I read Caroline Davies piece on Lord Lucan in Thursday's Guardian with fascination. Headlined 'Drowned, shot, fed to tigers', who wouldn't be gripped by this extraordinary tale. And who couldn't be horrified at the senseless murder of the Lucan family nanny, Sandra Rivett, and feel the pain of her family.
One detail though sparked a chain-reaction of thought that has led to this blog. Here I reveal the detail:
Caroline Davies writes that in the latest twist in this decades old mystery, claims surfaced last month that Lord Lucan had shot himself in the aftermath of whatever happened at 46 Lower Belgrave Street in 1974 and was then fed to a tiger named Zorra at John Aspinall's Howletts zoo. 'Police reportedly investigated the theory at the time of Lucan's disappearance after Lady Osborne, Aspinall's mother ... allegedly told them: "The last I heard of him he was being fed to the tigers at my son's zoo." Aspinall reportedly responded when questioned: "My tigers are only fed the choicest cuts - do you really think they are going to eat stringy old Lucky?" The detail that Caroline Davies added to her sentence and that I left out in the quotation above is the fact that Lady Osborne, Aspinall's mother, was also the United Kingdom's chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne's grand-mother.
I think such aristocratic connections are an important element in any historical analysis of the government of the U.K. since 2010. These connections are usually airbrushed away in the political spin but think about what it must be like to have a portal into understanding the world that has been formed since early childhood by an aristocratic-shaped set of assumptions. Assumptions about your place in the world and about how things are best ordered. Assumptions about what you soon learn are called classes of people. Assumptions about the role of government and its proper size. Assumptions about how much tax you should pay to your government.
Pilgrim, the hero of my political fantasy: 'The Road to Corbyn' (soon to be published by Matador), has something to say on this aristocratic connection and the government of the U.K. Let him speak for himself (he has just been discovering the riches to be found in Wikipedia searches):
I learnt a great deal from it very quickly about the social worlds of these rich and powerful people. Yes, the prime minister went to Eton where the fees alone cost around £30,000 a year but I also discovered that his father was a stockbroker who also went to Eton and the family line goes back through some four generations of wealth creation in the worlds of finance and commerce. Cameron's family is a classic example of an elite family. His mother is the daughter of a baronet and on his mother's side he can trace his blood-line descent back to royalty, to the offspring of a liaison between King William IV and a mistress. Do you know that in his first shadow cabinet eighteen of its members had been to school at Eton? It's difficult to believe that this old-boy network is so extensive and powerful in a land that has achieved the status of a liberal democracy by wresting privilege and power away from just such forces. I know that Cameron has said that you should judge a person on their actions now and not on their background. People should not be criticised and condemned just because they have had a privileged education and enjoy family wealth. Quite so. But it is precisely their actions now that are shaping my judgement. And it is certainly appropriate to make connections between the background of a politician, the friend and connections he enjoys, and the politics and policies he follows - and to draw one's own conclusions. When the historians come to write their account of this land at this time, they will be drawn to the fact that three former members of the Bullingdon club at the University of Oxford, an undergraduate dining club with a reputation for hooliganism and arrogant bullying - who have been pictured together in coats and tails in a photograph that has been removed from circulation on grounds of personal copyright- should now be the prime-minister, the chancellor of the exchequer and the mayor of London. That fact will serve historians well. That fact will provide a solid basis for a lucid analysis.
Do you think, like me, that Pilgrim might be on to something here?