon very interesting – apologies for my spelling!

    Comment by Nick Duffell on 27/06/2017 at 3:13 pm
  3. I thought it was your creative unconscious at work!

    Comment by Simon Partridge on 27/06/2017 at 10:09 pm

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