Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph:
I’ve written before about David Cameron’s rudeness. He turns his good manners up and down like a dimmer switch, depending on how useful you can be to him. It’s a technique associated with a certain breed of old Etonian and wannabe Etonians, too, such as George Osborne. The Chancellor is even more haughty than his boss: he seems to be on a mission to alienate potential Tory donors by staring through them.
I’m not saying that ex-public schoolboys are ruder than any other section of society just that certain young toffs employ unusually sadistic techniques of freezing people out. These techniques have been refined over centuries of competitive snobbery; they’re deployed with glee by members of the Bullingdon Club and other Oxford dining societies.
These are just children’s games, of course. Under normal circumstances, the only people who care about them are chippy Left-wingers or social climbers who’ve been silently “dropped” by the posh boys. (The silence, the lack of explanation, is part of the game.)
But these aren’t normal circumstances. Perhaps the oddest thing about this Government even odder than the cohabitation with the Lib Dems is the way the adolescent cruelty of the Oxford smart set has been turned into an instrument of statecraft.
We caught a hint of it this week, when the Chancellor’s “friends” started briefing against the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, for opposing a third runway at Heathrow. Not long ago, Greening probably thought she was close to, if not part of, the inner circle. Then the whispers started just as they do whenever the Bullingdon tires of one of its hangers-on.
“The fact is that David and George don’t like people very much,” says a politician who has known both men for years. That’s a bit sweeping: it’s probably fairer to say that the membership list for their club of friends was closed years ago. (Until recently, billionaires and media barons were let in as associates, but that didn’t work out.)
This is the modus operandi of amateur statesmen, not the professionals Britain deserves in a time of crisis. Cameron and Osborne’s snootiness stifles their intellectual curiosity and is poisoning their relationship with a Tory party that, even if it adored them, would have difficulty making sense of their policies. I suppose Dave could turn up the dimmer switch of his good manners so they reach the back benches, but my hunch is that he’s left it too late.