Boris Johnson has told us that Richard Sharp knows nothing of his personal finances. He can tell us that hundred per cent for ding-dang sure. It’s another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament. Mr Johnson’s slang is as anachronistic as Billy Bunter.
Chambers fundament the lower part or seat of the body
And then, perhaps more pertinently, the next entry in Chambers –
Fundamentum relationis the ground of relation, principle of, or the nature of, the connection.
What is the fundamentum relationis twixt Mr Sharp pointing Mr Johnson in the direction of £800,000, and Mr Johnson pointing Mr Sharp in the direction of the chairmanship of the BBC? The Parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee explored this issue with Mr Sharp. They tried to get to the bottom of it. Well, good luck with that. Following an audit trail in London is like trying to find you way home through a dense fog. A real pea-souper. A committee member, the SNP MP John Nicolson, described Mr Sharp as “haughty”.
Well, I suppose Mr Sharp has much to be haughty about, if he so chooses. He graduated in 1978 (PPE, Christ Church, Oxford) and worked as a banker for J P Morgan for 8 years, and then Goldman Sachs for 23 years, where he was Rishi Sunak’s boss. He was an adviser to Mr Johnson when the latter was London Mayor, and to Mr Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has donated £400,000 to the Conservative Party. So, irrespective of the nature of the fundamentum relationis, Mr Sharp’s appointment to the BBC chairmanship was not exactly by “blind audition”.
I can’t say I have the foggiest notion as to what a financial institution like Goldman Sachs actually does, but I imagine being a member of that particular club would open doors for you just as attendance at an English public school, then Oxbridge, would do the same. The whole purpose of attending Eton, or Harrow, or Winchester, and then Oxford, is to establish what Jane Austen calls “useful acquaintance”. The freemasonry of the haughty. It’s a meal ticket for life. The aim is to become recognised as “one of us”. You become a member of an ancient, druidical witanagemot whose manners and customs are instantly recognisable within the fold, but not beyond. The deployment of smoke and mirrors is so sophisticated as to create an illusion of transparency. “Levelling up” is sleight of hand, a conjurer’s trick. The rich get richer, and the poor ye will always have. Yet the privileged have no real idea just how privileged they are, because they have no idea what lack of privilege must feel like. They sit above the glass ceiling, look down upon those beneath who are unable to break through the ceiling, and they are contemptuous because the ceiling, being made of glass, is invisible, so they forget that it is there.
It’s a very expressive word, haughty. It comes from old French halt, haut, and Latin altus, high. So it aptly describes the attitude and demeanour of the ruling class. It’s highly perfumed, is haughtiness. Hauteur. Burns captures its quality perfectly in his radical poem A Man’s a Man for A’ That. He has intense contempt for it.
Ye see yon birkie ca’d “a lord,”
Wha struts, an stares, an a’ that?
Yes, hauteur certainly “struts and stares”. It is a remarkable thing that when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened after a gap of nearly 300 years, Burns’ poem was sung in the presence of the monarch. For some, Scottish Nationalism is primarily an attempt to escape from disdain. The “establishment” becomes an object of mockery.
The man o independent mind,
He looks and laughs at a’ that.
There is something inherently ridiculous about the high and mighty.
Meanwhile, an extraordinary (sic) cross-party summit has been held at Ditchley Park in conditions of the utmost secrecy to discuss the catastrophic economic fall-out of Brexit. It’s like something out of a John Buchan “shilling shocker”, with mysterious men in Ulsters alighting from shooting brakes to gather at a country seat in order to manipulate the levers that control the world. But why should such a meeting be held in camera? Fog, everywhere. It is the default mode to obfuscate. The trick is not to be open, but to seem to be open. That’s for ding-dang sure. Hundred per cent.