Long life

Will anyone admit to being in the establishment? (No, not you, David Mellor)

The problem is our big beasts' inability to realise that their pre-eminence is partly down to luck

6 December 2014

9:00 AM

6 December 2014

9:00 AM

This is a tremendous time for ‘ordinary’ people. The elitists, the members of the ‘establishment’, are all on the run. Except, of course, that everybody is ordinary now. Or at least nobody admits to being an insider, a member of the Westminster bubble, of the establishment, or of any such posh outfit. There is no ‘them’, only ‘us’, united in conflict with an arrogant, out-of-touch, privileged class that doesn’t apparently exist. Those who don’t recognise their ordinariness, but persist in believing in their superiority, are instantly cut down. David Mellor is the latest example, exposed for boasting to a London taxi driver that he had been in the cabinet, was a Queen’s Counsel and an ‘award-winning broadcaster’, while he, the taxi driver, was an uneducated ‘smart-arsed little bastard’.

Before that there was Emily Thornberry, who was forced to resign as Labour’s shadow attorney-general for implying, in a tweeted photograph, that she had a poor opinion of white van drivers. But the greatest blow to the vainglorious has been last week’s rejection of a libel case against the Sun newspaper by the former Conservative chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, who was alleged to have called a policeman a ‘pleb’. In delivering his verdict, however, the judge, Mr Justice Mitting, came dangerously close to snootiness himself when he said that the policeman concerned, PC Rowland, was ‘not the sort of man who would have had the wit, imagination or inclination to invent on the spur of the moment an account of what a senior politician had said to him in temper’. I hope he did not mean that policemen in general lack wit or imagination.

I feel some sympathy for Emily Thornberry. While it was idiotic of her in the present political climate to publish a photograph of a house draped with St George’s flags and a white van parked outside, suggesting a kind of brutishness and vulgarity on the part of Ukip supporters, she did it without comment. And she is hardly alone in her prejudice against white van drivers. I have no doubt that Ed Miliband, who forced her out of the shadow cabinet in a vaunted display of outrage, shares it; and I myself have marvelled at the extent to which white van drivers live up to their reputation for pushiness and aggression on the roads. In fact, I could have been killed by one last weekend when he tried to overtake me in the middle of a Northamptonshire village just as I was signalling that I was about to turn right. I don’t like white van drivers either, though Ukip would hardly be doing well if it relied only on them for its support.

Policemen and taxi drivers can be provocative too, capable of much arrogance and stubbornness. In the case of David Mellor, at least, we do not know what his cabbie may have said or done to provoke him before recording his boorish outburst. But however annoying it was, it could not have justified his stream of vulgar invective. The same goes for Mitchell’s loutish response to the police’s irritating refusal to let him ride his bicycle out through the main gate of Downing Street. What makes such prominent people behave in this way? The ones who do so are usually to be found among those who believe that they owe their eminence entirely to their own efforts and ability, and not to good fortune or to anybody else. This was perhaps truer of Mellor, the grammar school boy from South Dorset, than of Andrew Mitchell, the Rubgy-educated son of a Tory knight, but nobody ever gets anywhere without at least some element of luck. It is their refusal to accept this that makes some successful people look down on those who haven’t had the drive or the talent to rise in the world.

The only tolerable grandees are those who recognise how lucky they have been. The late philanthropist, John Paul Getty, who inherited an American oil fortune, did recognise this, as inevitably do winners of the National Lottery. The same goes for most people born into wealth or status. From the Queen downwards, they are aware that they owe everything to an accident of birth and that otherwise they might be among the lowest of the low. With doubtless many exceptions, this causes them to show humility with their social inferiors, or at any rate to be polite to them. They know how ordinary they could easily be.

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Show comments
  • yes humility is an important virtue. not sure you’re going to learn much from national lottery winners though. i think the point is that you need more than just talent and hard work to succeed – you do need a break. but you do also need talent and hard work.

  • greencoat

    David Mellor looks like a very nice old lady. Please leave her alone.

  • rtj1211

    Well, it’s rather hard for any Privy Counsellor to say that they aren’t, unless of course they have publicly revoked their title and the privileges going with it.

    It’s rather difficult for David Cameron (Eton College, Oxford University, leader of the Church of England in the Real World (oops, sorry, he’s Cathollic, isn’t he?!)), isn’t it?

    Boris Johnson: born in New York, educated at Eton College, Oxford University and dabbling as Spectator Editor and overpaid DT hack, when he is not restoring former glories to the only bits of the UK he would deign to live in. Hard to claim he’s an oik, isn’t it?

    George Osborne: St Pauls and Oxford, heir to a draper’s business living in oiksville in West London slums, isn’t he?? Yes, he really is an oik. He talks about money every day.

    Ed Miliband: brought up in that dreadful part of London called Hampstead. Did go to a downmarket comp, I suppose, but even that awful establishment somehow got him into Oxford (perhaps Daddy was coaching him especially?) Then a gilded life in the Labour Party and a wife who earns more than he does. I guess that last bit might make him an oik if she divorced him, but even that’s rather unlikely, isn’t it? But I bet Toby Young earns less than him, so either David Cameron was terribly non-U in letting that loud mouthed oik join in some of his goings on at Oxford (although he was quite rightfully kept out of Bullers’ bashes…..), or Miliband isn’t an oik.

    Really, beyond Denis Skinner and Frank Field, I can’t say I’ve heard too many ‘ordinary’ voices in the House of Commons.

    • Jack

      This sounds like quite the rant at people being educated, and you come close to sounding indignant at the idea of a father being a good parent and schooling their children in their own time. Surely not?

    • EnosBurrows

      What about Nadine Dorriss?

  • paulthorgan

    A defence of Labours distaste for their traditional supporters by blaming all the ‘elites’ is not a defence at all. It is also bogus. The Tories appreciate anyone who is able to look after themselves, irrespective of class.

    Labour are embarrassed by their white working-class supporters as these remain stubbornly conservative on many progressive social issues and refuse to be politically correct and show the appropriate level of guilt for this nation’s history of empire.

    Labour is a now party of social bigotry and identity politics. If you hate the rich or can belong to a clearly identifiable community you are Labour’s favourites. If you don’t, tough.

    The fact that the principal opposition party in the Labour heartland of Barking became the BNP a few years back perhaps horrified Labour as they realised that their supporters vote out of hatred and envy, especially when they are the victims of political correctness. This is why Labour has been trying to reinvent itself and building support away from the white working-class.

    Gordon Brown’s description of Gillian Duffy made this absolutely clear. It has been the mindset of Labour for years.

    • evad666

      A quite brilliant analysis of why the workers should ditch Labour.

  • Michael H Kenyon

    Mellor has long been recognised as an ess haitch eye tee, and does the conservatives no favours in appealing to decent british people.

    • EnosBurrows

      He comes across as quite genial in his ClassicFm programmes.

      • Malus Pudor

        So do egregiously slimy twerps like Noel Edmonds when they are on air !

      • justejudexultionis

        Genial in a sort of condescendingly Tory kind of a way…

  • Malus Pudor

    What makes such prominent people behave in this way?

    Because, Mr Chancellor, as my formidable mother-in-law used to say; they are complete oiks at heart.

    There is absolutely nothing patrician about either Mellor or Mitchell.

    Mellor is a straightforward oik; in manners, appearance, education,attitude and an overwhelming sense of self-importance and overweening need to both patronise and insult.

    Mitchell is marginally more subtle… but with a sole generation of toffdom behind him, he is as far removed from being a gent as that ghastly, smarmy pleb, Mellor. In addition Mitchell is a bully and a political thug, as evidenced by his nickname, Thrasher…

    The best news was all the delicious schadenfreude in seeing them so delightfully exposed.

  • Fraser Bailey

    Why would anyone boast of being in the Cabinet when an endless succession of Cabinets over recent decades have, by common consent, ruled in a manner that was both incompetent and hostile to the British people?

  • justejudexultionis

    The last great leadership we have had in this country was under Cromwell and the Puritans. We need more men of their stock so that we can destroy this culture of mediocrity, impunity, immorality and unearned privilege.


    • EricHobsbawmtwit


  • EricHobsbawmtwit

    If the qualification is to be inflated pompous over-confident and vein, Mellor passes with flying colours.

    • Malus Pudor

      Or even vain ?

      • EricHobsbawmtwit

        Auto correct.

  • Samson

    I have terrible teeth and my wife’s been to the palace I AM YOUR GOD PUNY MORTAL

  • Mike

    I think these days many are realizing that being associated with the establishment is like being outed with some STD as the electorate has had enough of them.

  • MichtyMe

    Yes, success in life, is greatly the result of having chosen the right parents.

  • Richard

    What this is all about is the abandonment of Britain and the cultural continuity of this society. If you have been observing events since the accession of Labour in 1948, you will see this fits into the pattern established then. Contemporaneous with the arrival of millions of migrants (or perhaps resulting from the same motivation, which I suspect), it has been deemed that we are in need of discarding the particular ties that bind a long-established group together. This must be done by clearing out the existing power-structures, which in Britain means doing so by social ostracism (the way Britain exerts pressure is through social ostracism). People will cave in, since the other great British power manifestation is “being cool”: make belonging to the existing power structure “uncool” and you have a potent and clear mechanism for forcing social change.

    Once the existing structures are gone – Labour managed part of it under the Blair regime – they can then be replaced with a “cool” Leftist creation. It is all part of the destruction of Britain and its replacement with something else, which will be marketed as something “better” but which is really simply a creation of Labour. Create the right mould (social environment) through social engineering, and let the molten metal run where it will.