Metamorphosis

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 01.43.07From Viscount Stansgate to Tony Benn (via the pupal stage of Anthony Wedgwood-Benn)

Benn, writes Dalrymple, was an early avatar of the rejection of the traditions of British high culture, this rejection being considered by the weak-minded to be a meritorious political act, a sign of solidarity with those whom history had oppressed and exploited.

He was obliged to forgo his hereditary peerage to continue to sit in the House of Commons, but the plebeian contraction of his family name was his own invention.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 10.02.10Left-wing in everything but his finances

Benn sent his children in well-publicised fashion to the local state school, omitting to mention the extensive private tutoring they received.

In this way Benn came up with the perfect solution to the moral dilemma facing every Left-leaning parent of the upper and middle classes (the Jeremy Cardhouse incarnation Michael Gove, for instance, or Harriet Harman):

The moral high ground of having self-denyingly rejected private education, while simultaneously having avoided the disastrously low educational standards in the state system that have left at least a quarter of the British population virtually illiterate.

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