I was struck quite forcibly this morning by Michael Gove repeatedly using that term, “political class”, while commenting on the breaking news of Maria Miller’s resignation on Radio 4’s Today programme.
You could call this my Thought for the Day, but it actually made me physically cringe to hear it. It felt like that little phrase alone was at the heart of why Mr Gove found himself sat there talking on the topic to John Humphreys (instead of on GCSEs, for which he had been booked) and why Maria Miller had ended up resigning in the first place.
Should there be a “political class”? Surely that suggests a different class; I’d go as far as to say that there is a risk they might consider themselves above/apart/better. Even if they don’t, the rest of us would be entitled to arrive at that conclusion.
Shouldn’t our elected representatives simply be of the people, especially in an era when old-fashioned class lines are increasingly blurred (some would say irrelevant)?
If Mr Gove, his parliamentary peers and the advisors and hangers-on who surround them consider themselves as a class apart, that signals a dangerous chasm to me. But putting the socio-political discussion aside and simply focusing on the all-important matter of perception, segregating yourselves in that way is probably the quickest route to alienating the people you are supposed to serve. If you alienate those people past a certain degree, that will come back to haunt you.
The whole crux of the Miller issue was that, according to the popular media, people felt she had tried to control the process, sweep aside her apology with the minimum of humility and had been treated far too generously by other members of the “political class” which apparently exists.
My advice today for Michael Gove and his colleagues, if I were their consultant, would be to banish that phrase instantly before it comes back to haunt them in ever more terrifying ways (and partly because it would save me from cringing every time it was repeated!).