Mike Smithson at Politicalbetting.com is speculating about whether Labour's apparent plan to draw attention to the class background of senior Tories can possibly work. That strategy of course failed spectacularly in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election last year, and I share Mike's gut feeling that the goodwill towards David Cameron means that Labour will have severe difficulty making it any more effective in the general election. The irony is, though, that in a way the attack deserves to be effective. Not because an individual Old Etonian has any less right than anyone else to seek an individual high office, whether that office be Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer or anything else. The problem is rather more that we happen to have a whole group of Old Etonians seeking a group of high offices simultaneously. I can already hear the Tory retort - "in the Conservative Party we appoint people on merit, we can't discriminate against people just because they happened to go to the same school". Hmmm. If I (in a parallel universe) became Leader of the Opposition, do you think that line would work for me? If half my appointed Shadow Cabinet had all attended the same comprehensive school as me, would anyone be able to keep a straight face if I asked them to accept that as 'appointment solely on merit'?
Well, quite. So why should be people be any more forgiving - or any less sceptical - just because the school in question happens to be Eton? And yet somehow they are. Suggests to me that class prejudice is alive and well in Britain, and that contrary to the belief of some, it still ultimately works rather more in favour of the likes of David Cameron and George Osborne.