Our Views: Good advice of Sir John

Sir John Major is a long way from his youth in a rented two-room apartment in working-class Brixton. He is a former prime minister, knight of the Realm and one of Britain’s leading social commentators.

And it’s commentary that is not particularly welcome to the grandees of the Conservative Party that Major led.

And given the state of America’s conservative party, the Republicans, his comments might get a fair bit of attention here as well.

The former PM is one of the few Conservative leaders who came up from modest backgrounds. For that matter, the same class structure of leaders from upper-class families and elite universities can be said of the Labour and Liberal parties, too.

In Britain, a class structure still lives. And Major has not very gently suggested the elite from society should understand and appreciate the hardships of the “silent have-nots.” Those are the people who work and obey the law, but fall behind “through no fault of their own.”

“And how do I know about these people?” he asked. “Because I grew up with them.”

Among Britain’s elite, the old school tie still lives. The current prime minister and leaders of just about every party in the House of Commons is from the Oxbridge colleges — Oxford or Cambridge universities — and are the product of an upper-class to a level that is almost inconceivable in America.

The Conservative-Liberal coalition government led by David Cameron of the Tories faces the voters again next year.

To win, Cameron needs the votes of people like young John, who left a state school — not a posh private school — at age 16 with limited academic qualifications.

Obviously, both Major and the late Margaret Thatcher did not fit in with the stereotype of the Oxbridge conservatives. She was the daughter of a grocer. But most politicians are indeed out of Downton Abbey central casting.

“If the Conservatives are seen as the party of the few, the rich, the privileged,” the Daily Telegraph commented, “then it is all too conceivable that a Labour leader posing as the tribune of the people will be able to snatch victory in 2015.”

While Major’s comments might cause heartburn among the port-swilling dinner partiers of the government, the lesson of his remarks goes further, and probably should be contemplated by the Republican Party in America. Its last nominee was Mitt Romney, he of the 1 percent.

More than a few Republicans in the United States have been talking about reconnecting with the working-class voter.

If Sir John were to give advice, we suspect he’d say it’s not just a matter of appearing to be on the side of the people working hard and playing by the rules.

Does that phrase sound familiar? It was from the Rhodes Scholar from Hope, Ark., who became president appealing to those voters.