We’re ruled by a cosy elite who all go to the same dinner parties, says former No10 policy guru chief Steve Hilton

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Courtesy of Daniel Martin @ The Daily Mail:

David Cameron’s former chief strategist has launched a stinging attack on the ‘insular ruling class’ threatening Britain’s democracy.

Steve Hilton said too many of those at the heart of government go to the same dinner parties and send their children to the same schools.

He said the UK’s political system is now in ‘crisis’ because the same type of people stay in charge whatever the outcome of the elections.

In what will be seen as a criticism of the ‘chumocracy’ of his former boss, Mr Hilton warned: ‘Our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges.

‘Regardless of who’s in office, the same people are in power.

‘It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome.’

This situation adds to disenchantment and has led to the rise of the SNP in Scotland and Ukip in England, he said. Mr Hilton also attacked the influence of political donors, saying: ‘It seems today that political legitimacy stems not from votes, but money. The more of it you have, the more that government pays attention to your concerns.’

The Prime Minister has long been accused of surrounding himself with people from the same background. Newly-elected Tory MP Boris Johnson went to the same school – Eton, while Chancellor George Osborne went to another top public school, St Paul’s.
Mr Cameron tried to counter this impression in last week’s reshuffle, which resulted in a record number of Cabinet ministers from comprehensive schools.

Mr Hilton, 45, is one of the Conservative leader’s closest friends, making his attacks all the more surprising. He was godfather to Mr Cameron’s son Ivan and is married to Rachel Whetstone, head of communications at Google.

In an article for the Sunday Times, he attacked the influence that donors from big business have over parties such as the Conservatives, saying it was a new form of ‘corruption’. ‘Democracy is in crisis: it seems to serve the people no longer, but rather vested interests,’ he said.

‘Of all the bad that the vested interests do, perhaps their worst impact is the hold they have over our governments.

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Mr Hilton is one of Prime Minister David Cameron’s closest friends, making his attacks all the more surprising

‘It seems today that political legitimacy stems not from votes, but from money: the more of it you have, the more government pays attention to your concerns.

‘We have, in some ways, regressed. Corruption used to be the norm in countries, democratic or otherwise. Power was inherited and bought; political appointments were traded for favours in a system under which the elites literally owned the state.

‘While it is no longer so explicit, in the capitals of western democracies the ascent of big money and its lobbyists means that, while there is no explicit quid pro quo, it is hard to mistake what donors intend when they give money to political parties and campaigns.

THE ADORED ADVISER WHOSE IDEAS BACKFIRED

Steve Hilton is David Cameron’s oldest friend in politics and for years was his closest adviser.

But while the PM is always smartly-turned out, Mr Hilton goes for the informal look and often cycles round Whitehall in a T-shirt and shorts.

It was Oxford-educated Mr Hilton, 45, who first encouraged his boss to run for party leader in 2005 and later sat at the heart of the Cameron-led party and its Notting Hill set.

But as the party’s arch moderniser he was behind the PM’s much-derided ‘hug a husky’ trip to the Arctic. And tired of his reforms, traditionalists leaked emails in which the former Saatchi advertising executive used baffling PR speak.

Although one insider said ‘Dave absolutely adores him,’ Mr Hilton fell out with George Osborne – and left three years ago to become a lecturer in the US.

‘Or what business people want when they take politicians and civil servants to dinner, the opera, the Brits, Wimbledon.

‘We no longer have aristocratic courts and inherited offices, but our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges.’

Mr Hilton said Western democratic systems were now ‘decayed’ – especially in the US and the EU, which he described as a ‘vast, stinking cesspit of corporate corruption gussied up in the garb of idealistic internationalism’.

But while the US has a decentralised system, power in the UK is concentrated in Whitehall and becomes a ‘gift to vested interests’.

He added: ‘When the corporate bosses, the MPs, the journalists… all go to the same dinner parties and social events, all live near one another, all send their children to the same schools (from which they themselves mainly came), an insular ruling class develops.

‘They flit and float between Westminster, Whitehall and the City; regardless of who’s in office, the same people are in power.

‘It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome. I know because I was part of it.’

Mr Hilton has now called for reform. He added: ‘While there is no conspiracy … the assumptions, the structures, the rules that govern our lives are not subject to anything as unpredictable as the will of the people. No wonder voters feel that others’ voices are being heard more than their own. It’s because it’s true.’

He added: ‘From the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy movements to the protest parties in Europe, Ukip and the nearly successful vote for Scottish independence, it’s clear that our political systems – in the UK, America and continental Europe – are not translating people’s wishes into action.

‘We need to change that: we need to make democracy work as it was intended to, as a vehicle for real people power, not the plutocrat power we have today.’

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