I like Jeremy Paxman, the presenter of Newsnight, and his confrontational and inquisitorial style. His questions are incisive, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. And let’s face it, he deals with more than his fair share. So when he pontificates, I tend to sit up and listen, not so much about ill fitting underpants, but graver and weightier matters.
He has recently gone on record bemoaning the fact that certain elements of society, the “have nots”, complain about being ruled by the privileged classes, the “haves”, and in particular, those who have been to public school and Oxbridge. The fact that Paxman ticks both boxes himself is immaterial. He argues that instead of bemoaning this selfless devotion to the greater good, we should welcome these Patricians in the finest traditions of the Greek Nation State.
As we know, a fair proportion of the cabinet are Eton and Oxbridge educated, as is Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. The “have nots” argue that these patricians are out of touch with the common man, but as the saying goes: “You don’t need to feed from the trough to know how pigs live.”
There is a fear in some quarters that well educated people are to be regarded with suspicion, that whilst they can choose almost any career and excel in it, the fact that they choose politics is somehow part of a hidden agenda, a self glorification at the expense of those less privileged.
Into this negative equation is thrown the higher judiciary, who according to a recent survey, are also public school and Oxbridge educated. The “have nots” bemoan the fact that there are very few women (only one in the Supreme Court) and not a black face to be seen. Where, they ask, are the black lesbians, who according to their mantra, tick all the right boxes, regardless of ability and intellectual prowess?
Those with long memories will remember the advent of comprehensive education, with the mantra that one size fits all. The crass stupidity of this ill conceived destruction of secondary education was best summed up by John Prescott, who rose to power in the Labour party because he ticked all the boxes, and in particular, he was poorly educated with an enormous chip on his shoulders. In those days of grammar and secondary modern schools, Prescott failed his entry exam into his local grammar school, and his response? “If I can’t have the benefit of a good grammar school education, nobody can, so abolish grammar schools.” And so it was.
Some Nation States put their trust, and their fate, in the hands of illiterate peasants, most notably China and Russia. And the result? Collectively they accounted for the death, mainly by starvation, of over one hundred million of their subjects. Mao Tse Tung and Stalin paid lip service to the principles of communism as adumbrated by the oft misquoted Karl Marx, whose Sisyphean labours produced Das Kapital and the concept that to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability. Sadly for their subjects, or ‘comrades’ as they were known, both Mao and Stalin preferred Orwell’s Animal Farm, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Back to Paxman. Surely it is in the interests of good, and sometimes inspired, governance, that we turn to the best qualified to lead us, regardless of colour or creed, the more so in times of trouble. If it’s a choice between the likes of Prescott and his camp followers, and Cameron, I know who I’d choose every time.