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