Conservatives are the real 'one-nation' party, says Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers
The Tories are the true “one-nation” party. At least that’s the view of Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers. The Havelock old boy visited the Grimsby Telegraph with fellow Conservative backbencher and old Etonian Jacob Rees-Mogg to explain why to reporter Simon Faulkner.
TAX breaks for the rich, housing benefit cuts for the poor and a front bench dominated by old Etonians.
All are grist to the mill of those that say the Conservatives are the party of privilege.
But the accusation is an unfair one according to two Tory MPs who hail from vastly different backgrounds.
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Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers is the son of "working class Tories", a former pupil of Havelock School in Grimsby and was a long-serving local councillor.
By contrast, Jacob-Rees Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset, is the son of former editor of The Times William Rees-Mogg, was educated at Eton and Oxford and runs his own investment company.
But the pair, who sit close to each other in what they describe as the "free-thinking" section of the House Of Commons, say they are united by their common beliefs and values.
And what's more, they insist that despite Labour leader Ed Miliband's claim to the mantle, it is the Conservatives who are the party best placed to represent the interests of the country at large.
"There has been a lot of nonsense about the Conservatives being the part of privilege," said Mr Vickers.
"But here you have an Old Etonian and a Havelock old boy in the same party fighting for the same causes – which just goes to show that we are the real one-nation party."
Echoing the sentiments of PM David Cameron, who accused the Labour leader of preaching one nation while practising class war, Mr Vickers added: "Mr Miliband needs to realise that if he wants Labour to become a one-nation party he needs to represent the views of those people he might think of as being privileged."
Mr Rees-Mogg, agrees.
He said: "I think the Labour party is, in essence, a silo party. What the Conservatives are aiming to do is ensure that privilege is something that is available to everybody, whereas Labour governments tend to focus on looking after what you might view as its own people."
Mr Vickers added: "My parents were proud to call themselves working-class Tories. The Conservatives have never been able to win an election because of the privileged vote. It is because the working and middle classes have seen the benefit of their policies."
But can the Conservatives still attract support beyond their core voter base?
The most recent Tory leaders to win an outright majority at a general election – Heath, Thatcher and Major – were all grammar school educated.
By contrast, the current front bench is heavily populated by Old Etonians, the PM and Chancellor included. However, Mr Rees-Mogg, an old Etonian himself, disputes the suggestion that today's Government is out of touch.
"I don't think it's a real issue. If you look at the Westminster Village, all politicians are in an equally privileged position by the time we get there.
"We are paid about three times the average salary, we work in an environment that is very sheltered, and we are guarded by police toting sub-machine guns. It's very hard to pretend that is your normal office environment.
"I think the general public look at politicians and see them all in the same category.
"What is important is whether the Government is competent or not. If it is, then it wouldn't matter if they were Old Etonians or Russian oligarchs. Other things being equal, it is not going to make people's minds' up."
Mr Vickers said: "The outcome of the next election is almost totally reliant on the state of the economy. If we can achieve growth then the Conservatives will benefit."
In the past, Mr Rees-Mogg has claimed that his distinctly public school has counted against him at the ballot box.
However, he insists those remarks related specifically to his unsuccessful attempt to win the Central Fife seat in 1997.
"I was an Englishman in a Scottish seat and it was in that context that I made those comments. It wasn't a comment about accents in general."
Mr Rees-Mogg has certainly made no attempt to hide his accent or his well-educated background.
Last year he made headlines by using the Latin word "floccinaucinihilipilification" during a House of Commons debate.
At 29 letters, it became the longest word ever recorded in Hansard.
However, Mr Rees-Mogg insists he was surprised at the interest it sparked.
"I was talking about a deeply important subject, about EU judges arguing they should have a big pay increase, but nobody was interested in that. They were interested in floccinaucinihilipilification, which in my naivete I didn't think would attract any attention."
And he maintains that although he knows the "odd quotation" he is no Latin scholar.
However, the odd quotation is still more Latin than you would find Mr Vickers speaking on the floor of the Commons.
In contrast to the big Classics department at Eton, the Havelock of Mr Vickers' schooldays had just the one Latin teacher – and it was a subject he chose not to take.
"I don't think I have a sufficient Latin vocabulary for that," he said.
"The important thing in public life is always to be yourself. People immediately see through someone who is a fraud, and anyone who attempts that gets caught out."
Which brings us to the subject of the Tory leadership.
Some have argued that Boris Johnson's popularity is due to the fact he is not afraid to be himself and makes no attempt to hide his Old Etonian background.
Is this the case?
Mr Rees-Mogg said: "I think the reason Boris Johnson is popular is because he's not the Prime Minister and he doesn't have to make those difficult decisions.
"I think they are both themselves. Boris Johnson is a much more naturally flamboyant and outgoing personality, and David Cameron is much more serious-minded, and both qualities have their place in public life."
Mr Vickers believes the next Tory leader will emerge from the shadows – much like Mr Cameron did in 2005.
And Mr Rees-Mogg agrees.
"The last time the obvious candidate became leader of the Conservatives was Anthony Eden in 1955 and it was a disaster.
"The last time Labour chose the obvious candidate was Gordon Brown in 2007 and, well, I'll let you make your own mind up about how that went."