For once, Boris Johnson, the bouffant poster boy of the Poujadist deficients, let his mask of irrepressible clownishness slip to reveal the Social Darwinist beneath. Clearly pitching to the decaying authoritarian clique that renders the Conservative Party an increasing irrelevance, his remarks on the subject of intelligence and financial merit manage to combine both repugnance and risibility.
Anyone with a sense of historical continuity will recognise the arguments about relative intelligence and social merit from the justifications put forward in the first half of the century for campaigns of sterilisation to keep the race pure, and, in the case of the Nazis, the elimination of those deemed too feeble-minded or degenerate to be allowed to exist within society. While Johnson did not go as far as advocating such actions, it is all of a piece with the reintroduction of concepts of the "deserving poor" and the other paraphernalia of the neo-conservative agenda. Perhaps he should be applauded for such a candid insight into the mindset of the Bullingdon clique.
In the same speech, he applauded the rich and suggested that they should be rewarded further, even more than their rapacity has already plundered from the economy. Suggesting that the share of income tax paid by the top 1% of earners has risen is an idiotic thing proposition - unless, of course the share of income accruing to them has remained constant or decreased. The Tories (in both their genuine and New Labour guises) have presided over a further skewing of income distribution in favour of the parasites and drones - so it is only right that a proportion of this is returned to the state in the form of taxation, quite apart from the reasonable supposition that these gains are hardly merited by individual effort. According to Boris's fanzine, the London Evening Standard, there are 2,000 bankers in London grossing over £1m per annum, despite their obvious culpability for the depression and their cupidity and hypocrisy in demanding sacrifice from others.
To argue against either of the suppositions that genetic merit and plundered wealth should determine economic and social opportunity risks the label of class-envious socialist or worse - the canard set up by the new right to immunise their immorality and hypocrisy and shout down their opponents. Yet there would be some justification if there was a genuine equality of opportunity for those already outside the economic and political fastnesses, but all the evidence points to declining social mobility. When even Sir John Major feels sufficiently motivated to peel himself away from the cricket to call Dave's bluff on this one you can tell that the Tories are regressing to a 1920s and 1930s mode.
This makes the Social Darwinism less surprising. The British historical narrative peddled by the right airbrushes out the anti-semitism and the eugenicists whose influence in the upper echelons of British society in the 1930s was widespread and pernicious. It is surely appropriate here to insert the obligatory reminder of Lord Rotheremere's endorsement of the British Union of Fascists - and to marvel at how his descendants' socio-political position has not evolved. These views, vile and repulsive that they are, have no place in any civilised community - but they are now articulated and their detestability justified by "fighting against political correctness".
Johnson is a demagogue who has learned that behaving like a buffoon allows him to articulate his inner thoughts with the get-out clause of japery. The mask that slipped this week should alarm his cohorts in the Tory party much more than the rest of us, as it continues to demonstrate that the Tories remain a home for the kind of swivel-eyed depravity that alienates a much larger slice of the electorate than they would have you believe. Whatever happens, his foul tirade is a gift to opponents from both a Liberal and an egalitarian standpoint.
The foul toad wishes to lead the Tory party - which is a prospect that should galvanise and focus campaigning against them. For every platitude that emerges from Cameron there is a far greater counterbalance from Johnson, Osborne or Gove that renders their reasonable mask risible. In attacking those who he regards as stupid or poor the mask is off, the contempt is clarified and we are closer to defining terms that will marginalise the Tories going forward.