Cliveden is a good review for a divided country and I have waited, not too long, for it to feel resonant for Spectator readers; it aches with class-consciousness. It has food pens dependent on your status — whether you are eating in the National Trust grounds, or the swanky (I love this word; it’s so bitter) hotel inside the ‘manor’. And even if you are staying in the swanky manor, famous as the venue where John Profumo exploited the not-recovering child-abuse victim Christine Keeler — don’t call me a sighing Guardianista, I have done my research and she once aborted a child with a pen — in a swimming pool, you have signage to soothe your comparative class wretchedness, for you do not have a country house of your own. Cliveden isn’t a hotel, according the sign in the carpark. It’s a ‘house’; and, yes, it used to be.
You can learn almost everything there is to know about England from spending an afternoon at a National Trust ‘property’; and summer is the season for learning it. It is not, I fancy, the house and grounds that they preserve or, if they do, that is incidental. It is a museum of snobbery. If you want trees you can walk in a forest, after all; they do, despite the best efforts of the worst elements of the Conservative government, still exist. This is merely agonised gawping; it is the cardiovascular version of watching Downton Abbey and that, I suppose, is something.
At Cliveden, the hotel, which used to be the Astor mansion, is an Italianate armed camp in a field of Nigel Farage’s ‘decent people’. (I am calling Cliveden for Bremain.) As a wag said on Twitter — what does that make the rest of us? Smurfs? For myself, I think Farage meant ‘homosexuals’ and ‘the kind of men who feel guilty about using prostitutes’.