I’ve reviewed Simon Kuper’s book Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the U.K. for the House Magazine. I say it’s an entertaining, highly readable book that contains some great anecdotes, but it’s core thesis – that the Brexit project was shaped by the class interest of a group of grievance-mongering Tory toffs who resented the transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels because they regarded the exercise of that power as their birthright – is laughably chippy. Here are the first few paragraphs:
It has become a commonplace of Islington dinner parties that the reason Britain is in such a mess is because of its wretched class system which has condemned us to being ruled by a bunch of incompetent Tory toffs. Not only are they lazy and amoral, believing the rules don’t apply to them, but for the most part they’re innumerate and scientifically illiterate, thanks to the humanities bias at Britain’s elite public schools and Oxford University. Little wonder, then, that they’ve made such a hash of governing the country, culminating in the disastrous decision to leave the European Union.
This furious critique of our current political masters has been given its clearest expression yet by the Financial Times journalist Simon Kuper. In Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK, he traces Brexit back to a group of straight, white, ex-public schoolboys at Oxford in the 1980s and blames it on their elite backgrounds, their gargantuan sense of entitlement and the cult of the gentleman amateur.