Normally I dislike the leveling impulse, but the fate of the snotty Tory pol Andrew Mitchell is delicious and deserved:
Mr. Cameron has been trying for years to “detoxify” the Conservatives and their image as an elitist, “nasty party,” emphasizing instead that all recession-hit Britons are “in this together.” But class distinctions still run deep in Britain, resentments are easily inflamed and Mr. Mitchell, the party’s chief whip in the House of Commons, played straight into them with his behavior and, the police say, with one searing word.
It seems that Mr. Mitchell was preparing to leave 10 Downing Street, where the prime minister has his official residence, last Wednesday evening on his bicycle when police officers on duty at the main gate there told him that he could not ride through and would have to use a side gate. He erupted in dudgeon and profanity, telling the officers that they should learn their place and, according to the police report, that they were “plebs” — as highhanded and contemptuous a way of calling them worthless nobodies as there is in Britain.
The barb suggests that the Conservative party remains bound by class and privilege, cut off from the concerns of ordinary, decent people. There is some truth in this but that is not why it resonates. Boris Johnson is, if anything, more privileged than Mr Mitchell – yet the mayor of London revels in it and is one of the most popular politicians in the country.
Mr Johnson is liked because he is seen to represent an older class position that knew its privileges but understood its duties, too. Mr Mitchell’s alleged remark reverberates as it speaks to new lines of class and forms of privilege; an elite that cares not a damn for those below it and considers itself beyond the normal order that governs society. Just as Mitt Romney’s dismissal of 47 per cent of American voters as entitlement junkies making no contribution to the national good may well define and defeat his campaign, so senior Tories fear the “plebs” remark will also come to define and defeat them.
The trouble is that “47-per-centers” and “plebs” do define the modern order and do capture current reality. Much of this results unbeknown to themselves from centre right economics in both the US and the UK. Conservatives in both countries now represent vested over public interest, big business over small, international over national capital. They typify and defend an economic system that serves the minority rather than the majority.
Highly recommended: reading Blond’s entire slashing column.
(Hey, light posting from me today, gang; I’m roadtripping to the Stennis Space Center with No. 1 son, the space freak, as his birthday present.)