A "champagne socialist" is a pejorative political term originating in the United Kingdom. The phrase is used to describe a politician, or other self-proclaimed advocate of the poor or working classes, who claims to support a form of socialist ideology, but who might disregard socialist ideals in their daily life. The term is sometimes used as an attack by opposing politicians to portray and ridicule their opponents as hypocritical (see below).
History and origin
The label arose from the perceived activity of proposing toasts to famous socialists
. A similar concept, with aristocracy in place of capitalism, comes from the 19th-century
philosopher Alexander Herzen
, who in From the Other Shore
) wrote "It is they, none other, who are dying of cold and hunger...while you and I in our rooms on the first floor are chatting about socialism 'over pastry
and champagne.'" Readers of the Daily Mirror
, a tabloid newspaper whose left-leaning views have been criticised as somewhat half-hearted, are sometimes referred to as 'cava
socialists' or 'asti
socialists'. A comparable term in the first half of the 20th century was "parlor pink". The term Bollinger Bolshevik
is used in the same way.
People labelled as champagne socialists
- Tony Benn former Labour Cabinet Minister.
- Charles Clarke (former Home Secretary)
- Lord Falconer of Thoroton (Lord Chancellor)
- Respect MP George Galloway
- Geoffrey Robinson, (ex-Paymaster General and chairman of Coventry City Football Club) has been labelled the "ultimate champagne socialist"
- Peter Mandelson Former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister and now an EU Commissioner.
- Michael Moore American documentary filmmaker, author, actor and activist.
- Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is frequently criticised for his champagne socialist lifestyle
- Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil and a former communist leader.
- George Soros, Billionaire Financier
- Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese warlord
- Fidel Castro, former Cuban president with an alleged personal fortune of over $150,000,000. However this claim, by Forbes magazine, described the figures as "more art than science" and has been heavily disputed by Fidel Castro himself, who stated he would step down if it could be in anyway proven He has since handed over power to his brother Raul Castro due to unrelated circumstances.
- Andy Gilchrist, the union leader during the 2002-3 Firefighters Dispute, who famously lead the calls for firefighters' pay to be increased, but was later found to have run up a hotel bill totalling several thousand pounds for a drinking session at the union's expense.
The same concept has different names throughout the world:
- Australia and New Zealand: "Chardonnay socialist" or "the latte set"
- Belgium: "loft-socialist"
- Canada: "BMW bolshevik", "Silver spoon-fed socialist", "Rosedale Socialist" (after the wealthy Rosedale residential neighbourhood in Toronto)"
- Chile: "Whisky socialist"
- Denmark: "Coast Line socialist" (Kystbanesocialist, named after the railway from Copenhagen to Elsinore, which runs through the wealthiest area in Denmark.)
- Finland and Norway: "Red wine socialist"
- France: "Gauche caviar"
- Germany: "Tuscany faction" (Toskana-Fraktion, used especially for some members of the former Red-green coalition government.)
- Ireland: "Smoked salmon socialist"
- Japan: "Labour aristocrats" , (労働貴族, Roudou-Kizoku)
- The Netherlands: "Salonsocialist"
- Poland: "Caviar left" (kawiorowa lewica)
- Portugal: "Caviar left" (Esquerda caviar)
- Spain: "Sociolisto" (meaning smart partner, changing middle a in Spanish for socialist socialista for o).
- Sweden: "Red wine leftist" (Rödvinsvänster)
- United States: "Limousine liberal," "Learjet liberal," or "latte liberal" (see also "liberal elite")
- Turkey: "Lukewarm Socialist" (Tatli Su Sosyalisti)