Soames lowers the tone
Friday 19th September 2014
Solomon Hughes doubts whether that titan of the Establishment Winston Churchill would be impressed by the careers of his two grandsons
There are lots of important questions about “the Establishment” addressed by Owen Jones’s new book — how do they hold power? How do they exercise it? Can we stop them shaping society for their benefit?
But I’d like to ask one more question about the Establishment — how did they get so tacky?
In particular, how did the Churchill family, one of the most powerful tribes among the clans that rule us, get so trashy? They’ve gone from producing one of the most intelligent, flexible and forward-thinking members of the elite to a couple of cheesy hangers-on?
In 2002 Winston Churchill was voted “greatest Briton of all time.” Morning Star readers won’t have been hitting the buttons in that phone poll — Churchill was very much a member of the ruling classes.
He wanted to preserve the empire and stop the advance of working people. He was the colonial secretary who ordered the bombing of Iraqis and Kurds in 1919 and fought Gandhi’s campaign for Indian independence.
He was the home secretary who sent troops against striking miners in Tonypandy, Glamorgan, in 1911.
He was full of the bigotries of his class. But Churchill was also one of the more forward-thinking members of the Establishment.
He helped to set up the welfare state at the start of the 20th century and rejected appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s, when many of his class thought both moves were madness.
His promotion of welfare and opposition to Hitler may have stemmed from very different motives from those on the left, but this showed he was a flexible, intelligent, forceful member of his class.
Churchill’s grandsons have important positions in society. But “flexible,” “intelligent,” “forceful”? The words don’t really fit.
Nicholas and Rupert Soames look like an essay in the decline of the ruling class. The brothers are the most outstanding of Churchill’s relatives, but they stand out in the same way a clown would stand out in a church service.
Nicholas Soames was equerry to Prince Charles in the 1970s, the ultimate hangers-on job.
When Princess Di accused Charles of adultery in 1985 and said the royal household hated her — pretty accurate accusations — Soames went on telly to claim Di was suffering “mental illness.”
He became famous for a similarly ugly and backward approach to women after he became an MP in 1983.
In a 2005 book based on interviews with women MPs named him as the most sexist man in Parliament. They accused him of leading Tory MPs in trying to distract women speakers with insults and gestures, including a sleazy two-handed mime of cupping women’s breasts whenever a female MP had the floor.
Soames denied the charge, but not the sneering and snobbish “jokes” he made about male MPs. Frequently when John Prescott spoke in Parliament, Soames would shout out: “A gin and tonic please, Giovanni!”
This “joke” plays on the fact Prescott was once a ship’s steward. Ha ha, silly Prescott had a real job, instead of arranging to have a famous granddad, an Eton education and a medieval post helping Prince Charles put his trousers on.
Despite his advantages, Soames’s parliamentary career went nowhere. He was a junior agriculture and defence minister under John Major, but made little impact. So he decided to cash in instead.
Soames moonlights from his job as MP for Mid-Sussex by working for private security company Aegis Defence.
Aegis pays Soames £105k a year — more than he gets as an MP.
Founded by infamous mercenary Tim Spicer, Aegis made most of its money as one of the prime security contractors in Iraq.
Soames voted for the Iraq war and then went on to work for one of the companies that profited from the occupation. Soames is richer, but Iraq is poorer.
Leaving Iraq in the hands of private security firms like Aegis instead of a proper army reduced the country to the weak, collapsing state that cannot stand up to the jihadis from Isis.
Here is a sharp picture of the decline of the Establishment — Granddad Churchill was the celebrated wartime PM. Grandson Soames works for some mercenaries behind one of the worst military disasters of the century.
Nicholas’s brother Rupert Soames is also a director of a big privatisation firm. In 2013 Serco, a company which relies almost entirely on privatised public services for its £4 billion turnover, hit a snag.
The Ministry of Justice caught the firm cheating on its contract to electronically tag prisoners on remand.
Serco was charging for people it had never tagged. Serco paid back £68.5 million.
This was the largest and latest of a series of scandals. Serco’s contract to run out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall was marred by poor staffing and false information.
The firm was also accused of covering up abuse at its Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre.
It needed a new boss to put a gap between the firm and the scandal, so Rupert Soames was hired as its new chief executive.
What better way to demonstrate that they are upright, fair, hard-working people than hiring the brother of a leading Tory MP?
How better to show that they want to do work they are good at, rather than relying on influence-peddling and Establishment links, than getting one of Churchill’s grandkids to front up the firm?
Like Nicholas, Rupert Soames has been offered all the advantages, despite unimpressive results.
After Eton he went to Worcester College, Oxford. Despite the high cost of his schooling, Soames ended up with a third-class degree.
Soames claims he did badly because he was too busy in the late ’70s working as a disc jockey at Annabel’s nightclub. Annabel’s is everything that is stinky about the British Establishment.
It was founded in 1963 as a playground for the rotten set around murdering aristo Lord Lucan as somewhere the fag ends of the aristocracy could party with eurotrash, ageing playboys and the like.
So there you have it — the ruling class starts with a Churchill and ends up with a part-time MP and a former DJ from a dodgy club running a firm of cheats.
TORY Party membership has slumped to such lows that it’s now outnumbered by hippos, chimps and beluga whales, Labour revealed yesterday. Speaking in Tory-free Manchester, shadow cabinet office minister Michael Dugher said the nasty party now has just 134,000 members: here.