THE NEWSDESK: Beer and bingo - that was the week that was

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS: Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps is a 21st Century Ronnie Barker

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS: Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps is a 21st Century Ronnie Barker

First published in News
Last updated
South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

IT'S hard to find the time to write this column this week, what with all the beer drinking and playing bingo.

Being a plebeian sort, someone who doesn't move in the lofty circles of Grant Shapps or David Cameron. No glitterati-filled suppers of over-priced bangers and mash and champagne from Fortnum and Mason for me, I'm afraid.

Of course, it's also been something of a week for Conservative Party Chairman Mr Shapps, too, hasn't it?

What with all the gloating on social media about the budget - the poster he shared on Twitter which went viral. Just, er, not for the reasons Mr Shapps had hoped.

"Cutting the bingo tax and beer duty. To help hardworking people do more of the things THEY enjoy."

One small, errant pronoun, one big social media hiding for the Coalition.

Oh, so many column inches written about the patronising, sneering Bullingdon Boys and their attitude to the lower orders.

Except, of course, Number 10 and the Treasury were quick to point out that the meme was shared by Mr Shapps. And he isn't exactly an old Etonian.

The official Conservative Party biography for Mr Shapps reveals he was born in Hertfordshire in 1968, educated at Watford Grammar and Cassio College Watford, before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s.

In 1990, he founded his own printing company at 21.

In 1999 he was selected as Conservative candidate for Welwyn Hatfield, and became MP for Welwyn Hatfield at the May 2005 General Election with a majority of 5,946. In May 2010 he was re-elected with a majority of 17,423.

Grammar school, rather than public school.

Does that mean that David, George and Boris, already perceived as out of touch with the needs of most of the British population, are off the hook? Or does it mean that the Conservative Party as a whole needs to take a long-hard look at itself and how it perceives its voters?

Could we now ever imagine a Brixton boy who ran away with the circus like John Major becoming its leader?

What it does is remind me of the That Was The Week That Was sketch about class featuring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, and Ronnie Corbett.

Mr Shapps is very much Ronnie Barker here, looking up to those who strode the halls of Eton College and looking down upon the beer-drinking, bingo-playing 21st Century versions of Ronnie Corbett.

In the past 50 years, it seems, nothing has changed for those who occupy the Ronnie Barker position. The "lightblub" social theory that everyone would soon be "middle class" has been switched off, unceremoniously, by Mr Shapps' frankly insulting meme.

He took to a radio station in the north west of England to defend his position later in the week, saying he, himself, drank beer and liked the odd game of bingo.

How I wish he'd gone the whole hog and said: "Some of my best friends have been known to buy Old Speckled Hen down the pub, when rubbing sholders with the common folk."

What next? A cheesy photocall in a Mecca Bingo hall? His version of the John Selwyn Gummer burger-eating press call during the BSE crisis?

Please, Mr Shapps, don't make your children play bingo.

And, by the way, giving bingo companies a tax-break isn't exactly going to help your average family in these difficult times, even less the growing numbers who are turning to food banks to get by.

For, whether the economy is now showing some growth or not, few of us are feeling that our household finances are much better than a year ago.

The biggest thing for me about this budget was the heavy emphasis on policies which appeal to pensioners, the lack of emphasis on policies which help young people.

The reduction in fuel duty is something which will cascade throughout the economy and help everyone - it is one small ray of light in an otherwise gloomily austere vision for those under pensionable age.

The brutal truth is that young people don't turn out and vote in the sort of numbers which force any government to ensure their needs are met.

So what's the answer? A mass youth voting boycott like the sort suggested by Russell Brand?

Only if you want to ensure the needs of an entire generation are cynically ignored. Only if you want to be complicit in that.

Here's something far more quick and effective. Turn out, vote and punish any party which ignores you. Make them take your for granted at their peril.

Punish them at the ballot box.

Comments (3)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

7:59am Mon 24 Mar 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

"before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s."

Unlike many of us who attended comprehensives, managed to get a proper degree in a non-Mickey Mouse subject and still find ourselves in low-paid jobs. Only goes to show that it's not what you know, but who you know - and much of the reason why Britain is in the awful state that it is has to do with the fact that we're not a meritocracy.
"before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s." Unlike many of us who attended comprehensives, managed to get a proper degree in a non-Mickey Mouse subject and still find ourselves in low-paid jobs. Only goes to show that it's not what you know, but who you know - and much of the reason why Britain is in the awful state that it is has to do with the fact that we're not a meritocracy. Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: -3

8:04am Mon 24 Mar 14

Llanmartinangel says...

Katie Re-Registered wrote:
"before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s."

Unlike many of us who attended comprehensives, managed to get a proper degree in a non-Mickey Mouse subject and still find ourselves in low-paid jobs. Only goes to show that it's not what you know, but who you know - and much of the reason why Britain is in the awful state that it is has to do with the fact that we're not a meritocracy.
Is that a suggestion that 'business and finance' is a Mickey Mouse degree? It isn't. Media Studies is.
[quote][p][bold]Katie Re-Registered[/bold] wrote: "before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s." Unlike many of us who attended comprehensives, managed to get a proper degree in a non-Mickey Mouse subject and still find ourselves in low-paid jobs. Only goes to show that it's not what you know, but who you know - and much of the reason why Britain is in the awful state that it is has to do with the fact that we're not a meritocracy.[/p][/quote]Is that a suggestion that 'business and finance' is a Mickey Mouse degree? It isn't. Media Studies is. Llanmartinangel
  • Score: 3

7:31am Tue 25 Mar 14

BobEvams2014 says...

Llanmartinangel wrote:
Katie Re-Registered wrote: "before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s." Unlike many of us who attended comprehensives, managed to get a proper degree in a non-Mickey Mouse subject and still find ourselves in low-paid jobs. Only goes to show that it's not what you know, but who you know - and much of the reason why Britain is in the awful state that it is has to do with the fact that we're not a meritocracy.
Is that a suggestion that 'business and finance' is a Mickey Mouse degree? It isn't. Media Studies is.
Quite right Mr Shapps or whatever he's calling himself this week, has studies hard, and has earned the right to be patronising to the lower working classes or 'Harwordworking people'
[quote][p][bold]Llanmartinangel[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Katie Re-Registered[/bold] wrote: "before studying Business and Finance at Manchester in the late 1980s." Unlike many of us who attended comprehensives, managed to get a proper degree in a non-Mickey Mouse subject and still find ourselves in low-paid jobs. Only goes to show that it's not what you know, but who you know - and much of the reason why Britain is in the awful state that it is has to do with the fact that we're not a meritocracy.[/p][/quote]Is that a suggestion that 'business and finance' is a Mickey Mouse degree? It isn't. Media Studies is.[/p][/quote]Quite right Mr Shapps or whatever he's calling himself this week, has studies hard, and has earned the right to be patronising to the lower working classes or 'Harwordworking people' BobEvams2014
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree