I enjoy the mockery of senior Tories as much as the next man – maybe even more – and the recent publication of the Bullingdon Club photo in the Telegraph, with a snobby looking Cameron among others, was a rather fine example of such ridicule.
However, Robbie Millen on Comment Central has picked up on one of the more annoying features of any debate that follows the revelation that a politician is posher than average. The term “ordinary people” – “ordinary voters”, and the claim that the politician in question will be unable to adequately understand them or communicate with them.
Now, here’s the thing; No matter what you think of the posh bugger, what on earth makes the rest ordinary?!
As Robbie says:
Now, what about the children of immigrants from, let’s say, Bangladesh. Their family life, their experiences and the values that they are taught are quite different from their white neighbours. Do they count as “ordinary people”? Can they understand the concerns of the white majority? And what about a steelworker from South Wales – his life is pretty different from a retail worker from Crawley? A council-house tenant doesn’t have to worry about mortgages, so he doesn’t know much about the woes that face homeowners. And… you get the picture. The “ordinary voter” is a pretty rare thing.
In case you wondered, the definition of the ordinary is:
ordinary |ˈôrdnˌerē| adjective 1 with no special or distinctive features; normal : he sets out to depict ordinary people | it was just an ordinary evening. See note at normal . • uninteresting; commonplace : ordinary items of everyday wear. 2 (esp. of a judge or bishop) exercising authority by virtue of office and not by delegation.
Politicians who come from a privileged background might indeed have problems empathising with those come from a less privileged one (Or they might not.) That is beside the point.
I hate to think that many of those on the left who so haphazardly throw that phrase around in the context of this debate, think of Cameron and his ilk as something special – something more interesting or better than everyone else, because that is precisely what such phraseology implies!
Not only is “ordinary” then a somewhat derogatory term when applied to such a wide range of people, but it’s also a highly subjective one.
Paris Hilton was memorably (at least for those of us inclined to pick up glossy magazines at the doctors) quoted to say that she at some conciderable age was shocked to discover that not everyone lived in mansions like herself and all her friends.
Living in a mansion was an ordinary thing for her.
This of course supports the point that people like Roy Hattersley are making, but it also proves an extension of Robbie’s point, namely that the ordinary is relative.
“Hard working people up and down the country” deserve better generalisations.