Britain

A Tale of Two Etonians

February 23, 2012

An even greater difference between the two is their professional experience. Though Boris and David fixed their eyes on political careers from an early stage, they developed differently. Cameron is notoriously one of a growing group of politicians whose experience is limited to politics. His only job not directly connected with the Conservative Party involved doing little more than political PR at the now-defunct Carlton Communications. Boris, on the other hand, was a reasonably successful journalist, his career culminating as the Spectator’s editor. He has written books and appeared on TV in various programs. None of it is very far from politics, but it gives an impression of a life and a career that have gone beyond Cameron’s.

The biggest difference between these two politically powerful Etonians is their image. Cameron tries very hard to pretend that he is not what he is: the offspring of a privileged family who has received an expensive education. This awkward attitude gets him into trouble. Few people relish being told that money is not that important by someone who has never remotely known what it feels like having to scrimp. He exudes an atmosphere of old-fashioned paternalistic Toryism, which is popular with very few people these days and is ill-suited to a man of his age and apparent lack of experience.

In contrast, Boris approaches life with the attitude that most people expect from Etonians. He is not ashamed of his background, his family, or his education. He is going to make the best of it. This appeals to most people. Johnson’s demeanor sends the message that you can achieve many things by playing to your own strengths. The class warriors who do not like it are unlikely to vote for him anyway, so they do not enter into his calculations. Boris’s original image of a foolish blond toff has long ago been dispelled. What remains is a reasonably attractive, very smart, and very determined politician who may have ideas that appeal to people. How strong that will make his position in the future battle for the Conservative Party’s soul depends on whether he’s reelected in May.

Whatever happens then, the chances of there being anything but a temporary truce between the two Etonians are nonexistent.

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