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GW: Obviously I wouldn't suggest that the culture of condescension can explain the riots. I'm claiming they are an aspect of it. 

NC: How?

GW: It's partly education but mostly the  media, and above all television. It's tiresome to have to remind people but what had David Cameron done before becoming prime minister? The only job he had was with the trashiest TV company around, Carlton, in which he was the PR man and I remember one of the shows he was promoting was  called A Woman's Guide to Adultery

Now I'm not condemning that programme. Someone is going to do that-Richard Desmond, he does it. Unlike David Cameron, Richard Desmond does not get up and make high-sounding speeches a few years later, quite oblivious, it seems, to the fact that there may be some contradiction with his previous behaviour. That has a certain symbolic value because it's not just him, it's his friends. Let's not get too deeply into the News of the World, but look at that circle. What were those people doing? And the very presence of someone like Andy Coulson in No 10 is sociologically fascinating because here is a man from a very different background who is appropriated, let us say, by Cameron basically as part of his cultural condescension, i.e. to get through and ingratiate himself with the masses. 

As it  happens, I fought a battle over quality television and had huge arguments with Mrs Thatcher on precisely this theme. What I said to her and my fellow ministers at a lunch at No 10 was: "You cannot go around preaching about the importance of education and sell off television franchises to the highest bidder," which is what she proposed to do. The other ministers were appalled that I'd contradicted her so bluntly, but later she invited me for a private drink. We argued again, she got the point, and introduced a quality threshold. Now, can you imagine doing that with Cameron? I think he'd say, "Oh George, you're being frightfully elitist."

NC: Aren't you and Daniel arguing against the market? I used to mock businessmen who accused critics of anything from Big Macs to pornography of being elitist. Look at these guys in their suits and their cars. How dare they use the language of radicalism and revolution? But in their own terms, what they were saying was, we are the market. We give consumers what they want, if they don't like it they don't have to buy it, no one forces them. So aren't traditional Conservatives in a bind that they don't quite recognise? 

When your Conservative colleagues argued against you and said: "Come on George, why shouldn't we sell off television? If a station doesn't produce programmes that people like it will go bust," they were arguing for the market. I suspect you don't like it and I suspect Daniel doesn't like it but you can't bring yourselves to say that actually we need to be a bit more statist, we need more controls on the market, because your ideology prevents you from saying that.

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March 28th, 2013
4:03 PM
There certainly are examples of playing down to the lowest cultural levels - and very embarrassing they are, to choose just one relatively harmless effect of this. I am not sure Cameron adopting something by Tracy Emin is an example of that though. Isn't she typical rather, of the taste the cultural elite than of the underclass - most of whom would probably see it for the rubbish it is better than the elite would?

March 11th, 2013
8:03 AM
'we have the worst underclass in Europe and we've seen their powers of destruction.' No you haven't. And you probably never will. No group of people would tolerate the kind of unpleasantness that is being dished out to them by the likes of the rather strange looking fellows in the illustration accompanying this article and willingly sacrifice themselves as cannon fodder again. 'Most squaddies come from council estates' David Starkey, CBE, FSA But not for much longer.

Bob Hunt
March 2nd, 2013
1:03 AM
Dear Sir, I am very interested in the fact that no British bank went under in the twenties or thirties. How was this possible?

RHJ King
October 29th, 2012
2:10 AM
I'll grant that there were a few interesting points made over these ten pages, but am quite surprised how the conversation fizzled into the ether with an unchallenged bit of silliness. Regardless of how much Nick Cohen would like to think that the "model has fallen apart", there is no avoiding the fact that for decades one 'elite' or another has had a wrench in the gears of the free market system. The western social democratic model in all its guises throughout the world is floundering and has neither the skills nor the belief system to support a stable economy, let alone one that is faltering. The notion that trade unions and bureaucrats aren't to blame can also be questioned. If the recent riots are not a direct cultural descendent of the labour unrest of the 70's, what is it? And, please, just look at the size and cost of the modern bureaucracy and the debt they insist on accruing. What we require is the impossible: among other things- less government (particularly left of center so called conservatives), a revamped educational system that will teach self reliance, and some old fashioned hard work. What we will get is more of the same 'ghastly demotivating' statism.

December 29th, 2011
4:12 PM
"It is impossible for serious people to believe in God any more, or at least the God of the Bible, the God of the Koran, the God of the Torah. You just can't do it." Nick this is the silliest comment you have made in this interview. It is obvious that serious people do believe in God and precisely in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Who could be more serious than Benedict XVI, John Paul II, Jonathon Sacks, Jacques Delors, Angela Merket, etc., etc. I would say that not believing in God is extremely frivolous and adolescent. Most public atheists, if they were once had faith, lost it in their teens. But this means that they are locked into an adolescent syndrome with regard to what is the most serious question that can be asked: does God exist? They fail to grow spiritually even if they become brilliant scientists, writers, mathematicians, etc.

December 24th, 2011
9:12 PM
Iv been checking for a few weeks now and I can't believe no-one has bothered commenting on this! George Walden's, New Elites, is a philosophical classic and once read, you will see the sh'it were in in an entirely different, and even original, way. New Elites peels away the lazy cobwebs we operate in and opens a new angle to explore. A bit like Orwell and Huxley, but for today. So it's a damn shame that I am the only person bothering to comment. Now that's intelligence for you! Now what time is The X Factor playing?

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