This Repulsive English Establishment
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
For centuries, the best of radical journalists, campaigners and trades unionists have railed against the British Establishment. They have largely had good cause to do so. The apex of the British class system has belonged to many of the same families for centuries. Such has been their power and wealth that by and large it has not really been necessary to bribe them. Instead Britain's landowners, industrialists and largely Tory politicians looked after themselves. Their suffocating conservatism and swaggering arrogance has largely held them in good stead. Their power has only ever been challenged on perhaps three occasions; the parliamentary revolt against the Monarchy which pressaged the English civil war, the General Strike in the early years of the last century and the peaceful British Revolution that was the 1945 Labour landslide election win.
That old establishment has however quite swiftly morphed over the past thirty odd years. Although the old families, and old schools are still hugely powerful, the scions of the old moneyed elite have been obliged to rub shoulders with a new one, for the most part comprised of hugely powerful media interests, PR men, celebrities and a smattering of light weight political figures.
A revealing picture of what has now become an increasingly repulsive English elite at play was painted by the journalist Simon Walters in the Mail on Sunday at the weekend. The article appeared on the day the former Chief Executive of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation was arrested by police and the head of the Metropolitan Police resigned as the News Corporation spread yet further. The fin de siecle party described by Walters took place at the Six million pound Burford Priory owned by Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elizabeth and her husband the PR man, Matthew Freud. But just take a look at the roll call of the new English elite supping and drinking at the Murdoch trough; Rebekah Brooks was of course the belle of the ball, and leading a caste of media types that included Elizabeth Murdoch, Matthew Freud, Kirsty Young, Jeremy Clarkson, Piers Morgan and wife Celia, along with Will Lewis, Robert Peston and BBC bosses, Mark Thompson and Alan Yentob. political figures included Peter Mandelson, former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, Tessa Jowell, along with James Purnell and Douglas Alexander. Tories included Ed Vaizey, Michael Gove and Steve Hilton. The only recorded comments from that ghastly gathering was apparently one of startling truthfulness from Piers Morgan who said; "I've never seen so many people who hate each other gathered in one room". Quite what Jon Snow, the veteran journalists and presenter of Channel 4 News was doing there, I simply don't know. I can only hope that he is planning an expose.
Most of these people have substantially enriched themselves over the past couple of decades and with a relative, collective lack of visible talent. The new and already rotting English establishment who danced the night away in the Cotswolds just a couple of weeks ago is in truth a pale imitation of the old British establishment. For just take a look at the list again. It includes no authors or writers of any great or memorable talent, no scientists, no great sportspeople, no musicians or composers, no industrialists and no titan who had battled his or her way up from the shop floor as a union member. Instead piffling lightweight politicians, spin doctors and (with the exception of Peston and Snow), and lightweight media figures. Just why have we been in thrall to them for so long?
This party held at the going down of the Murdoch Sun, says it all. Modern England has little hope whilst these people hold sway. Not for much longer we must hope. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be rid of them, not to have to see them or ever read about them ever again?
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