A SERIES of landmark reforms, starting in 1832 slowly opened the door to universal suffrage. Over the course of the next 96 years, Britain went from being a corrupt, semi-feudal state to a modern democracy, culminating in the Representation of the People Act in 1928 which permitted women to vote on the same terms as men.

During this period of democratic gestation almost all of the ancient unearned privileges which qualified you to vote, such as land and property, clerical high office and a degree from Oxbridge fell away. It seemed then that the worst fears of the Tories would be realised: that by opening up the right to vote to the great unwashed they would never again be able to wield political power.

As it turned out, they needn’t really have worried. In the 95 years that have elapsed since the Representation of the People Act, the Tories have held office for significantly longer than Labour. Much of this is due to the fact, of course, that Britain’s working class communities were much more conservative in culture and instinct than the early 20th century Marxist radicals could ever have imagined.

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You can never over-estimate how much the experience of fighting two world wars against a very obvious (and very obviously evil) enemy - hell-bent on destroying your way of life - must reinforce feelings of patriotism. And nor could even the most optimistic of socialist thinkers have predicted the rise of mass circulation newspapers in British national life and their huge influence on the political choices of working-class people.

By the end of the 1960s, millions of newspapers were being sold each day in the most print-saturated country on the planet. And almost all of them were disseminating reactionary and conservative propaganda under the ownership of a handful of aristocrats and financiers. This was reinforced by adoration of the royal family and a deeply sentimental attachment to the British armed forces and the Empire they had fortified.

Thus, common enemies (mostly imagined) were identified and their levels of influence distorted, particularly if they favoured socialism. This was most evident in MI5 suspicions about Harold Wilson’s Soviet connections and the infiltration by the security services of the National Union of Mineworkers during the 1984/85 strike. In more recent times it was apparent in the take-down of Jeremy Corbyn.

Of course, the bitter irony here is that this country’s greatest enemies within - just as they had been prior to the Second World War - belonged exclusively to the privileged ranks of the British upper class. It seems they may still be.

Nevertheless, the advent of high-quality comprehensive education, free university places and the increase in working-class people entering professions which had previously locked them out seemed to have achieved a level of egalitarianism across the UK, driven by Harold Wilson’s “white heat of technology”.

Who cared if many then felt moved to vote for the Tories, even though it had been Labour and trade-union driven reforms which had created their opportunities? Wasn’t one of the primary goals of socialist activists the destruction of those class barriers preventing improvement in the lives of the workers?

In recent years though, there are signs of a national regression to the politics of the early 19th century. Those working-class people unable to break free from their communities are once more - just as they were pre-1832 - voiceless.

Worse, the industries that provided their descendants with an acceptable quality of life for a century or so began to disappear and few of those they thought would represent them lifted a finger. Ownership of the white heat of technology has been concentrated in the hands of a handful of unregulated billionaires, channelling the influence and preferences of the old press barons.

The Labour Party has long since dropped any vestige of a preferential option for the marginalised in society, having been itself hollowed out by a coterie of apolitical, career-driven hustlers. Barely the width of a cigarette paper separates their politics and culture from those of their Tory "adversaries"; perhaps a decimal point here and there in spending priorities and the odd nuance about immigration and housing.

On all the big issues they’re more or less joined at the hip: supporting Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine; servility to US foreign policy; appeasement of gangster states like Saudi Arabia; exporting arms to despotic regimes and enabling the banking cartels to dictate economic policy.

The personification of this was starkly illustrated last week by a breakfast television exchange between the former Tory chancellor, George Osborne and his one-time Labour opponent, Ed Balls. The pair, according to Mr Osborne were "frenemies". Mr Balls had also been a guest at Mr Osborne’s recent wedding.

These two also now appear in one of those buddy podcasts where former political adversaries suck each other’s fingers as they provide a “grown-up” approach to political discourse. The territory where “grown-up” politics proceeds, of course, is where Tories like to see their Labour opponents. Here, there can be no room for anything radical or outrageous. Nothing that will scare the horses. Only the political elites get the backing to produce these complacent, self-indulgent and utterly anodyne shows where it seems the hosts vie with each other in boasting how many political connections they still have. We have paler versions of them in Scotland.

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These shows and the recent phenomenon of politics as an end-of-pier touring production around book festivals mock real people and their circumstances.

They have come to epitomise what now passes for political engagement north and south of the Border. This compels us all to be "kinder" and more "reasonable" and to abjure anything that seems too feverish or exercised. It flows from those who can afford to be kind and reasonable.

We’ve discovered that those whom we elected to fight for social justice were busy being buddies with those whose primary task has always been to keep power and money to themselves. “Isn’t it about time we retired to the parlour for brandies and cigars, George? Aren't we clever? Let’s do a podcast together.”

To them, politics is a game-show; a charade; a means perhaps of forging a television career. You won’t see those who have lived experience of the adverse effects of Osborne and Balls and Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart and their parties appearing on their podcasts, or getting the backing to produce one of their own. For these people politics is not a game; it’s literally about life and death and about making a better future for their children and maybe emerging from the poverty and lack of opportunity which held them back.