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31 January 2010

Osborne plays the class card

A first glimpse of a new Tory strategy on class.

By George Eaton

It’s often said that George Osborne is much better at politics than he is at economics and he proved as much on The Andrew Marr Show this morning.

His fellow guest Harriet Harman attempted to catch him off-guard by asking if he ever fancied replacing David Cameron as leader. Osborne dismissed the question and responded: “We went to the same school [St Paul’s]. They were always like this! Those Paulinas, so aggressive.”

The pair may never have shared so much as a maths class (Osborne wasn’t born when Harman left school), but the shadow chancellor’s words offered a first glimpse of a strategy we can expect the Tories to return to ahead of the election.

Their argument goes like this: “Yes, we may be privileged toffs, but don’t overlook those sitting on the Labour benches.” Conveniently for the Tories, several of those (falsely) accused of waging “class war”, notably Harman and Ed Balls, were privately educated.

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It’s no coincidence that this new strategy follows a Guardian/ICM poll showing the Tories are increasingly seen as the party of the upper classes. Given that in recent times the Tories have been led by individuals from modest or even “common” backgrounds (Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Michael Howard), Cameron is more sensitive to this charge than one might expect.

But since the political class as a whole appears so remote from voters I doubt either party will be the winner from this phoney “class war”.

 

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