:: Article

An open letter to Mark-Francis Vandelli

From Lauren Elkin, for #G2015fiction.

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Paris, 8 May 2015

Dear Mark-Francis,

I woke up this morning to a Twitter feed full of people saying no, no, please, no, Scotland for the love of Christ please take us with with you. Had there been an alien invasion overnight, had apocalypse struck the British isles? No; it was only that the Tories had carried the election and David Cameron would be Prime Minister for five more years.

Though I’m not British, I spend a lot of time in London, so I had a good idea what was at stake. I was pretty disappointed last night when the first exit polls came in, and responded by tweeting a few lines from Patrick Keiller’s film London, on John Major’s 1992 win: “It seemed there was no longer anything a Conservative government could do to vote it out of office. …[T]he middle class in England had continued to vote Conservative because in their miserable hearts they still believed it was in their interest to do so.”

But people are inherently self-interested, and it has always been my belief, no matter which country I’m looking at, that a conservative vote is a selfish vote. I want to keep my money, and make more of it, I do not want to give it away to people who are stupid enough not to know how to make any. This is how the Tory defense goes, I suspect, in their craven heads, even if outwardly they’re talking about keeping the economy strong. They mean, for themselves.

But then I thought, scrolling through the abject despair pouring out of my feed, do I actually know any Tories? What are they saying about all this? I had to admit that I didn’t. That’s when I thought of you.

Or more precisely, you and your co-stars on Made in Chelsea. You’re the only British people I know, or “know,” who could conceivably be pleased about the results. I typed your name into the Twitter search box, clicked on it, and there you were, tweeting a picture of yourself from your Instagram feed, “practising,” you said, “just in case labour win.” The geolocation was set to “somewhere dreadful,” which looked to be a green-tiled train station, next to a yellowing (or just yellow) sign advertising Kavita’s Beauty Salon. What are you practising, as you sit there with your Chanel tote, being photographed by a lady friend whose reflection appears in the mirror? I google Kavita’s Beauty Salon and it seems to be in Middlesex. I don’t even know where that is. How did you even end up there? Were you golfing?

Anyway, I know you’re bright enough to realise it’s a canny move to seem to take the poshest side possible, but anyone with the ability to parse irony will see what you’re doing. If one of your co-stars had posted the same picture I very much doubt I’d be writing this letter to them; they are all a bit premier degré.

You’re my favorite MIC-er for sure, the only one with a lively curiosity and a sense of the world, who can tell Baroque from Rococo, Napoleon I from Napoleon III, and I bet – I bet – you actually read books, instead of occasionally standing near them on shoots. I’d like to think we’d have things to say to each other over a cocktail or two. I mean, I do own a sleeping bag, but I only use it maybe once a year to camp with the Earl of St Germans.

So what’s the Labour nightmare scenario? What’s so wrong with funding for arts programs, and public investment in universities? What’s good about students paying exorbitant fees, universities being run like corporations or health clubs, professors having to prove the value of their research in statistics? This is the world the Tories have designed. Even if you never set foot in a public hospital aren’t you proud of the NHS? You may be able to afford a fleet of nannies if you ever have a child but do you want to cut maternity pay and force single parents off of income support when their child hits three years old? Doesn’t parental nurture help rather than hinder our society? And I think you’ll agree there is nothing fabulous about austerity.

I tweeted back at you that if there were dreadful places in the UK, the Tories bear some responsibility for it. For every chic lovely place to hang out in London, there must be ten unlovely ones, where people are kept down by a government that cares only for its bottom line, and not for their quality of life.

You didn’t reply, and I’m not surprised. I can’t really imagine a world in which you could come out for Labour; your persona depends on a strict division between your world, with its live-in seamstresses, and our own. Your tweet was performing this idea that being posh means voting conservative, and I don’t buy it. I think you know the Tories are full of crap and that their values aren’t your values. I am persuaded that you have a keen affection for the masses, and hope benevolently to improve us; else why would you bother appearing on something as vulgar as a reality television show?

So maybe, just maybe, you can find a way to work for the public good from within the conservative base. Maybe you can start making pointed remarks at garden parties, or even on air. Jamie, darling, you really want to avoid leopard-print, and have you thought about the fact that the Tories are out to disenfranchise anyone who is poor, foreign, or disabled?

Or if that’s too much, just give us a wink next time you’re extolling the virtues of cashmere knee-highs, and we’ll know you’re on our side.

All my best



Lauren Elkin is a Paris-based writer, academic, and translator. Her next book, Flâneuse: Essays in Wandering, will be published by Chatto & Windus in 2016.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, May 8th, 2015.