Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The snobbery of Lee Anderson’s critics

Lee Anderson (Alamy)

The middle-class left cracks me up. They’re always wringing their hands over the lack of working-class people in politics. And yet the minute a man from a working-class background – a former miner, no less – starts to soar in the political realm, they launch a hate campaign against him. They brand him thick, an imbecile, a Rottweiler, a piece of gammon. ‘What’s this gruff, ill-educated blowhard doing on our turf?’, they essentially say. It seems they like the idea of working-class people, but not the reality.

Of course I’m talking about Lee Anderson, the colourful, outspoken Tory MP for Ashfield. He’s become the bete noire of the university-educated left. Virtually every day there’s a Twittermob of the plummy and right-on denouncing Anderson for some speechcrime or other. Today they’re up in arms over comments he made in this magazine about the death penalty: ‘Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed’, he said. Everyone needs to lighten up. Even I, an implacable opponent of the death penalty, can see that’s a funny line. We want funny lines in politics, no?

Anderson’s gruffness unsettles them because it looks like a reassertion of working-class independence

The most striking thing about the chattering class’s disdain for Anderson is how bemused and haughty it is. They don’t just disagree with him – they cannot believe he exists. They cannot believe there are such ruffians out there, and what’s more that one of them has ascended to the deputy chairmanship of the Conservative party. A ‘prime piece of gammon’ in the political realm? Alongside all those clever, refined PPE grads? The horror. He should have stayed down the mines.

We need to talk about the classism in Anderson-bashing. You can see it in the language his haters use. He’s always a thug, a ‘Red Wall Rottweiler’, ‘gammon’ of course – that vile piggy insult the bourgeois left uses against anyone lower down the social ladder who holds views they disapprove of.

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