What makes a snob?

In Britain, the question is did Andrew Mitchell call the Downing Street police ‘plebs’?

Elsewhere it is ‘who on earth is Andrew Mitchell?’ I suspect, at the time of the incident, the police did not know who he was either: which may be why they asked him to exit Downing Street by the little gate at the side rather than the big gate in the middle.

Andrew Mitchell is the Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, he was appointed government Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. Not for long methinks.

The police record of the incident is revealing:

“Mr Mitchell was speaking to Pc ******** demanding exit through the main vehicle gate into Whitehall. Pc ******** explained to Mr Mitchell that the policy was for pedal cycles to use the side pedestrian exit. Mr Mitchell refused, stating he was the chief whip and he always used the main gates….

After several refusals Mr Mitchell got off his bike and walked to the pedestrian gate with me after I again offered to open that for him.

There were several members of public present as is the norm opposite the pedestrian gate and as we neared it, Mr Mitchell said: “Best you learn your f******* place… you don’t run this f****** government… You’re f****** plebs.” … “

Here is the media line: did Mitchell call the police plebs? as a public schoolboy, is he a snob; are all public schoolboys snobs?

In a post last year ‘The Curse of Cameron‘ I suggested that David Cameron is a snob which is why he simply does not understand people. Quite simply, he has never had to live in the real world.

Since that post, we have hosted the Olympics and witnessed the extraordinarily positive response given to Boris Johnson and the real affection in which he is held. Like Cameron, Boris went to Eton. How can two Etonians be perceived so differently?

Having been to public school myself, I have observed a behavioural difference in the behaviour of those of us who have to work for a living and those with a private income: who do not have to work for a living.

When faced with pressure or adversity, such as not being allowed to leave Downing Street through the important gate, the people of independent means – spoilt brats you might call them – are more prone to hissy fits like Mitchell.

I do not know their individual circumstances, but this might explain the contrasting ways in which David Cameron and Boris Johnson relate to the rest of us. Apart from his likeable personality, natural sense of humour and willingness to admit mistakes, is a reason why Boris has more ‘common touch’ than Cameron that Boris has to work for a living?

And what about disrespectful, self-important, jumped-up, cry-baby Mitchell?

Apparently he made a lot of money as a merchant banker.

What a superior chap he must be.


About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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