Nicholas Lezard: The Armchair Agitator

'I have never met an Etonian who wasn't an untrustworthy, mendacious, conniving creep'
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The Independent Online

The most terrifying news of the week for me was the revelation that a columnist for Another Paper had heard some "grandees" at the Hay Festival talk about David Cameron in these terms: "Isn't he amazing?" This story makes me wonder about literary festivals and the people who go to them, but I shall stick with Cameron.

Well, I suppose he is amazing, but then so is the rabies virus. In fact, I wonder if something pathological is going on here. The extent to which people are prepared to ignore his failings - viz: his vapidity, opportunism and political allegiance - suggests not so much a deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the New Labour project as some kind of collective yearning for disaster that can only be explained by some spirochaete that has insinuated itself into the neural folds. For while it is true that everyone in any meaningful position in the Labour Party is a disgusting, power-drunk fraud who shouldn't be left in charge of a burger van, we have to remember that Cameron and his kind are - I'll spell this out slowly so that those at the back don't miss it - T.O.R.I.E.S., and therefore even more dangerous to the population at large than the current gang.

One wishes, as never before, for someone with the rhetorical passion of Nye Bevan, who once got into a bit of trouble for saying: "No amount of cajolery can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory party ... So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin." (I made a poster for the 1987 election that consisted of the words "The Tories - Lower than Vermin" blown up 64 times on a photocopier. I stuck the poster in the front window of my parents' house in East Finchley when they were away, which caused a bit of a stir in the neighbourhood but did not exactly alter the political status quo. I'd do it again but they took back the keys to their house after that.) I suppose the only person on the Labour front bench with the balls to say anything like that is John Prescott, but then he's pretty much a busted flush these days and would be well advised to keep his yap shut for the rest of his life.

Now, one of the great things about this newspaper is its declared independence from any party line, which means, I suppose, that some people who read it are Tories. I advise those of you who are to turn the page now, for I am about to make some offensive observations.

The point about all Tories apart from my Dad is their total lack of any moral centre. I have found that I have a sixth sense for this kind of thing; it comes off them like a smell. I was invited to dinner a couple of months ago and found myself in the company of an attractive couple in their late thirties. As I spoke to them, it dawned on me that something was wrong about them. What was it? The story about the man and his fondness for wearing rubber catsuits pointed to sexual deviancy, but I have no problem with that. It was something else, as if they were, in fact, in their sixties and had been preserved in youth by drinking the blood of virgins.

It came out that they were Tories; and, worse, that the man had been to Eton. They even knew Cameron. Now I have never met an Etonian who wasn't a mendacious, untrustworthy, conniving creep of the first order. The last decent one, George Orwell, died more than half a century ago. Nowadays they bang on about the environment insincerely, pretend they've taken cocaine and choose comedy songs when they get invited on Desert Island Discs. And then they get called "amazing". Amazing.

My theory explaining why the Government is in such a toxic mess at the moment is quite simple. Everyone has noticed the phenomenon but, as far as I can see, no one has given it a name. So I shall give it one and be invited on to Question Time to explain it. It is the "Contents May Settle" theory of government. You can observe it in a packet of cornflakes that you've had knocking around for a while. You'll see that all the big bits rise to the top, and the little, dusty ones sink to the bottom.

In the same way, any oligarchy that remains in power for longer than about five years starts a process of sifting that results in the elimination from any influential post of people who might have a capacity for independent thought. Because their opinions don't always chime with the leadership, they're kicked out. As a result, the only people left anywhere near the levers of power are toadies, creeps, lickspittles and people who wouldn't say "boo" to a beanie baby.

Nothing else can explain the continued political career of Ruth Kelly, who loses Labour a million votes every time she opens her mouth. Or MPs like my own Andrew Slaughter, whose conscience has never once moved him to vote against the Government in his entire miserable career. One would dearly love to kick these people out, but that will only result in a bunch of pseudo bike-riding Benny Hill-loving Etonians bossing us about for the foreseeable. Is there nothing we can do to stop them?