by D.J. Webb
It is amazing just how much authority our current ruling class draws from the distinction it continually draws between itself and the former ruling class. We are seemingly unable to identify the ruling class today. We still think that it is the Blimps, the “conservatives”, the people who went to Eton, members of the Bullingdon Club, the Royal Family, the Lords, the “rich” (???), people who wear ties, people who wear straw boaters at Oxford, etc.
Actually, this has not been the ruling class for a generation, and yet those who have taken their place constantly poke fun at them and gain a kind of demotic support for a much nastier and more intrusive form of rule today.
I have posted in various places on the Internet about the legality of refusing to open the gate in Downing Street for the government Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, who was trying to cycle through, although my points have not been taken up by many. The real significance to me is that the incident was toxic for the Conservative Party, as it showed “the Tories haven’t changed” and they are still class snobs, who think policemen are “plebs”, and look down on us all. In this is weaved a whole tapestry of half-thoughts—we imagine Mitchell and Cameron laughing at the poor and behaving generally badly in their rather pampered upper middle class/lower upper class kind of way. Mitchell had to go, and it didn’t really matter what the facts of the matter were.
Chippiness wins because the New Establishment, while being the Establishment, claims not to be so, and so serving policemen, with the support of senior police chiefs all the way up, have sought to circulate a distorted account of the incident. The police are an incredibly officious body of people nowadays, and senior policemen have backed the line that “hardworking policemen just doing their jobs should not be insulted by upper-class politicians”. By presenting themselves as hardworking public-sector workers, even senior policemen are able to justify their positions in society in a way that removes all focus on the fact that they are the ruling class—they are the new Bullingdon Club and Eton and straw boaters of the 21st century.
To the extent that aristocrats, Etonians, members of the Bullingdon Club, etc, are in government today, it is largely because they have accepted the new dispensation, and have pledged to govern in line with the technocratic approach of the new elite they are trying to integrate themselves into. There is nothing unusual about this: all elites contain the remnants of previous elites who try to bandwaggon with the up-and-coming new social forces.
Let us take another look at this incident. Downing Street is a public highway and therefore a public right of way. This was confirmed in a written answer in Parliament, where it is stated that the access to the road “is controlled by the police under common-law powers which allow them to take reasonable steps to preserve the peace and prevent threats to it. The level of restriction by the police is constantly under review”. It is simply extraordinary that if Downing Street is a public highway you and I cannot walk down it. The notion of common-law powers to prevent threats to the peace seems designed to allow the police to behave in whatever way they see fit.
Theoretically, access to every road in the UK is subject to the view of the police over the likelihood of breaches of the peace therein—and so Downing Street is no different and is not exceptional. Yet the exercise of powers to prevent breaches of the peace needs to be connected to some view of the likelihood of such breaches occurring. A government chief whip seeking to cycle down a public highway is not a threat to the common peace in any way. Furthermore, obstructing the Queen’s Highway is also an offence, and the police in this instance committed it. It is a serious breach of the law for the police in Downing Street to refuse to open the gate to allow traffic to gain access to the road, unless there are good reasons to believe that doing so will prevent a breach of the peace from happening, and in this instance allowing Mr Mitchell to cycle in an outward direction would not have led to a breach of the peace.
It may be a minor matter, but it does dovetail with the general way we are governed nowadays, with cameras everywhere, with police refusing to be photographed on bogus “terrorism” grounds, and little attempt to place the decisions of officialdom on a legal footing. It would be possible to gazette Downing Street as a restricted area, and not a public highway, if the authorities believed they had reason to do so—the fact that they have not done so shows they believe the law is whatever they wish to do.
We have all been treated badly by officious bureaucrats, whether the doctors’ surgeries who claim in large signs that their staff are being verbally attacked by patients (probably an attempt to stick up for themselves to the bureaucratic scum who run these infernal places); to letters from HMRC threatening to levy fines for non-compliance with their deadlines (the threat is illegal under the Bill of Rights, but unlikely to be challenged by the publicly funded courts); and, yes, to policemen who claim the right to arrest you for insulting language.
This is the New Establishment. As with all ruling classes, the business of government is not fully done by the real elite themselves: they maintain huge numbers of hangers-on who implement their rules. In the old days, lords had agents who would evict their tenants and capitalists had foremen who fired the workers. Nowadays, the real elite are the public-sector barons and bureaucrats, including police chiefs and civil servants, whose edicts are enforced by a much more extensive network of employees down to every individual policeman, council worker, nurse and teacher.
The unbearable nature of the modern class system is that it is impossible to escape the officious minions of these new rulers. They are everywhere, as you would expect from a state that spends around half our GDP. And the mindset is ubiquitous—down to the humble policeman who proclaims it is “policy” not to open the gates on a public highway. He didn’t explain why policy could justify obstructing the Queen’s Highway. So Mr Mitchell was right, the policeman was a “pleb”—a minion with a badge. It seems the “respect” and “honour” such low-level officials demand is a way of forcing us to accept the right to rule of the public-sector barons, and the legitimacy of their rule.
How can we still be confused today as to who our rulers are? If we can’t see the police with their officious self-made rules are our real rulers and government chief whips are ultimately their servants (and not ours), then we can’t really comment usefully on politics at all. The inability to walk down Downing Street is a powerful symbol of the separation between the elite and those they govern nowadays. To think that before the 1970s tourists were able to take photographs of themselves on the very steps of No. 10 itself! Now we cannot get at our rulers at all!