It’s extraordinary how a gaffe can do serious political damage. But of course Andrew Mitchell’s explosion at the police “best learn your fucking place…..You’re fucking plebs” wasn’t a gaffe at all. Like Romney’s dismissal of 47% of the US population as shirkers dependent on the State, the language was a wide-open revelation of the inner attitudes, normally kept firmly padlocked away until once ensconced in power those born to rule can mete it out to the serfs physically, financially and power-wise. But the arrogance of this class, on both sides of the Atlantic, has reached such pinnacles that they cannot conceal their contempt, or they simply don’t care. The scarcely veiled sarcasm of “We’re all in it together” has been exposed as the shameless offloading of mountains of debt on to those perceived as the lower orders whilst secretly nurturing an utter contempt for their subordinate status.
But that’s not all. Mitchell’s repeated demand “Let me through, I’m the chief whip” adds another dimension. Ministers can do what the hell they like, it doesn’t matter what the rules say. And when finally forced to give way to avoid the threat of arrest, his anger and contempt bursts out again: ”You haven’t heard the last of this”, code for we’ll get our revenge on you for not doing what you’re told. This is Etonian toffiness and Bullingdon Club raucous misbehaviour in the raw. This one single incident says more about the Tories’ class attitudes on who they govern for (their own class) and who they despise (not only trade unionists and those on benefits, but also if they get in the way – the police) than all the gibes about multi-millionaires in the Cabinet,
This scenario throws a revealing light on other almost inexplicable acts of this government. To cut the 50% income tax rate, which subsidises the UK’s 14,000 millionaires with an extra £270 a week, when the rest of the country has been absorbing losses of anything from £10-£120 a week or even more, was not seen by Osborne & co as politically inept, but rather as a reward to be expected by their own class and which it deserved, and it wouldn’t matter what others felt because they really didn’t count.
Some time this seeting cauldron of ballooning inequality mixed with class contempt, will explode. We should be grateful to Mitchell for pulling aside the veil and making that day come sooner rather than later.