Cameron, Waitrose and class blindness.

David Cameron’s recent musings have predictably incited yet another outraged response from Labour. The prime minister’s comments that Waitrose shoppers are generally chattier than those in cheaper supermarkets, they say, are elitist. Michael Douger says:

Cameron seems to be saying that at Waitrose you get a better class of shopper. This is a bizarre and empty-headed intervention from a prime minister who increasingly gives the impression of being stuck-up and out of touch.

Yet as ever that’s not what Cameron has said at all. He merely commented they were more talkative and engaged, which is another thing entirely from being better. In his own way, he’s almost betrayed an understanding of the class system. Of course the folks at waitrose are chattier compared to those at Asda; they’re closer to Cameron’s own social position. You’re much more likely to make a B-line for the prime minister if you consider there to be cultural similarities between you. You work in an environment where you meet professionals every day, and are equally at home with the son of a baronet as you are with a doctor, a university lecturer or, indeed, the prime minister.

The stereotypical member of the working class (such as there can be), on the other hand, is much less likely to socially mix with people of the Prime Minister’s background, and as such the prospect of actually having the audacity to not only approach, but converse with him is much more daunting.

Labour have therefore missed a trick. Instead of sending out what reads suspiciously like a hastily updated template of a press release, they could have taken the opportunity to talk about why shoppers are more engaged. As it is, Cameron’s left looking as if he understands the class system much more than that supposed champion of the working classes, The Labour Party.

Edit: It’s just occurred to me that it could very well be argued that being class blind in that way is a function of Cameron’s social privilege conferred by being upper-middle class. Of course this doesn’t detract from the fact that Labour chose to make a tired comment about being ‘worse off’ and generic ‘elitism’ rather than explore why it was that Cameron made such comments.