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Plebgate III – how to learn the lessons?

So the law, in the person of Mr Justice Mitting, has now pronounced that Andrew Mitchell, despite his vehement denials and his upper crust defence team, probably did actually call the police officer who wouldn’t allow his bike through the Downing Street gate a “pleb.” Or as the Sun reported on its front page on 21 September 2012,: “Best you learn your fucking place – you don’t run this fucking government – you’re fucking plebs.”

What a waste of time and money! It will apparently cost Mitchell a couple of million quid in costs for his well-suited lawyers. He won’t be back in this government, but since he is one of the Tories with a decent brain and the right sort of esprit de corps, I’m sure Boris will promote him if he gets his grubby hands on the wheel. The copper concerned, PC Rowland, looks like he has really been through the mill. I thought his sympathy for Mitchell’s family in his press speech was real and touching.

I guess it seems churlish, therefore, to count the hours I have spent rewriting my own bits about the Plebgate affair in Wounded Leaders. I mentioned it three times, and those sentences took more work that any others, because my own well-wishers thought I could get sued for it. So I am glad of Mitting’s judgement: “on the balance of probabilities that Mr Mitchell did speak the words alleged or something so close to them as to amount to the same including the politically toxic word pleb.” It never made any sense to me that a bobby would (or could have) come up with a word that is only – as far as I know – ever used by public school boys to firmly put down anyone thought to be of lower rank.

But there are no winners here – unless and until we all learn the systemic lesson – that is crucial. And then we could all win.

We might start with wondering why the judge said: “the politically toxic word pleb”? Here is a systemic answer: the contentious bicycle in Downing Street, as I wrote in Wounded Leaders, reminds us that we live in a brutal anachronism in this land where the unconscious sadistic entitlement of the elite is matched by the unconscious masochistic depression of the working classes. This is indeed toxic to us, but we have normalised it. We have to wake up out of this spell and make changes.

Then we can see that both Mitchell and PC Rowland can be thought of as victims to the controlling power of our class divide which we are only just beginning – especially with the new understanding about the public schools – to be able to name and acknowledge how it has us all in an awful grip.

Mitchell’s inability to control his rage at back-to-school time (Rugby and Royal Tank Regiment, not Eton this time) shows that, as Simon Partridge writes, ” that Mitchell is a classic case of Strategic Survival Personality Disorder.” But hang on it a mo: lets consider Mitchell. If we are right that boarding is a trauma – what is now by neuroscientists and traumatologists being called developmental trauma – Mitchell also needs holding. Because unfortunately, while he is unconsciously acting out, he is unaware of his Strategic Survival Personality Disorder, so how can he be in control of it?

All the UK has suffered from this normalised elitism and plebism. This is where I think our attitudes have to be what Spiral Dynamics calls “2cnd tier.” We have to sort things out at the level of the whole society. Lets start by stopping the public school culture by ending boarding.

Write to your MP!


  1. Travelling to work last Friday, I picked up a copy of the Metro.
    A picture of Mitchell was on the front page; he was looking rather glum.
    The story beneath:
    Mitchell (an ex-boarder) had accused the police constable (probably not an ex-boarder) of lying. The judge (probably also an ex-boarder) had said that the PC lacked the ‘wit and imagination’ to make up such a claim!

    There you have it: the British class system summed up in 3 short paragraphs!

    Comment by Thurstine Basset on 02/12/2014 at 6:00 pm
  2. This is so spot on Thurstine, brilliant! I only wish I had thought of it myself!!

    Comment by Nick on 28/01/2015 at 4:53 pm

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