Saturday, 19 June 2010

"Political Classes": Definition Of

Ich bin ein Old Holborns?
I use the term "political classes" quite a bit on this blog but I've never really bothered to define what the term actually means, at least to me. Well, Charles Moore on the Daily Telegraph used it too in his bit on the death of the Euro today (which, incidentally, is quite a good read in my humble, whether you are a Europhile, Eurosceptic or just curious). He talks about the "German political classes", which, on the face of it, seemed to me to be sensible enough being, as it is, a sort of currency term that appears to refer to the totality of our, or their, elected representatives as some kind of separate entity to the rest of society, and harks back to days before universal suffrage and when hereditary entitlement was purely a class phenomenon.

However, I wasn't satisfied with my own explanation so I phoned a friend and asked her what she thought it might mean, reminding her that "body politic", for instance, by contrast refers to the entire electorate and not to the collective body of elected representitives (a confusion I've seen even on the more august political blogs). Couldn't it be the case that we are all part of the "political classes" one way or other, given that in an advanced democracy the people, theoretically, are where political power ultimately rests? Isn't the term therefore mistaken in this day and age?

"Oh no," she answered, "that's not right at all." What did she mean, I asked, fascinated. "Well, it's simple really. 'Political classes' refers to anyone who stands for election, lies to win it, spends the next five years planning how to get re-elected, leaves running the country to a professional civil service, and all the while gathers as much expenses money, lobbying patronage, consultancies and directorships as possible so that if the unimaginable happens and they're voted out by an even more effective liar, then they've got all that to fall back on, plus the gold-plated pension plan. That's what "political classes" really means, with very few exceptions and regardless of political affiliation".

As she said, simple really. Or is it?


  1. The only trouble with that kind of cynicism is that of course there is an alternative to the political classes. It's called dictatorship. Hitler came to power in Germany in no small part because ordinary people became completely fed up with the antics of their legitimate politicians. If people don't like what their elected representatives are doing, they should perhaps get off their bottoms and get involved themselves.

  2. Yes, I thought her words rather cynical too. However, her tone of voice belied that (she meant it more in jest that malice). Besides, it's hardly surprising and possibly the sign of a healthy democracy that we can have pretty scant regard for our elected 'betters'. I'm not quite sure how that leads to nazi dictatorship (I thought that was caused by the depression).

    We pay for these damn politicians, after all. Whatever is said about dictatorship, our current arrangements are hardly perfect, (though infinitely preferably, naturally) in terms of (sanctioned?) corruption and/or conflict of interest. British democracy at the moment is hardly worth writing home, or boasting to other, less fortunate, countries, about.

    I agree with you, however, it is different. We moaners can get off our backsides and do something about it. Apologise for our corrupt ruling elites I will not.


Any thoughts?