Careless People Part Two
by Michael Patrick O'Leary
This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 2, 2021.
“They were careless people … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Indolent, Shambling Greed
I am not the only writer to have used the phrase “careless people” in relation to Tory politicians. The philosopher John Gray wrote a scathing article in the New Statesman in which he said that the Greensill scandal illuminates a larger truth about David Cameron’s character: “It is not so much the spectacle of indolent, shambling greed that is remarkable; it was only to be expected that a life of mere affluence would fail to satisfy Cameron’s mammoth sense of entitlement. Instead, it is the credulity he displayed.” New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, writes: “It was under Mr Cameron that the UK pursued destructive austerity, a doomed renegotiation with the EU, a botched reorganisation of the NHS, dysfunctional welfare reform, an unworkable net migration target and a delusionary ‘golden era’ with China. The bid to make Greensill Capital a virtual arm of the British state is but the latest fantasy that has unravelled.” Cameron was foolish enough to claim in a new foreword to the paperback edition of his memoirs that austerity left Britain better-prepared for the pandemic! As Cowley explains, “austerity enfeebled the state. Real-terms reserves for public health spending in England fell by 30 per cent from 2015 to 2019, while the prevalence of diabetes and obesity rose. Local authorities, which in less centralised countries were crucial to the pandemic response, lost an average of 60p in every pound of government grants from 2010 to 2020. Cuts to schools increased class sizes, making social distancing harder.”
Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian was also recently quoting the “careless people” passage from F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby, but he was onto this theme eight years ago. “The top 1% of Britons were taking 15% of all income received in the country. This cash is then turned into houses, shares and other assets so that now the top 1% hold over 50% of all Britain’s marketable wealth. And so, inequality is passed down the generations. Today’s headlines offer endless examples. The average London house now costs over half a million, or more than 19 times what the average British worker makes in a year.”
Cameron Family Money
Cameron’s grandfather Donald was a director at the stockbroking house Panmure Gordon. When he died in 1958, he left £57,000, which would be worth a million today. David Cameron’s father, Ian, also worked at Panmure Gordon and was reported to have trousered £2m when the company was sold to an American firm. He set up Blairmore Holdings Inc in 1982. In 2009, his personal fortune was estimated by the Sunday Times as £ ten million. There have been credible allegations that he had large amounts buried in tax havens.
Cameron is now pleading hard times. “There isn’t really a roadmap for an ex-prime minister…particularly a young one …”
The grand old days of Osborne and Cameron’s austerity.
Cameron, his Chancellor George Osborne and current prime minister Boris Johnson were all members of the exclusive Bullingdon Club at Oxford. The Wisden Cricketer reports that the Bullingdon is “ostensibly one of the two original Oxford University cricket teams but it actually used cricket merely as a respectable front for the mischievous, destructive or self-indulgent tendencies of its members”. On 12 May 1894, after dinner, Bullingdon members smashed almost all the glass of the lights and 468 windows in Peckwater Quad of Christ Church, along with the blinds and doors of the building, and again on 20 February 1927. Today, the club often books private dining rooms under an assumed name, as most restaurateurs are cautious of the Club’s reputation as being the cause of considerable drunken damage during the course of their dinners. Andrew Gimson, biographer of Boris Johnson, reported about the club in the 1980s: “I don’t think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. […] A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men.” In December 2005, Bullingdon Club members smashed 17 bottles of wine, “every piece of crockery,” and a window at the 15th-century White Hart pub in Fyfield near Oxford.
Chippings off the Old Block
In 2012, The Daily Telegraph identified a number of people as being part of a “Chipping Norton Set”. The set included the Camerons, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Matthew Freud, Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of Murdoch’s News International and her husband, old-Etonian racehorse trainer and thriller writer Charlie Brooks. Stephen Glover, columnist with the Daily Mail, first coined the term ‘Chipping Norton set’ to describe a privileged bunch of residents and their elite habits. The main protagonists quickly became synonymous with the public view of an out-of-touch ruling class, pandering to their own whims while the nation suffered austerity. Scott Fitzgerald would have found much material here.
Elizabeth Murdoch and former husband Matthew Freud
Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch
Brooks was involved in a phone hacking scandal for which News of the World editor Andy Coulson went to jail. These awful people hacked the phone of 13-year-old Milly Dowler who had been raped and brutally murdered.
In October 2013, it was revealed that Coulson had had an affair with Rebekah Brooks that lasted from 1998 to 2007. After David Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010, he appointed Coulson as Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street. His pay was £140,000, making him the highest paid special advisor. The judge hearing Coulson’s trial was critical of the prime minister, pondering whether the intervention was out of ignorance or deliberate, and demanded an explanation.
Private investigator Daniel Morgan was found dead in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe embedded in his head. His killing is thought to have been motivated by his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”.
When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005. He had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Rees was a suspect in the Morgan investigation.
Current home secretary Priti Patel is insisting that the independent panel, chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan, hand its report to her for vetting before publishing it.
Publication of the report, which was due on May 25, eight years after the inquiry was set up, will be further delayed. Patel was a guest at Rupert Murdoch’s 2016 wedding in London to Jerry Hall, former wife of Mick Jagger.
More about the Daniel Morgan case next week.