I never intended to make this letter public. You see, you and I have had our disagreements over the years but on the whole our relationship has been rather solid. I love you, Blighty, royal warts and all. But this latest twist of events in your current social affairs has got me worried.
I thought that the tide had turned against working class people. In my innocent Cuban mind, to call someone “working class” in 21st century Britain was to liken them to skivers, benefits fraudsters and scroungers. In this respect I had come to the conclusion that the Cameron-led coalition had unfortunately won.
How wrong I was. Not on the working class bit, mind you. They are still seen as “chavs” with all the negative bias that that word conveys. No, I was wrong because it is not just hoi polloi who are despised, but also posh people. Who would have thought that the very upper class so admired – envied, some might say – by many denizens on this pleasant and beautiful land are also derided and mocked?
Don’t believe me? Exhibit A: Andrew Mitchell. Now, if you are resident in the UK, you probably remember what got Andie in hot water last year. Apparently the former Conservative cabinet minister called a policeman a “pleb” after a verbal spat with the officer outside the Downing Street gate. Let’s forget for a moment the rather patronising comment by the high court judge who oversaw the case. To quote him verbatim, our learned friend opined that the officer in question was not the sort of man “who had the wit, the imagination... to invent in the spur of the moment what a senior cabinet minister would have said to him”. Make of that what you will. But what to say of Andrew Mitchell? Or rather, what did the papers say of him? They went for his jugular. At the centre of their attack on Mr Mitchell was that word, “pleb”. Like a swearword let out accidentally in a roomful of children in a nursery, this is one of those terms that has the label “toxic” scribbled all over it. It is also a word that carries with it a sense of superiority and entitlement on the part of the user.
|I've made my point, you pleb! Now, I shall cycle off.|
Sense of superiority could be the link to our Exhibit B: David Mellor. Another Conservative former cabinet minister, Mr Mellor found himself recently in a black cab with his wife leaving Buckingham Palace. Following a disagreement with the driver over which route to take, David Mellor proceeded to give the taxi driver a piece of his toff mind. What ensued was a volley of insults from the politician to the cabbie, from calling him a “smart-arsed little git” to that old do-you-know-who-I-am chestnut “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen ’s Counsel. You think that your experiences are anything compared to mine?” Unfortunately for David, the cab driver was recording him all along. On finding out that his arrogant tirade had been captured on record, Mr Mellor told a tabloid: “I will leave the public to judge his actions”.
I will leave you readers to judge his actions, too. And those of Andrew Mitchell. Two specimens who suffer from the same self-delusional illness that apparently makes its victims behave like total idiots. Idiots with a sense of superiority.
But Britain, back to you. I thought, I honestly thought that you would side with these two “sweaty, stupid little shits” (to use David Mellor’s words when confronting the cab driver. Don’t you love it when a supposedly erudite man stoops so low to show off his power?). After all, according to a recent documentary called Posh People: Inside Tatler, we are apparently fascinated by the lives of those who live “upstairs” whilst laughing at those who live “downstairs”. Yet, this is not what happened to David and Andrew. They were taken apart by both right-wing and left-wing media. Could it be that we are witnessing a grand occasion in the history of class in this nation? The moment when the playing field is finally being levelled? Or, could the reason be a more mundane one? Editors need to sell more newspapers and both stories were too good to take into consideration decades-old political allegiances. Let rip and rake in the profits.
Still, Britain, you owe me an answer. Proles or toffs? Plebs or posh? Who is really Public Enemy Number One?
Your Favourite Cuban In London
Photo taken from The Daily Telegraph
Next Post: “Living in a Multilingual World”, to be published on Wednesday 10th December at 11:59pm (GMT)