Saturday, 7 October 2017

Spoil the child - and get an adult you don't want at the top

When a young person commits a crime, we’re often told about the way he – it usually is a he – was moulded by his upbringing into the criminal he became. The parenting was too harsh, or too lenient, or too neglectful or simply too lacklustre. It was inevitable that a child brought up this way would turn into an adult who went off the rails.

Think of this upbringing.

You are born into a household of considerable wealth and a globalised lifestyle – indeed, though British and born of British parents, you enter the world in New York. You attend arguably the most prestigious school in Britain, Eton College. Attending the school costs £32,000 a year, a third more than the median earning level in Britain of under £24,000 – for a household of two people.

Let’s get this clear: half of parents in Britian are on less than a level of income which, if they paid no tax, and avoided spending on luxuries such as food, drink or a roof to shelter under, they’d still be £8000 short of the cost of a year at Eton.

I confess that I attended a down-market version of the same kind of school. The teachers keep telling the kids that they need to remember how privileged they are. The ostensible aim is to teach the kids some humility; the reality is that it just teaches them that they’re special, that they deserve colossal sums of money to be spent on them.

In other words, kids who go through this kind of education are taught to believe themselves entitled to special treatment.

Now let’s return to our hero. After Eton, he went to Oxford university, where he became a member of the Bullingdon Club. This is one of Britain’s fine traditional institutions. Its members are Oxford students from the richest families. Even the club uniform costs around £3500 – nearly a sixth of median income.

The most charming characteristic of the club is the way it entertains itself. The members like to book whole restaurants, spend an evening eating and drinking to excess, and then trashing the place. The next day, someone’s Daddy pops around with a chequebook and covers the cost of the damage.

Boys will be boys, won’t they? And who wants to spoil a good evening? Aren’t those of us who might regard this behaviour as anti-social and even criminal just puritan wet blankets?

The Bullingdon Club just underlines the message about entitlement. It says that such young sprigs can do what they like, with impunity. They’re taught that whatever they want, they can take, and no one will ever hold them responsible for the consequences of what they do to get there.

Our hero is, of course, Boris Johnson. Now not everything in his life went smoothly. He was fired from the Times newspaper for falsifying a quotation. That must have come as a terrible surprise: he had been held accountable for an action of his.

BoJo: trained to believe in his entitlement
And he likes to be seen as a lovable buffoon
It didn’t hold him back much, though. After all, he is now Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. However, what he isn’t is Prime Minister, and he wants to be. What do you do when you’re denied something you want and have been told throughout your life that what you want, you can have?

Over the last few weeks, he’s infuriated members of his own, Conservative, party by constantly making statements pushing a line on Brexit different from his party leader’s. And that party leader, Theresa May, is the Prime Minister.

Clearly, he has been positioning himself for a potential leadership bid against her.

The effect has been to give publicity to Tory divisions, shake the authority of the party and weaken its chances against a resurgent Labour opposition. This has so irritated Johnson’s colleagues that it has even got through to him at last. He knows he needs his colleagues if he’s ever to achieve his ambition of winning the leadership, and if his constant manoeuvring to win the leadership puts them off, it’ll be counter-productive. So he’s gone so far as to appeal to Tory MPs to rally behind Theresa May and against Labour, even though no one was doing more to damage that position than he was himself.

None of that gives me any distress. The Tories divided? The Tory image undermined? The Tory grip on power shaken? Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch, I say.

As for BoJo himself, I suppose one has to feel a little sympathy for a man so spoiled by his unfortunate childhood and young adulthood.

On the other hand, the idea that BoJo might get anywhere near Downing Street turns my blood cold. If we have to put up with a Tory government, that’s bad enough. But that champion of entitlement, of privilege, of belief in his own impunity heading it?

An appalling prospect...

No comments: