Lord Young had to go: he was speaking the truth
Cameron’s enterprise tsar exposed the inconvenient truth - that a huge divide has opened up in Britain
Lord Young of Graffham had no choice but to stand down as David Cameron's 'enterprise tsar' having seriously embarrassed the Tory party by claiming that most people in Britain had "never had it so good" since the "so-called recession" began.
But while I'm no great fan of Young's politics, I must admit to feeling a little sorry for the bow-tied, multi-millionaire Thatcherite politician. After all, from his perspective, he was telling the truth.
The reality is that there is a chunk of British society that has never had it so good.
Most of the people Lord Young bumps into on a daily basis have not been affected by the recession and certainly will not suffer directly as a result of the massive public spending cuts. As he suggested, if they have mortgages, then they've done nothing but benefit from the low interest rates.
High-ranking politicians, business leaders, bankers, consultants, the media elite – why would they be suffering, assuming they still have jobs?
Then there are the doctors and dentists, lawyers, accountants, head teachers, senior police officers... and, at the other end of the social rainbow, self-employed electricians, plumbers, builders and roofers, all of whom can earn sizeable non-taxed incomes.
Landlords, too, are doing nicely thank you, due to the combination of low interest rates and sky high rents. "Lord Young's gaffe was certainly an error of judgment politically, but in terms of property investors, he was spot on," says property expert James Moss.
The official government line is, of course, that we're all in this together - and that the burden of government cutbacks is falling on everyone. But it's simply not true. The upper-middle classes - Lord Young's class - are positively thriving.
Private schools are enjoying a boom. So, too, is the luxury holiday market: a survey of luxury consumers conducted by the Luxury Travel Fair found that 67 per cent of people had taken at least three holidays in the past year.
Indeed, they were to have been joined this Christmas by the Camerons, who, apparently, have been leafing through the brochures looking to spend Christmas in a £1,000-a-night hotel in Phuket, on the coast of Thailand. Until someone – thought to be the PM's communications director Andy Coulson – suggested this might send the "wrong message" given that "we're all in this together". So they'll be spending Christmas in Britain after all.
The fact is we're not all in this together and the country is more divided than at any time since the 1920s. Lord Young's crime was to reveal, albeit inadvertently, this division.
Furthermore – and this explains why Cameron was so angry when he first learned what Young had said, and was so eager to accept his resignation - Young's ill-judged comment suggested that nothing has changed in the Tory party... that, despite all the promises, they are still the party of those who are doing okay.
What was shocking about Young's remark was that he is apparently unaware that there are others 'out there' for whom life is not easy.
For those who are out of work, or who have low income jobs, or who are forced to survive off the EU's lowest state pension, life in coalition Britain is grim indeed. And it's going to get even harder as prices of basic essentials, such as fuel and transport, are set to rocket.
As Mehdi Hasan points out in the New Statesman, 22 out of the coalition's 29 Cabinet ministers are millionaires; two-thirds of the Cabinet went to fee-paying schools. "Not since the days of Harold Macmillan in the late 1950s has Britain been governed by politicians representing such a narrow social base," Hasan writes.
And it's because they're drawn from such a narrow base, that our politicians, Lord Young included, cannot see that many Britons are struggling.
The banker's son Nick Clegg, who is married to a high-flying international lawyer, exposed his ignorance recently when he said he thought the basic state pension was "about £30 a week".
All that said, I would advise the Camerons to go ahead and take their Thai holiday – for two reasons.
First, because he is under-estimating the public if he thinks we'll be impressed by the sacrifice: of course the Camerons can afford it, so go ahead, enjoy yourselves.
Second, because it might be the last chance Prime Minister gets to relax for a long time. After Christmas, things will get a whole lot tougher as the impact of his government's radical economic reforms begin to take effect.
Inevitably, even Lord Young's friends could begin to feel the effect as the British state shrinks, lucrative government contracts are cut and spending power in the economy is reduced. An economic downturn will also hit White Van Man, whose votes the Tories rely on in the south-east.
In short, those who have "never had it so good" could begin to question where this Con-Lib coalition is taking them. ·
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