David Cameron: the rich man’s Clarkson

It turns out that Professor John Wells of the Spelling Society is phlegmatic about his oratorical mishandling at the well-oiled hands of David Cameron.

“Gosh, I’ve been denounced by David Cameron!” he declares in a post entitled “Fame at last”. John, Liberal Democrats and chocolate orange eaters everywhere* salute you.

It was an odd decision, that segment of Cameron’s speech. So easily exposed as painfully daft. What were they thinking:

Listen to this.
It’s the President of the Spelling Society.
He said, and I quote, “people should be able to use whichever spelling they prefer.”
He’s the President of the Spelling Society.
I say that he’s wrong.

The Spelling Society, as Joe has already pointed out, is a hundred-year-old organisation dedicated to promoting and publicising the need for the reform of spelling conventions. So you might expect President of said organisation to, er, favour changes to the current system. That’s what “reform” usually means, you see. (In this case, the particular change he was favouring was the acceptance of “thru” as an alternative for “through”, “lite” for “light” and “u” for “you”, but of course this was glossed over in Cameron’s speech.)

However, it’s the tone Cameron uses here, rather than the dodgy content, that’s interesting. He’s setting himself up as a sort of Clarkson-for-the-non-masses here. “I say he’s wrong, well, because, I do! Why should a mere phonetics expert be righter than ME? I have common sense! Just like all of you!” (Common sense, of course, is a common Tory shorthand for being pig-ignorant of the finer details of something and having no intention of seeking out further information just in case it spoils the nice big simple picture.)

Of course, disagreeing with the Spelling Society’s aims is one thing. Doubtless good arguments exist for the retention of the existing creaky old spelling system. I am, myself, concerned about Prof Wells’ targeting of the apostrophe. But to attack the Society, and misrepresent them, as a matter of principle in a grandstanding speech? Laying into an expert in a particular field on no basis other than your own rhetorical say-so is political anti-intellectualism, such as we saw in the Cities Unlimited case. In this instance, more cruelly still, it’s political anti-intellectualism masquerading as a concern for high educational standards.

So the internal Tory struggle between the yin of barking-old-fart and the yang of I’m-a-liberal-really-SO-LONG-AS-YOU-AGREE-WITH-ME-ahem-ahem-sorry continues to horrify and entertain, all the more when it is personified in the words of the leader. I suppose if you essentially believe that you can only go forward by going backwards (“progressive ends through conservative means”, as the spectacularly bonkers tagline has it – an old-style grammar school teacher would lay on a cane for that one) then it must be extremely disconcerting if people who actually know something about your subject tell you the precise opposite. Fingers in ears and bray is just about your only option.

* Now, there’s a Venn diagram worth compiling. And we have another survey coming up on LDV…


  1. Tell you what it reminds me of, Alix; that Conservative leader’s conference speech (Hague?) years ago where he attacked ‘loony Labour’ funding projects and gave the example of the ‘Asian Women’s Hopscotch centre’, only to find out afterwards that it was a respected organisation that had royal patronage and had to backtrack pretty sharpish. Same pig-ignorant Tory sound-bite attack mode.

  2. Quite so, Lorna Spenceley. But this is a widely used tactic, deployed often by the Fail & the Scum. They paint some ludicrous strawman argument, attacking a position no one ever took in the first place, & abuse someone in the process. Very often they are sued & have to pay out damages…

    But they don’t care. No tabloid “reader” pays attention to the retractions. The “there’s no smoke without fire” brigade won’t be accepting Robert Murat’s innocence any time soon, for example.

    Utterly despicable tactics, but people like Richard Littlecock & indeed Clarkson are extremely good at it. That is rather disquieting: they clearly are clever, at least in the sense of having high IQs, as their readership wouldn’t be able to play the game half as well (which is why they mindlessly parrot their leaders in the first place).

    You’ve also got the wind up merchants, who would put their name to just about anything if it annoyed a few leftists, greens, etc. etc. This explains why so many are falling into step behind Sarah Palin.

    These people, who are clever but wholly unprincipled, terrify me. I can shrug their followers off as they are worthless & thick, but the conscious wingnuts will destroy civilised society given half a chance.

  3. Talking about Clarkson, did you see that he is reported as considering standing against Nick Clegg in Sheffield at the next general election? That should finally destroy Cameron’s environmental credentials.

  4. I think the fact that I’m reading this post and going, “yeah! stick it to him! ha! go for it!” shows just how badly that speech tanked with the non-Tory crowd.

    For years I’ve been thinking, “honestly I’d rather the Tories got back in than put up with another term of Labour” but today I’ve been feeling quite nauseous about the prospect.

    Someone save us from dumbed down political populism.. please? Anyone?

  5. Gah! This is the problem with an evening spent in the pub. Others get to write the post you meant to write before you.

    and now I’m too drunk to do it justice. Ah well, I’ll try to do it tomorrow anyway, I’ll add in some ‘language of Shaksper’ stuff to annoy Jennie…

  6. Bring Clarko on. Knowing the part of Sheffield in question, which is not exactly full of gobby Essex Man types in Chelsea tractors, and bearing in mind that the Conservatives are now about as popular in that Tory-free city as syrup of figs, Jeremy will tank at the polls. I love Top Gear but I wouldn’t necessarily want its presenters running the country. Nick Clegg will eat him for breakfast.

  7. And it’s not just the spelling:

    “My son grazed his knee at school yesterday. And, in this political-correctness-gone-mad, Human-Rights-Act-culture, health-and-safety-bonkers world, do you know what happened? The teacher put a plaster on. The teacher put a plaster on his knee.
    Surely not? Surely this cannot happen? David Cameron was quite explicit in his speech: ‘Teachers can’t put a plaster on a child’s grazed knee without calling a first-aid officer.’ But, dear reader, she did.”

  8. It would actually be good if Clarkson were elcted for some constituency other than Hallam, as his utter worthlessness as a constituency MP would soon become known. I’d be delighted by his embarassment when called upon to stop being a gobby, ignorant twat & actually do something.

    The fucker would be worse than Boris Johnson 🙂

  9. Common sense is not the same thing as good sense.

    Cameron can be both as posh and common as he wants, but that doesn’t make him any good.

  10. His call against Enhanced CRB Disclosures for parents hosting an exchange student is also plain stupid. I await the first child abused by a parent (with an unsuitable criminal record) on such an exchange after Cameron drops this and see how he explains how filling in a form and waiting a couple of months was worse than exposing a child to abuse.

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