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The case of the disappearing Toff
October 27, 2008 11:36 AM   Subscribe

The Bullingdon Club is an elite drinking dining club for members of Oxford University in England. Its alumni include the London Mayor, Boris Johnson; the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron and the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne - in other words the three most powerful Tories in the UK. Photographs of the club are already extremely rare, but recently it surfaced that one of the two in wide circulation, might have been doctored.

Incidentally, a previous image of the Club featuring David Cameron and Boris Johnson has recently been withdrawn from circulation.
posted by MrMerlot (26 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are you sure The Bullingdon Club wasn't a New Romantic band? Because I could have sworn I saw these guys open for Spandau Ballet.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:01 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


MIGHT have been doctored? There are ghost clothes standing there.

You'd think that if they didn't want to be seen as ultra-rich privileged brats, they'd avoid having their picture taken like this (or at least without those expressions). But I guess they didn't know they were getting into politics? Why else even have the club, if not for rubbing elbows with the Future Leaders of Our Great Nation? (Answer: drinking)
posted by DU at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


hey, a picture of people it's okay to hate! Good to know.
posted by The Whelk at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2008


Which one in that photo is "Joe the Plumber?"
posted by ericb at 12:12 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't really get what's going on here. Are these three most powerful Tories denying they were ever in the club? Should I be stretching for a 'Skull and Bones' metaphor?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:23 PM on October 27, 2008


BTW -- the same picture as it appeared in an article in the Daily Mail (April 2007) doesn't contain the "headless waistcoat."
posted by ericb at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2008


These Premises Are Alarmed -- it just goes to show that politics can focus on the trvial details anywhere in the world.

The issue of "class" and privilege gets slung around with the mud in Britain, just as it does here in the States.

Doncha' know -- the elites, "cosmopolitans," fake Virginians versus real Virginians, hockey moms, Joes-the-Tradesmen, etc.
posted by ericb at 12:36 PM on October 27, 2008


Featured as the Bollinger Club in the prelude of E. Waugh's Decline and Fall. Great fun.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:40 PM on October 27, 2008


That's funny. The journo posting the story is Steve Busfield, who I was at Oxford with. He was a very, very staunch left-winger and I presume, like me, a sworn enemy of the Bullies.

Words cannot express how vile I found, and find, these people. And vice versa, I imagine.
posted by unSane at 12:44 PM on October 27, 2008


Should I be stretching for a 'Skull and Bones' metaphor?

That might be apt. Think about George W. Bush -- born in Connecticut into a prominent family, educated at exclusive schools: Phillips Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School, etc. Indeed while at Yale he was a selected to be a member of the exclusive secret society, Skull & Bones.

For much of his political career Bush and his handlers have down-played his roots and privileged background. They have crafted a Southern "man of the people" (someone with whom the average Joe could have a beer). Bush adopted a twang and casual speaking style. He purchased a ranch in Texas -- albeit it the Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas -- his "official residence." Few photographs have ever been published of the 1,583 acre compound which contains a main house, guest house and numerous out buildings.
posted by ericb at 12:56 PM on October 27, 2008


Think about George W. Bush

Must I?

Thanks, ericb, that's helpful.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:08 PM on October 27, 2008


FFS,

who cares? They got pissed and dressed up. I live in Oxford, now & when they were up to their silly games. I got pissed & dressed up too. Surprise.

The basis of the argument against them is: 'Abolish the Rich'. Which I agree with, but don't like to personalise.

Attack their policies which will be easy enough to do, right?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:16 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


a main house, guest house and numerous out buildings

There you go with your elite language again, ericb. Back where I come from, we just call em outhouses.
posted by taz at 1:21 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The attempted supression of the images, and possible manipulation of the images is the point. If you have nothing to hide, why hide it?
posted by MrMerlot at 1:22 PM on October 27, 2008


If you have nothing to hide, why hide it?

Because I like privacy. Although I am amused to see this argument turned back on the Tories that have pushed a surveillance society on us with it, I still disagree with it.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2008


The Bullingdon Club lot are but pipsqueaks compared to The Cambridge Apostles (similar but more soberly intellectual "secret" undergraduate society).

Apostles have included John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, G.E. Moore, Rupert Brooke and, of course, the spies Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt.

(Though which lot has collectively done more to harm the UK probably depends on your politics!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:05 PM on October 27, 2008


The basis of the argument against them is: 'Abolish the Rich'. Which I agree with, but don't like to personalise. Attack their policies which will be easy enough to do, right?
The basis of the argument is that the rise to prominence of these men is symptomatic of the sharp decline in social mobility and end even the pretence of a meritocracy, and also a confirmation that it's really not what you know but who you know that gets you ahead, I would have thought. This is a charge that sits ill with the Tory doctrine that people get on in life through dint of their own hard work in a free and open marketplace.
posted by Abiezer at 3:33 PM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


The basis of the argument against them is: 'Abolish the Rich'.

It's also interesting/important because these are the very same people who deploy the 'new barbarians' arguments, a ploy designed to stigmatize working class kids for their lack of morals, their inability to behave in a civilized fashion, their excessive binge drinking, their engaging in casual sex in public places, their homosexuality, etc. etc.

If it turns out that our leading Conservative politicians were once all too fond of boozing, dressing up in SS uniforms and sucking each other off at public parties as they fondle their teddy bears, then that's something we really do need to be told about. While we may feel that all of these behaviours are perfectly acceptable, at the very least it allows us to assess their levels of hypocracy, and their capacity to engage in 'do as I say, not as I do' moralism.

Also, it's a little known fact but these people actually invented the whole furry community. Sebastien Flyte's Aloysius wasn't just a teddy -- he was actually Drunkie Schwartz's great-granddad.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:22 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Someone's been watching Have I Got News For You amirite?
posted by nfg at 1:31 AM on October 28, 2008


Why, have they had Drunkie Schwartz on as a guest? He'd be much funnier than either Merton or Hislop.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:13 AM on October 28, 2008


I dressed in silly clothes and got drunk at university... why am I not running the country? Oh yeah, I never went to Eton.

Though perhaps at the end of the day money trumps privilege after all
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:06 AM on October 28, 2008


George Osborne didn't go to Eton either and was, as a result, referred to by his chums as "Oik". I wonder if that's still the case?
posted by gregjones at 4:12 AM on October 28, 2008


Because I like privacy. Although I am amused to see this argument turned back on the Tories that have pushed a surveillance society on us with it, I still disagree with it.

As a pinko lefty, I still feel I have to point out that it's the Tories disguised as New Labour that have been pushing the surveillance agenda for the last ten years, and the Nominal Tories have opposed measures such as ID cards.

And while I don't think it's news to most people in the UK that the old establishment is still in place, the extent of it is not often quantified. From reports made by the Sutton Trust:

32% of all MPs and 59% of Conservative MPs attended private schools...which educate 7% of the population 1

42% of front bench MPs attended private school 1

98% of hereditary peers and 56% of appointed peers attended private school 1

Over two thirds of barristers at the top chambers had attended independent schools, as had three quarters of the judges and over half the partners at the leading law firms. 2

Over half of the top journalists attended private school 3

And it's not getting any better..........

44% of the young people from the richest 20% of households gained a degree in 2002, only 10% of the young people from the poorest 10% did so 4

Rah, Rah, Rah, we're going to smash the oiks!

posted by Jakey at 6:03 AM on October 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


Abiezer is right. The suppressed picture explains at a glance how contemporary Britain comes to have so many joke toffs in positions you might have thought would be entrusted to people with some talent.

Presumably the ghost waistcoat belonged to someone who feared that being revealed as a joke toff would damage their interests in some way. Which actually shows how stupid some of these people really are, come to think of it...
posted by Phanx at 7:05 AM on October 28, 2008


Also: Mefi mods and Americans please pay attention. Even British newspapers seem to be able to use the dreaded 'c' word without having hysterics about omigod sexism, amirite?

From fearfulsymmetry's link above:

The young Osborne was held upside down by his fellow members, who banged his head on the floor each time he failed to answer correctly the question: "What are you?" He got it eventually. The unexpurgated answer was: "I am a despicable cunt."


One of the few occasions when a Conservative politician was absolutely correct.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:44 AM on October 29, 2008


Even British newspapers seem to be able to use the dreaded 'c' word without having hysterics about omigod sexism, amirite?

That's newspaper singular I think... I sure I remember reading that although there are swearwords in the Independent for instance the good old Guardian is a lot swearier than the others. (The Times, for instance, still stars-out swearwords.) For example see this fantastically sweary story on Itunes.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:02 AM on October 29, 2008


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