The New Few
SIMON AND SCHUSTER, 2012
Ferdinand Mount's The New Few is fascinating. This is as much for who is writing the book as for what he has uncovered. Part national analysis, part personal revelation, The New Few charts how the excesses of the rich have become so gross that, by page 213, we learn that Mr Mount, in 2010, switched his current account from Barclays to the Co-op! It is these asides that kept my interest up and is why I would recommend this book. It contains some good suggestions but also a great many basic errors; but that is not the main reason it is worth reading. It is worth reading to understand that the elite are beginning to get it too. There is light on the horizon!
Ferdinand isn't any old polemist complaining about the bankers, the aristocracy, all those at the top. He's from the top. Sir William Robert Ferdinand Mount, 3rd baronet, proclaimed (on his Wikipedia page) author of the 1983 Tory general election manifesto, former City Banker, and the cousin of Prime Minister David Cameron's mother, is annoyed. He is very annoyed with how unequal we have all become, because that was not the plan or, at least, not his plan.
This book is the story of how the old few are beginning to wake up to what, in their youth, they created: the world of today in which the new few, the oligarchs, are taking more and more of a shrinking pie. At times Ferdinand admits to his complicity in making this possible, but he errs towards the over-modest:
... I was in a tiny way complicit, a foot soldier in the long march towards oligarchy. As a junior officer in the Conservative Research Department, I wrote papers for Sir Keith Joseph ... (p. 10) Sir Keith was intellectual guru for Lady Thatcher. Ferdinand did the thinking for Keith. Ferdinand's current lament about the new oligarchs is oddly reminiscent of Edwardians complaining about American heiresses buying their way into the English aristocracy. He opens the book by describing the rise of inequality in Britain as '... the great surprise of our times, and an unwelcome one too, which is why we have taken so long to confront it. But the evidence is plain enough if we look: the Few are back on top' (p. 2). Given that income, wealth and health inequalities have all been rapidly growing for three decades, you might wonder why it has taken Ferdinand so long to become surprised. Rather like Lady Thatcher, he really believed some of these inequalities would fall following her...