By chance, last week I read an article from May 20, 2015 in The Guardian about the general election result earlier that month: ‘The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class’.

Labour lost, leaving the metropolitan elite scratching their heads and wondering why.

Zoe Williams’s article has three pages of comments, which are illuminating. The general public revealed why Conservatives won not only in 2015 but even more convincingly with an 80-seat majority in 2019.

Of course, in between those two elections was the one held in 2017, whereby Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May barely scraped by with a slim majority which caused her major problems in getting Brexit legislation passed in the first half of 2019. She resigned during the summer, and Boris Johnson became party leader, thereby succeeding her as PM. He held an election on December 12 that year, primarily to break the Brexit deadlock. It was one of the best things he ever did.

What is the metropolitan elite?

Zoe Williams, who has been writing for The Guardian for decades, defines the metropolitan elite through interviews with other people which makes up the article.

The characteristics that tie the metropolitan elite together are working in London, living in an upper-middle class bubble, going to a public (private boarding) school; having an Oxford degree (especially in Philosophy, Politics and Economics); making a close network of friends from school and university; finding employment in politics, the civil service, law, the media and academia. They ensure their children follow the same route.

No one’s definition is perfect. Each needs another element added to it.

Williams concludes that an exact definition doesn’t really matter, because it is fluid, but the reality is that this group has caused the ethos of Parliament to change through the years (emphases mine):

The meaning of “metropolitan elite” is not fixed. It will change in the mouth of whoever says it, and it will take on the shape of the person to whom, for whatever combination of reasons, it is thrown at and sticks. But the anger is real: parliament, as the last century understood it, represented the people to the state. Parliament now represents the state to the people. And maybe “metropolitan” is a way to say that, and to give it a face.

Background to the 2015 election

Below is a summary of the highlights of the 2015 election.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

David Cameron was PM at the time, part of a coalition government with the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg was deputy PM.

Clegg ran as the Lib Dem candidate as he was party leader at the time.

Cameron was getting a lot of heat about holding a Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP at the time, piled on the pressure. Referenda are not a British thing and Cameron could have happily ignored it were it not for the fact that a Conservative victory depended upon granting voters a Brexit referendum.

There was also much talk at the time about English Votes for English Laws, or EVEL: the inappropriateness of allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English laws when English MPs have not been able to vote on Scottish laws since devolution in 1999. MPs from Wales and Northern Ireland can also vote on English laws, but the issue mainly concerns Scotland, since many laws apply equally to England and Wales. EVEL — arising from the West Lothian Question of 1977 — was another issue Cameron had to address in the campaign. As such, it became part of the Conservative manifesto that year.

Labour

Ed Miliband was Labour’s leader at the time.

Emily Thornberry

The snobbish aspect of the metropolitan elite, which Labour embodies so well, came to light during the World Cup in 2014. Emily Thornberry MP experienced a combination of bemusement and outrage upon seeing that someone would have the audacity to display St George’s flags, representing England, outside their home. What’s more, there was a white van parked in the driveway. Oh, the horror!

She tweeted a photo of the house and captioned it: ‘Image from #Rochester’

The offending home was in Rochester, Kent, where a by-election was being held in November that year. The owner of the house said that he put three St George’s flags up during the World Cup and decided to leave them flying from an upstairs window.

On November 14, the BBC reported that Thornberry resigned from the shadow front bench as a result of the tweet (bold in the original here):

Emily Thornberry has resigned from Labour’s front bench after sending a tweet during the Rochester and Strood by-election which was branded “snobby”.

The shadow attorney general apologised for the message, which showed a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside.

UKIP said she had “sneered, and looked down her nose at a white van in Strood with the cross of St George on it”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband was “angry” at her, a senior figure told the BBC.

The resident of the house, Dan Ware, said Ms Thornberry – the MP for Islington South and Finsbury – was a “snob”.

“I’ve not got a clue who she is – but she’s a snob,” he told the Sun. “We put the flags up for the World Cup (in 2014) and will continue to fly them.”

Even today, everyone who loves England remembers Thornberry’s attitude towards our nation’s flag. Ed Miliband was right to have been angry at the time. It must have lost Labour votes in certain constituencies:

The Independent had more:

Three hours later she apologised, after Ed Miliband intervened and the Labour leader made it “very clear” that he believes people should be able to fly the England flag without feeling ashamed.

Following her resignation, Labour has revealed that Thornberry had spoken to Mr Miliband a second time.

“Ed and Emily had a second conversation. She thought the right thing to do was to resign. Ed agreed,” the source said.

Her tweeted apology received strong reactions, among them the following:

Simon Danczuk, who was the Labour MP for Rochdale at the time, could see the elitist London-centric outlook at work:

Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view.

In the end, Mark Reckless won the by-election which was held because he wanted to change party affiliation from Conservative to UKIP. Nigel Farage had told him to do the right thing by asking his constituents. Reckless became the second UKIP MP to serve in the House of Commons when he joined Douglas Carswell that year. Carswell also had to hold a by-election in his constituency before Farage would allow him into UKIP.

Ed Miliband

Returning to Labour, a month before the by-election, Ed Miliband proposed a mansion tax, aimed primarily at Londoners.

However, a Londoner from Dartmouth Park in Kentish Town, Dan Carrier, wrote an article for The Guardian in October 2014, saying that not everyone living in a house in North London was necessarily wealthy: ‘My house in the middle of Ed Miliband’s street’.

It so happens that Ed Miliband and his family moved into the street where Mr Carrier grew up. In 2014, his parents still lived in the same house and he had the good fortune to be able to buy a home just a few doors down.

The Carriers and the Milibands are two very different classes of people:

In many ways our road is a typical London street: a mixture of Victorian terraces, some grand double-fronted villas and a postwar apartment block. More recently, however, it has had national media attention, prompted by the arrival a few years ago of Ed Miliband and his family. When they decamped from Primrose Hill, the move produced a swathe of articles describing my neighbourhood as a place of leafy-lefty-intellectual-middle-class types. The road I grew up on, and moved back to, has become shorthand for the gentrification of north London. The gap between the property haves and have-nots has never been starker, and housing is set to be a defining issue of the next general election. Ours is just one street, but it could be anywhere in the capital.

Carrier described many of his neighbours, who were working- or middle-class, hardly of the metropolitan elite. As such, a mansion tax would have been devastating:

Under the proposed system, many of Ed’s neighbours could face large bills.

The newcomers, however, were flush with cash:

One recently arrived couple, both on six-figure salaries, asked not to be named. Being able to buy a property in this neighbourhood these days, it seems, is enough to single you out for unwanted attention.

They say they moved here because of “the large houses, and the fact it’s not chi-chi like Hampstead or Primrose Hill. You see neighbours at the weekends, they’re not all out at their country homes. You don’t see Fortnum’s vans pull up.” Dartmouth Park is not yet Mayfair, in other words – not a comparison my parents’ generation would have felt compelled to make. “It feels like a real street, with real people.”

In the end, there was no mansion tax because Labour lost the election, thankfully.

By the way, Ed’s house has two kitchens in it. One is for the nanny and the children. The other is for Ed and his wife.

Ed Miliband could have taken some advice on the PR front. The lesser of his campaign sins was jamming a bacon sandwich into his mouth, further proof that no one should be photographed eating. The greater sin, however, was imitating Moses by erecting a stone listing five Labour Party goals, dubbed the Ed Stone. Oh, my, how we laughed at such hubris.

The election was held on Thursday, May 7.

Miliband resigned as Labour Party leader on Friday, May 8, a position he had held since September 2010.

By May 10, the Ed Stone was nowhere to be seen.

That day, The Guardian reported:

A case of champagne is among the rewards being offered by tabloids and rightwing pundits in return for the whereabouts of the so-called “Ed Stone”.

The 10 commandments-style tablet, engraved with five promises and unveiled in the final days before the election, was meant to symbolise how Ed Miliband would keep his pledges and restore trust in politics.

But the gimmick was perhaps the greatest gift Miliband gave to his opponents – and the mockery shows no signs of letting up even after his resignation and the quiet disappearance of the stone.

An 8ft 6in-high, two-ton limestone hulk is not the easiest thing to hide. But the stone, which was rumoured to have cost up to £30,000, is proving remarkably elusive and Labour sources are staying tight-lipped.

The Mail has offered a case of champagne to any reader who has information that “leads to the discovery of the Ed Stone”. The Sun has set up a dedicated “Ed Stone hotline” for tips about the stone’s whereabouts.

But without any apparent success in locating the real thing, the Sun also offered its readers a chance to win a full-size replica of “the Labour loser’s laughable slab”.

It was only on January 16, 2016, that we found out what happened to the slab. The Guardian reported:

The Ed Stone was broken up shortly after the general election, it has been revealed, putting an end to eight months of speculation about its whereabouts.

Two party officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg News that the stone had been destroyed in the weeks following 7 May 2015.

Shortly before the election, David Cameron tweeted that there would be chaos with Ed Miliband (pictured with Ed Balls on the left):

Miliband is still an MP.

The Ed Stone might not have survived, but one of his lasting legacies as Energy Minister from Labour’s time in power has: the green levy on home heating fuel, which is more than the VAT. The Conservatives should scrap the levy. Perhaps they will when the cost of gas for the home reaches breaking point and people get sufficiently irritated with Net Zero.

I wrote two posts about the 2015 election. In the second, I wrote about the ‘historic upset the pollsters missed’:

Even the most accurate poll — the exit poll — slightly underestimated the final total. The Conservatives won a clear majority of seats, surpassing the magic number of 326 to end up with 331!

David Cameron no longer needed a coalition government.

Today, Nick Clegg works in California for Facebook and has just received a huge promotion as president of global affairs for parent company Meta, taking on some of Mark Zuckerberg’s former responsibilities.

What the public thought

In 2015, the public made it abundantly clear that they preferred a Conservative government.

The readers’ responses to Zoe Williams’s article about the metropolitan elite made some excellent points. I read them all.

One person said that the Conservatives’ policies appeal more to the average Briton:

The election was won by the Tories less because they represent the views of more people than any other party than because their policies offended fewer people than those of any other party. The widespread and insidious disenchantment with politicians stems from this disconnect and it just happens that at the moment the Tory message is marginally less unpopular than a whole range of unpopular messages – probably because the Tory demographic is a currently a bit wider than that of Labour.

Another said that Labour had deserted the working class for the middle class:

A large section of the working class of this country still can’t box their way out of this ingrained deference to the ruling class. The existence of the royal family and the institution of the monarchy is the guarantor of that deference. But they do not feel the same deference to the ‘metropolitan elite’ and this fact has been nicely used by right wing media to undermine urban liberalism and split the working class vote. The Labour party will have difficulty fighting its way out of this conundrum so long as they exclude working class representatives in favour of middle-class ones, black or white.

The working class feel ignored:

Labour are more and more removed from working class people … The divide is growing -hence the growth in UKIP in traditional labour areas. The metropolitan elite – useless Ed is one of them – have failed to understand and address the concerns of their traditional voting base in far too many areas.

Someone said that the Labour Party was synonymous with the metropolitan elite:

If the Labour Party (or the metropolitan elite that provides it`s talking heads) thinks that simply stealing the Conservatives`s clothes or repositioning themselves on Europe is going to work – forget it. At the moment the terms “Labour Party” and “metropolitan elite” are interchangeable and are synonymous with what us plebs would call “being out of touch”. Can the Labour Party learn how to talk to us again?….They`d better, and quickly because at present we`re all listening to the Tories and UKIP

Another reader said the same thing:

I say this as a northern working class boy

Until we have a left wing party led and organised by the working class, I’m a Tory. All you people still voting Labour when these people are in charge of the party are fools – they’ve tricked you into believing they represent you, but actually you’re just useful to them to legitimise their marginal differences compared to their blue friends in the next street.

Two people even had a go at Zoe Williams:

Zoe Williams. Godolphin and Latymer School, Oxbridge, lives in Camberwell, brays, wrote a tedious feminist piece about why she married the father of her kids after a decade as if anyone cared, spouts by-numbers liberal-lefty discourse every week in the Graun.

I don’t loathe the metropolitan elite. It’s just a shame there are so many of them clogging up the national media, the political scene, academia, the arts, public policy, etc. when they represent such an infinitesimal cadre of people. So much for the ‘diversity’ they so often chirrup about.

Also:

YOU, Zoe W, are most certainly a member of that elite. How else do you get on What The Papers Say on Sky television?

This comment seemed to unknowingly say the most about what would happen in December 2019. Britain was — and is — becoming more nationalistic, but not as a Union, only as separate parts:

Events in Scotland and the victory of the SNP and the rise of UKIP, particularly in Northern heartlands, have raised questions about the leadership of a working class party by a group of North London academics and politicians. However the real event is the battle of ideas about what a Labour Party should represent as the North London hegemony over policy has dissolved. The Blairites are in the news on the TV every day attempting to solve the problem of hegemony by a return to the centre. Both the SNP and UKIP have shown that there is no way back as both Scotland and large swathes of England are staunch nationalist. The rest of England, with the collapse of Lib Dems, is dark and lite tint blue Tory, and as such a distinct Englishness has temporarily been established. This Englishness is different from that of the UKIP North and certainly different from that of the Scottish nationalism of the SNP. The hegemonic moment of North London has in the words of Tom Nairn come face to face with the break up of Britain. Dr. Eamon O’Doherty

And, lo, it turned out to be …

More to come tomorrow.

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