Monday, 15 October 2012

We're all plebs and scumbags now

'Oooo, those plebs make my blood boil.'
In vino veritas’, goes the (very) old saying: or to translate from the Latin, ‘in wine there is truth’.

It’s been suggested that Andrew Mitchell MP, Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield and the government chief whip, had been imbibing himself before his recent spat with a policewoman at the gates of Downing Street.

After being told that he could not exit the street through the main gates, he launched into a stream of invective.

But if being a bit sweary and ranty were that not enough, Mitchell’s biggest mistake came in telling the police that it was “best you learn your fucking place” and then (although he continues to deny this – in other words, he’s saying the police are liars) that he called them “fucking plebs”.

In vino veritas’, perhaps?

Was this the mask down; the true feelings revealed?

Mitchell is hardly outside the government’s little coterie of public school boys, having himself been educated at Rugby, where he gained the nickname ‘Thrasher’ for his love of stern discipline.

Whether he did use ‘plebs’ or not, his other comments suggest a sense of his own superiority – and others’ inferiority.

The good old British class system is alive and kicking, it seems. Or if not kicking, at least swearing a bit.

Not that Mitchell is alone in being caught with the mask askew.

For at the weekend, on hearing that anti-hacking campaigners were lobbying the prime minister, Rupert Murdoch availabled himself of the opportunity afforded by Twitter to let his 340,000-plus followers know his thoughts on the matter:

“Told UK's Cameron receiving scumbag celebrities pushing for even more privacy laws. Trust the toffs! Transparency under attack. Bad.”

That’s quite some way from his declaration, when sitting in front of a committee of MPs in Parliament to examine the issue of hacking, that it was “the humblest day of my life”.

He tried to backpedal on Twitter, claiming he hadn’t meant it about people like Charlotte Church, but then poured further oil on the flames with another tweet, attempting to link the case of Jimmy Savile to that of hacking.

“Likes of Saville [sic] further protected if we don't fight Cameron, dodgy celebrities in UK. Could not happen in US.”

There’s a certain irony to this – Murdoch and his varied businesses make a very great deal of money out of these people he appears to view as “scumbags” and “dodgy”.

And it is, of course, so reassuring to realise that hacking and invasions of privacy for nothing other than salacious stories are really the sort of things that help uncover abusers.

In which case, it’s such a shame Murdoch’s minions didn’t actually use such methods to garner stories of an actual public interest.

It seems that some of the people in positions of power in this world don’t think much of either those they are either in power to help govern – or those who make them millions.

Not that this should come as any major shock. Look at the behaviour of the banks and big finance – they gambled and lost, and now it’s ordinary people who are paying the price. And do they show any sense of remorse? No.

They just keep paying themselves the same big bonuses and keep denying that continuing relevations of corruption and wrongdoing suggest that anything might actually need to be done.

Or of the supermarkets, which put the single issue of profit over the health, wellbeing and choice of their customers, the nation as a whole, the environment and their producers.

Or the big pharmaceutical industry, which does the same with patients the world over, as Ben Goldacre’s new book, Big Pharma, reveals in shocking detail.

It seems that, when our government tells us that "we're all in this together", what they really mean is that most of us are – but not them. Or their friends.

After all, is there a reason that they seem remarkably reluctant to tackle the issue of corporate tax evasion, while David Cameron himself can stand up and condemn an individual for using a scheme to avoid paying much tax.

Indeed, Murdoch's Times has been pursing the latter line with relish in recent weeks. But the former? Forget it.

So, hide away in despair? Or try to find ways to spread the word and grasp any chance to change things?

Can they even be changed?

Perhaps old Charlie Marx wasn’t so wrong in some of his analysis after all.

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