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Elaine Thomas: We should not blame Eton for Dave’s disdain for the common man

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This weekend, staying at a hotel in West Wales, I went to the bar just as a party of elderly people on a coach tour came into the room. One of the group, a lady in her seventies, I would guess, apparently on her own, asked the barman if the drinks should go on the bill or whether she should pay cash.  He told her she could choose.  I’d better see how much spending money I have left, she said, looking anxiously into her purse.

Her vulnerability was heartbreaking.  I thought to myself immediately, she’s not one of Dave’s people. Not smart, not modern. Quite hard up. But I bet you she votes Conservative.

It’s not Eton’s fault.  The Left are always keen to remind us that he went to Eton, as though that explains everything.  It doesn’t, though Dave doesn’t half fall for that.  So defensive. Remember when he asked Ed Milliband whether his wife would be wearing a hat to the Royal wedding?

But Dave’s disdain for the little people doesn’t come from his schooling.   After all, Boris, and Princes William and Harry went to Eton too, and they don’t have it.  None of them give off the whiff of privilege and apartness in quite the same way.

Boris knows how to speak in the language of ordinary men and women. And how to make us laugh.  His response in a radio interview to the ridiculous fuss Dave was making about what to wear to the wedding was: Well, you know me guv, when I’m in the presence of Royalty, I like to be properly dressed.

The Princes are completely at ease mixing with the rest of us.  Their work with charities has shown their compassion and sincerity in helping others.

So what is it with Dave that makes him so unconvincing? His fans say he’s a decent man, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. He and his wife are clearly happy together and devoted parents.  Their suffering over the loss of their son Ivan was obvious and sincere.

None of it translates into a sense of empathy with those outside the guilded circle.  With us.

Of course, Dave has never known what it’s like to be worried about money. And now he never will.  He will never have to save up or defer gratification.

Everything has landed effortlessly on his plate.  He’s never stepped out of his comfort zone. He’s never needed to.  His education and connections have served him well, and he’s got brains and talent, so he’s certainly not undeserving.

But he doesn’t push himself, and seems incapable of showing anything but the shallowest semblance of empathy.  Unlike the Royal brothers he has never worked with the poor or disadvantaged.  Nor has he done a job abroad which might have marked his singularly unfurrowed brow with some evidence of experience in the world outside the gilded triangle of Eton, Oxford and Notting Hill.

Dave’s disdain comes from Olympian self-regard, bolstered by his ability to survive every threatening crisis, even if it is more often than not, by the skin of his teeth. And he’s helped too by the sheer ineptness of the alternative.  But it’s hard to love or admire the man.  Even when he’s saying and doing the right thing’, it always looks like PR.  It never comes from the heart.

The elderly lady in Carmarthen may give him her vote, but she is completely beyond his ken.

Such people, with their unmetropolitan take on issues like Europe, immigration and gay marriage are routinely dismissed in the corridors of 10 Downing Street, as fruitcakes and loons.

Dave hasn’t got time for them.  When did he ever roll up his sleeves and do a night shift in a hospital or in a charity for the homeless?

If you win in 2015, Dave, my advice to you is to carve just a little bit of time out of your chillaxing budget, and serve the public privately, at the skint end.  You might discover what it is that we miss in your polished public persona.

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Elaine Thomas
Elaine Thomas is a former BBC producer

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