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The Great Train Snobbery
October 19, 2012 3:49 PM   Subscribe

This afternoon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne got on a train from Cheshire to London. Despite only having a Standard Class ticket, he headed straight to First Class, because (obviously) he couldn't sit with the Standard Class herd. So he sent an aide to tell the ticket collector that he was going to sit in First Class, but was unwilling to pay. Sadly for him, the discussion took place right next to a journalist, who tweeted the whole thing. This comes hot on the heels of Plebgate, of course: the protagonist in that embarrassment resigned soon after Osborne's gaffe, apparantly in an attempt to distract attention.

One positive thing for the government, though: they're successfully remaining more ludicrous than the politicians in Armando Iannucci's satirical series The Thick of It.
posted by Grangousier (82 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cor, £160 for a first class ticket! That's a scandal in itsen!
posted by Jehan at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Excellent and accurate use of the "idiots" tag.
posted by elizardbits at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Probably worth noting that the Chancellor and Virgin Trains are denying that there was any disagreement. Rachel Townsend's response to this claim, and I'm inclined to agree with her, can be summed up in the words "mmmm chinny!"
posted by howfar at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was £160 for the upgrade, on top of the ticket.

But that's largely because of the rail privatisation they pushed through last time they were in power. So fuck 'im.
posted by Grangousier at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2012 [19 favorites]


Here's the thing I've never gotten:

What's better about First Class on British trains? Is it really purely a status thing? The first-class cars look identical to the rest of the cars.
posted by schmod at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


They have anti-macassars on the back of the seats. And obviously fewer plebs.

The other carriages get overcrowded. There'll often be standing room only from, say, Edinburgh to London while First Class is half-empty. The class war is fought on our railways.
posted by Grangousier at 3:58 PM on October 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


What's better about First Class on British trains?

More seat width, maybe 75% more leg room, more comfortable upholstery usually. Free drink and snack usually. It's worth doing on a cheap upgrade trip, but not otherwise unless the train is rammed or it's on expenses.
posted by howfar at 3:59 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The first class cars have a special viewing platform from which one can point and laugh at the poors while sipping champagne.
posted by elizardbits at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


It's okay people, he still has his vast wealth and personal connections to fall back on, it's going to be okay.
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


"The Great Train Snobbery." I love the British press.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:03 PM on October 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


"The Great Train Snobbery." I love the British press.
posted by TrialByMedia at 12:03 AM on October 20 [+] [!]


Eponysterical!

posted by howfar at 4:05 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every fucking time I commuted to or from London Standard would be standing room only a first would be near empty. However, I was not chancellor of the exchequer nor did I have an aide, so I did not get to help myself to free seating upgrades. So I say this from the bottom of my heart: Fuck 'im.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was £160 for the upgrade, on top of the ticket.

But that's largely because of the rail privatisation they pushed through last time they were in power. So fuck 'im.
National Rail says a First Class Anytime from Wilmslow (I think that's where he boarded) to Euston is £189.50. Which means his original ticket cost £29.50. How did he manage that?
posted by Jehan at 4:10 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


One positive thing for the government, though: they're successfully remaining more ludicrous than the politicians in Armando Iannucci's satirical series The Thick of It.

It's life imitating art, almost, for anyone who has seen the fourth episode.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm going to make a business card that says “Chancellor of the Exchequer” and try this on Amtrak. First Class on Amtrak means you get priority deboarding when the train breaks down.
posted by zippy at 4:13 PM on October 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


Aren't still allowed to shoot one peasant per trip from a First Class car and a proper ticket, or was that finally abolished? Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not feeling murderous, so he felt is was unreasonable to pay for the upgrade.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:22 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's better about First Class on British trains? Is it really purely a status thing? The first-class cars look identical to the rest of the cars.

Plugs. Or at least on some routes. Wonderful, delightful plugs so your laptop doesn't go dead on a long trip.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:23 PM on October 19, 2012


The fact that there was already a mob of demonstrators waiting for him at Euston does make this sound like something straight out of The Thick Of It.

But I don't understand what he thought would have been so bad about sitting in Standard? Most people probably wouldn't recognize him and those who did... well, the British aren't famous for their reserve for nothing.
I suppose he probably did want to get some work done and sit with his aides, but why the hell did he buy a cheap ticket in the first place?
posted by Flashman at 4:27 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's such a greasy, self-entitled little wanker, isn't he? Among all the loathsome people in this current nightmare of a government, there's just something especially odious about Osborne.

And there's also something just so telling about this particular incident. Pushing austerity -- the crappy, overcrowded, 2nd class cars for the proles -- and then, of course, just swiping a seat in first for he hasn't paid for, while claiming it's all shared sacrifice.
posted by skybluepink at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2012 [27 favorites]


Plugs. Or at least on some routes. Wonderful, delightful plugs so your laptop doesn't go dead on a long trip.
Many trains have sockets in standard class too. At least in the newer trains.
Most people probably wouldn't recognize him and those who did... well, the British aren't famous for their reserve for nothing.
Did you miss the bit where tens of thousands booed him at the Paralympics?
posted by Jehan at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Assuming you can fight your way to a seat with a table...
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2012


Ha ha I guess I did. I was thinking of the time I shared a table with Bill Nighy on a train up to Suffolk, but I suppose Bill Nighy isn't quite so controversial a figure.
posted by Flashman at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2012


Assuming you can fight your way to a seat at all.
posted by skybluepink at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2012


He wouldn't have been able to do any work in standard class? Brilliant. The economy could do with a couple of hours free of him fucking everything up.
posted by dudekiller at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


why the hell did he buy a cheap ticket in the first place?

The Treasury spokesperson said:
The chancellor got a different train than planned ... [a]s he had no seat reservation on the new train, which was crowded, he decided to upgrade [source].
He presumably bought a walk-up 'anytime' or '[super] off-peak' ticket. It would not be surprising if standard class were full and standing or - at least - the only available seats were reserved by others. Since in the UK you can't make a train reservation less than (IIRC) one hour before departure from the originating station, there were essentially four courses of action that were available:
  1. Get the later train anyway, and waste some of the working day.
  2. Stand in a standard class vestibule, and waste some of the working day breathing in the musty smell of a Pendolino toilet.
  3. Sit in someone else's reserved seat, and prepare for the media onslaught (I believe the railway bye-laws specify a civil penalty for sitting in someone else's seat; it's never enforced but you can imagine the fun that might be had by the press).
  4. Go into first class, pay the difference to get some work done, and seek out the guard or ticket inspector to let him or her know that this is what you planned to do (and weren't trying to avoid paying).
It looks on paper like he chose option 4, except unfortunately he appears to be enjoying something on an iPad in this report. You see, even when you give this government the benefit of the doubt they screw you over. I suppose it is something he didn't have a helicopter or motorcade to ferry him back.

The class and privilege arguments are a red herring. Ticket sales on UK long-distance trains are yield managed to such an extent that advance purchase first class tickets can be as cheap as their standard class counterparts. When that includes free wifi and food, it becomes incredibly good value.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 4:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


But he chose option 5: Go into first class and tell the conductor that you're not going to pay the difference. That's the point here! He's brazenly assuming his right to a first class seat.
posted by Jehan at 4:48 PM on October 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


I saw this in my RSS feed and assumed it was a review of the new Atlas Shrugged.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:56 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


But he chose option 5: Go into first class and tell the conductor that you're not going to pay the difference. That's the point here! He's brazenly assuming his right to a first class seat.

Well, you may say that, but "£160 for First Class upgrade" (as the reporter tweeted) and your earlier observation that the pricing does not add up suggests there are slight inaccuracies in the reporter's account.

As with plebgate, I wish commentators and the opposition would choose to fight these pitched battles against the government on spending cuts, benefit reform and the NHS; tangible changes that affect the whole country with potentially measurable outcomes and indicators. What part of a long metal tube some gentleman sat in is, compared to that, totally unimportant.

Yes, life really is mirroring The Thick of It: politicians are undone by day-to-day incompetence at the individual level rather than the collapse of the whole government.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


We're allowed to do both. We can accuse them of policy incompetence while laughing at the jumped-up private school boys that they are. They are fundamentally unfit for government in both policy and character.
posted by Jehan at 5:04 PM on October 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Over here, Talkie Toaster, we impeach for blow jobs and then lying about it, but not for lying about WMD and then blowing up the Middle East.

So while we may be separated by our common tongue, we share the same screwed up politics.
posted by notyou at 5:11 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


One day, actual British politics and The Thick of It will just merge, allowing substantial austerity savings through voluntary redundancies and the sharing of tea & biscuits resources
posted by Bwithh at 5:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Now the row goes up in tempo, into territory that is beyond the imagination even of those who write The Thick of It. Andrew Mitchell has resigned, making it look as though he is doing so to take the heat off George.

That's so clearly a TToI plot twist
posted by Bwithh at 5:16 PM on October 19, 2012


The speed at which events transpired such that a welcome committee was waiting for him at his destination station is hilarious
posted by Bwithh at 5:19 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


It was £160 for the upgrade, on top of the ticket.

My understanding is that this total is for the Chancellor and his aide(s)
posted by Bwithh at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2012


It's unlikely Andrew Mitchell's resignation was timed to save the face of the future 18th Baronet of Ballentaylor and Ballylemon. It's more likely that he resigned as Chief Whip before a committee of his victims investigated his decision to give £16 million of taxpayers money to the Rwandan government (against advice from his own department) just as they are being accused of directing and funding a guerilla war in the Democratic Repiblic of Congo.
posted by cromagnon at 5:30 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


In fairness to Osbourne (something I never thought I'd express...), when I've been feeling flush and upgraded to first (on some weekend routes, you can upgrade to first for £15... worth it if you have long legs and a long journey, or want more room for a laptop) I've just sat in first and waited for the ticket bod to come along. AFAIK, it's the normal way to do it.

The only source we have for Osbourne refusing to pay is a journalist with a seat in another carriage who, given that (s)he got the upgrade price wrong, presumably didn't hear much of the actual conversation.

There are many serious things for which Osbourne can and should be criticised, but this just feels flimsy.

As a side note: I don't know how it is for ministers, but various civil service offices have their own ticket printing machines, and just settle the bills at the end of the.month. They can print first class tickets, but it involves sufficient paperwork justifying the expense that few can be bothered. If they left in a hurry, it seems plausible that printing a standard ticket would'be been faster.
posted by metaBugs at 5:34 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's more likely that he resigned as Chief Whip before a committee of his victims investigated his decision to give £16 million of taxpayers money to the Rwandan government (against advice from his own department) just as they are being accused of directing and funding a guerilla war in the Democratic Repiblic of Congo.

Not sure about that, plebgate I & II much more of interest to British voters, 16mm GBP is not a huge amount of money in government aid terms, and the case of Paul Kagame ( and Rwanda's involvement in Congo -- a regional conflict which has 20+ different sides) is a complicated one in the international development community
posted by Bwithh at 5:44 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


For comparison's sake, the difference in price between reserved coach and business class on Amtrak between Boston and New York is $36. And the difference in price between business class and first class for the same route is $80.
posted by hippybear at 5:47 PM on October 19, 2012


I know the English language is a bit different depending which side of the Atlantic you learned it on, but Andrew Mitchell doesn't sound like much of a protagonist to me.
posted by Daddy-O at 5:49 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did you miss the bit where tens of thousands booed him at the Paralympics?
Heard that amusingly described as likely the most enduring part of the 'Olympic legacy'. Arf.
posted by Abiezer at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2012


Jesus Christ, what an asshole.
posted by bardic at 6:04 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is very amusing to me.

Here we would shut down half the city so the guy could do 70 on city streets in his multimillion dollar state of the art bulletproof limo sandwiched between several black suburbans bristling with guys holding automatic weapons.

I love you guys, England is so quaint. Your PM just lives in a row house, does he even have a subterranean nuclear hardened situation room? What about anti-aircraft capabilities and covert sniper teams? I bet that guy doesn't even have TEMPEST hardened tents they set up everywhere he goes so he can use his macbook without leaking EM.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:08 PM on October 19, 2012


10 Downing St looks like a terraced house, but it's actually got about 100 rooms. The PM (or often the Chancellor, typically when the PM has young children), however, actually lives in "the flat above the shop" in the same way that the White House isn't mainly a private residence.

Whether or not the deceptive simplicity of the accommodation serves as a metaphor for British politics is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by howfar at 6:50 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't usually travel by rail but when I do I have them hookup my private rail cars. I can't imagine traveling in the normal cars. Who am I, Joe Biden
posted by humanfont at 7:06 PM on October 19, 2012


I love you guys, England is so quaint. Your PM just lives in a row house,
No. 10 was established as an official govt residence when Britain still had colonies in what is now the US.
Prime Ministers for a long time were expected to pay for all their own furniture and other domestic costs at No 10 - so they weren't (at least seen as) living off the office in luxury . I believe there is still something of a substantial division between personal domestic costs like the PM's spouse cooking family dinner and official expenses at No. 10

Remember the UK PM isn't the head of state like the US President is - so less pomp and circumstance ( one of the arguable benefits of constitutional monarchy - your sovereign representative is not an elected politician )
posted by Bwithh at 7:14 PM on October 19, 2012


but it's actually got about 100 rooms.

That is interesting, the simple exterior conceals a hidden depth. The White Hose featuresa bowling alley.

Speaking of private rail cars. FDR had a armor-plated Pierce Arrow car on a secret track between Grand Central and The Waldorf-Astoria. In a bizarre twist the secret tunnel went unused for many years until it Andy Warhol threw a party in it.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Gleefully watching this knowing that in Norway —provided it's ordered a bit in advance— a ticket to pretty much anywhere will be £22, plus £8 each way if you want free tea/coffee and a plug for your laptop. And this in one of the most expensive countries in the world.

That said, there's hardly ever any fancy china, delectably clad Belgian detectives or random murders occurring during snow storms. And hardly ever any plot.
posted by flippant at 7:57 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Standing room only on a trip that long? That's like Chicago to Nashville. And I thought Amtrak was bad.

I love you guys, England is so quaint. Your PM just lives in a row house, does he even have a subterranean nuclear hardened situation room? What about anti-aircraft capabilities and covert sniper teams? I bet that guy doesn't even have TEMPEST hardened tents they set up everywhere he goes so he can use his macbook without leaking EM.

I think that row house look is deceptive, quite like the White House. I'm sure there are plenty of defenses and hidden depths.
posted by gjc at 7:57 PM on October 19, 2012


More seat width, maybe 75% more leg room, more comfortable upholstery usually. Free drink and snack usually. It's worth doing on a cheap upgrade trip, but not otherwise unless the train is rammed or it's on expenses.

Free WiFi as well on some routes. Also, a greater likelihood of finding a power point. (I recently travelled to Nottingham on a train with WiFi throughout but no power points in the standard class coach I was in.) In most first-class carriages, all the seats have tables, rather than merely a handful. First class tends to also be emptier, so if you have seating preferences (i.e., window seats, facing the direction of travel and such), they're more likely to be met.

I generally go first class if it's less than eight or so pounds more than standard class (which it often is, booked in advance; sometimes you can find first-class seats going for only £3-5 more than standard ones on the same train).
posted by acb at 8:22 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


On those Virgin Pendolinos on the west coast line that I've taken, they all had plug sockets in standard.
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:36 PM on October 19, 2012


Standing room only on a trip that long? That's like Chicago to Nashville. And I thought Amtrak was bad.

Chicago to Nashville is 471 mi by road (no Amtrak service in Nashville, of course). Wilmslow to London is 186 mi.
posted by grouse at 9:24 PM on October 19, 2012


This was the talk of the mess room yesterday. I only wished Osborne could have heard the level of mockery and, err, robust abuse being directed at him from the train crew. I know Tories are generally without shame but I think we would have caused him to experience at least a flicker of it.
posted by Decani at 12:53 AM on October 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Gleefully watching this knowing that in Norway —provided it's ordered a bit in advance— a ticket to pretty much anywhere will be £22 … noting that, in a country largely unnavigable by rail, there aren't many 'anywheres' and, having arrived in 'anywhere', you won't be able to afford anything else.

Meanwhile, I'm amused by the institutional opportunism exposed by these various gaffes. The Police Federation are hating the Government's exposure of their various scams and incompetencies (e.g. early retirement on fraudulent medical grounds, etc.). So the Police Federation directed a confection of synthetic outrage at Andrew Mitchell. Meanwhile, Virgin Trains would rather like their franchise renewed, and are all sweetness and light.
posted by falcon at 2:16 AM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have we mentioned the story that the guard radioed ahead with "Euston, we have a problem" yet?
posted by Abiezer at 2:54 AM on October 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


For those saying, well the journalist got the upgrade price wrong, so perhaps she got other details wrong: perhaps you're missing one of the commonly experienced facts of the wonderful British privatised rail system. The price structure is so complex that even the guards (let alone the machines) cannot work it out. I think it's more likely that £160 was the price the guard quoted on the spot, but it later turned out to be more. It's pretty clear from her tweets that the journalist spoke to the guard about the situation.
posted by iotic at 3:00 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rachel Townsend (the journo whose tweets set the whole thing off) retweeted an overlooked message from @Larrylarrylal from May this year reporting exactly the same thing:
Larold ‏@Larrylarrylal 28 May
Ticket inspector on my train just got a high five: george osborne tried to sit in 1st class with a std tkt. Inspector said NO
So it appears the Chancellor has form.
posted by Grangousier at 3:01 AM on October 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


Having sat near the toilets on teh ground in a crowded train from King's Cross to Wakefield West, I can see why he might want to do this. What's interesting is his attempt to not pay for it, i.e. leveraging his position and status, and the hullabaloo around this sheds an interesting light on the complicated situation concerning class and status and privilege, and its evolution/tension in the UK. In the erstwhile developing world say India the politico would throw his weight around and probably travel for free.
posted by infini at 4:06 AM on October 20, 2012


Not sure why his handler didn't just approach the staff on the platform before he got on the train and why they didn't just buy a £10 ticket upgrade then and there? Seems to me that Osborne's staff is rubbish or he really is such an entitled idiot that his staff can't even cover for him anymore.
posted by Grrlscout at 4:40 AM on October 20, 2012


I like how someone has managed to find a picture that combines trains, the new whip AND Uncle Jim
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:02 AM on October 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 28th of May tweet is delicious. Looks like this may be a recurring thing.

Surely some enterprising journo can FOIA request or just blag Gideon's expenses and see how many standard class tickets he's bought in the last 12 months.
posted by fullerine at 6:01 AM on October 20, 2012


I'm going to make myself unpopular here, I expect (not about Osborne, BTW, cockwit). Part of the reason this arose is that it's ridiculous for the Chancellor and staff to be buying standard class tickets in the first place. The smooth running of government entails people in important jobs working very hard indeed. Reliably having a place to work in reasonable conditions, even while travelling, is part of that.

There were real scandals during the expenses affair, but the hysteria whipped up about it was both excessive and damaging to the public discourse about reasonable uses of money.
posted by howfar at 6:30 AM on October 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The curious incident of George Osborne's first-class train ride only matters because it plays on the same story board. "We're all in this together" doesn't travel with plebs, but pays £189.50 to avoid hoi polloi. If chancellors rarely go second class, that's beside the point. For the added luxury of parking his bottom on an exclusive seat, he spent more than two and a half times what he makes unemployed people live on for a whole week, for food, heating, travel, everything.

After Osborne's benefit cuts, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies says are almost without international precedent, he plans to take yet another £10bn from those with the least. Disability benefits are next, worse cuts to the poorest households, while he eases top taxes for the people like him and Cameron in the world of mega-wealth. That insouciance is what makes them unfit to govern, unfit to decide who suffers most in these hard times.


The 'plebs' row is a mere sideshow to destructive Tory incompetence
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:43 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


REMAIN CALM
AND FAKE IT.
posted by clavdivs at 8:21 AM on October 20, 2012


I was at the Paralympics on Monday 3rd September and was completely blown away by the atmosphere. This wasn't middle-class pity, it was a genuine sea-change in how these athletes were viewed in my experience. There was a papable joy and total strangers spoke to each other in the stands, offered additional informative comments on overheard conversations, shared food, in short something I had not experienced in public in the UK since the public concern about Fabrice Muamba. I had been blown away by the comments and support for the destroyed NHS during the Olympics and the whole summer of community pride was something I had not expected.

On that evening, I was overjoyed to see a young Irish athlete win a gold medal in the 5,000m (I think!) and be awarded his medal by his beaming Mother (she worked for one of the sponsors Proctor & Gamble I later discovered and if this was an abuse of her position it was one we all roared approval at, and even shed a tear or two). Given good reason I proudly sang the Irish National Anthem on British soil for the first time in my life and was complimented by British people nearby. Never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen such an occurrance.

I remember saying to my friends that this must be as close as we'll get to the 60s love-ins, as the crown did a Mexican wave of applause for a visually impaired athlete who was last all 14 laps of his race- for the entire 14 laps. It was clear he was completely out classed by the other competitors, it didn't really seem to matter, as what we were acknowledging was his effort.

But to see the total change, the chill, as the announcer said "the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr George Osborne" was a surprise, as was the spontaneous booing that started up.

in a crowd like that, predisposed to happiness, joy and pride, the spectre of ATOS was too close.

It isn't the public school-boy attitude at the top of this government, it's that attitude while disabled people like Ruth Anim, severely disabled daughter of one of the most senior nurses in the country, ( I say this because I dread to think what would have happened if her parent didn't know her way through the labarynthine processes) are forced to jump through hoops to prove they deserve a basic survival income.

He earned the response that night in the Olympic stadium when we saw what other people truly overcame serious challenges just to run, jump or vault their hearts out. Yet he can't overcome the inborn disadvantage of his class. Distance from the people they would govern.
posted by Wilder at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


Meanwhile at the anti-austerity march in London
posted by homunculus at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Lest we forget, here's a photo which includes three of the current leaders of our fine meritocracy (Osborne, Cameron, and Boris Johnson) circa 1992. They are wearing £3500-worth of white-tie-and-tails each because they are in the Bullingdon Club, whose habit is to dine at a fancy restaurant, trash the place, and then placate the distressed plebs by writing a fat cheque to cover the damages (though Wikipedia cites a reference which says it's more usually cash).

Not that I had any great love for New Labour, but my distaste for this shower of shits borders on the physical.
posted by pont at 4:26 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the erstwhile developing world say India the politico would throw his weight around and probably travel for free.

MP's are given a generous number of free journeys on first AC on trains. They don't need to use personal clout for this; part of the perks of being a neta.
posted by the cydonian at 4:40 PM on October 20, 2012


George makes an appearance on placards at the TUC demo.
posted by Abiezer at 12:58 AM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Plebgate: ridiculed and restless, the Tories reel from a terrible week

Even Tebbit's putting the boot in now
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:00 AM on October 21, 2012


The funniest bit in that Tebbit piece is where he says that MP and life peer's son and Old Rugbeian Andrew Mitchell "is no toff". Not out of touch at all, Norm.

Fuck me I hate Norman Tebbit.
posted by howfar at 8:14 AM on October 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck me I hate Norman Tebbit.

Actually, that might be the one stupid T-shirt slogan that actually gets someone laid.
posted by howfar at 8:22 AM on October 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, I can see Tebbit's point. Sir David Mitchell has never in fact sat in the Lords, being only a Knight Bachelor. Practically a crossing-sweeper, then.
posted by howfar at 8:37 AM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect Tebbit is making his judgement on style/mannerism/attitude grounds rather than background... grounds. Tebbit is a veteran scary attack dog Tory rightwinger but also solidly working class ( the Tories of course have plenty of working class and middle class people in their ranks; as a rule of thumb, the more upper class/aristocratic the Tory, the more likely they are to have moderate, centrist views)
posted by Bwithh at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2012


Indeed. Tebbit long ago showed himself a friend of the working man when he defended the right of tabloid newspapers to feature 15 year old girls pointing their breasts at us.
posted by howfar at 12:59 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


He might be common, but he wears a suit cut on Savile Row.
posted by howfar at 1:00 PM on October 21, 2012


As Andrew Rawnsley points out in the Observer today:
Once admitted to the prime minister's circle, Mr Mitchell would privately joke about feeling socially inferior among the Old Etonians. As a mere Old Rugbeian, "I am there to serve the drinks." ... The task of trying to keep Conservative MPs in order now falls to Sir George Young, who was sacked from the cabinet in the reshuffle just six weeks ago, took his dismissal with characteristically good grace, and enjoys one of the speediest ever resurrections to the front rank. Sir George is a famously courteous man, unlikely ever to be involved in an incident of gate rage, which no doubt commended him to the prime minister. He is also a baronet and an alumnus of that posh training school near Slough. This must be the greatest of the ironies of "plebgate". The ultimate result is to increase the number of titled Old Etonians sitting around the cabinet table.
posted by Grangousier at 1:52 PM on October 21, 2012


I was led to understand that you could take a seat in first if there were some empty and 2nd class was full, without paying the upgrade. At least, that was what some train tragics on usenet suggested, before getting into a disagreement over whether it was possible to route via Finsbury Park to avoid some charge etc etc. (about 10yrs ago, anyway)
posted by bystander at 11:02 PM on October 21, 2012


I really really do not begrudge MPs first class train tickets.
Nor do I begrudge them a good salary and reasonable expenses. I don't like the crazy house flipping house buying fraud madness, but that's another post.

Government ministers really ought to stand up and admit that the expenses of runninf parliament (train tickets and all) are a mere drop in the ocean, and invisible molecule of water in the pacific of the cost of the state. It's irrelevant.

On the back of the expenses row the tories decided to cut the number of MPs and claimed it was a cost saving measure, when it is anything but. It's gerrymandering and reducing representation. There ought to be twice as many MPs, and they can give each one a house and a first class season ticket to anywhere as far as I'm concerned, so long as they do they job and represent the people.

The media need to be ignoring this stupid sideshow and focussing on how they're destroying the NHS in direct contravention of their electoral mandate and in contravention of the coalition agreement and... and ... and.. well, all the other awful awful idealogical crap they're doing.
If the chancellor is embarrassed over this this non-story then it's clear that the press are not doing their job.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:56 AM on October 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bystander that may be true on some other train services but it most certainly is not on mine (South East Trains) even when the standard class is full, you have to stanbd in the aisles and near the doors and toilets. You cannot sit in first without a first class ticket. What;s more you cannot get the cheaper upgrades to first class there and then. They can only be booked in advance online with enough notice.

it does seem that the civil servant printed off the standard ticket in advance and then wished to upgrade once on the train. For some reason there appears to have been an expectation that the charges would be waived (?)

I agree with Just this Guy, y'know, seeing first hand the dismantling of an amazingly comprehensive & fair health service. The dogged research of Dr Eoin Clarke in his Green Benches Blog tells the break up in forensic (although sometimes sloppy) detail.

His post showing Tory donors are the major winners of the new health contracts is just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Wilder at 3:54 AM on October 22, 2012


This must be the greatest of the ironies of "plebgate". The ultimate result is to increase the number of titled Old Etonians sitting around the cabinet table.

FFS Andrew Rawnsley can be a twat. As if the class interests of an old Rugbeian and an old Etonian are significantly different from the perspective of the vast majority of the population. What is really dangerous about a ruling class and commentariat composed of the highly privileged (and Rawnsley himself is an old Rugbeian, although admittedly a scholarship student) is that they inevitably have a frighteningly limited awareness of that privilege. The world that they live in is constrained by privilege, and they frequently seem totally unable to comprehend how that world looks to those who are not within it.
posted by howfar at 8:01 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


@metaBugs: various civil service offices have their own ticket printing machines, and just settle the bills at the end of the.month. They can print first class tickets, but it involves sufficient paperwork justifying the expense that few can be bothered.

Not sure if it's the same now, but just a couple of years ago, at least in the Department I worked at, it was possible to travel first class if you were SEO grade (low middle management - there are about 5 or 6 grades higher than this before you reach Perm Sec) or above. There was no paperwork involved, just a phone call to book the ticket through the appointed travel company. Things are now, I understand, different for MPs and Ministers, who cannot claim for travelling first class, but must pay themselves. At least that's the theory.
posted by Myeral at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2012


As if the class interests of an old Rugbeian and an old Etonian are significantly different from the perspective of the vast majority of the population.

Very true. What I thought was interesting (and a bit sobering) is that the interests are very different from the perspective (especially) of an Old Etonian. I read it in light of something I heard on the (I think) Thinking Allowed podcast, that however normal people organise their lives, ex-public schoolboys remain wedded to their particular school for the whole of their lives. So the Old Etonians are forming a clique within a clique, and, moreover, one bound by lifelong ties of loyalty to the same school. Kind of like an ultra-exclusive version of the Freemasons. I think I'd prefer the Freemasons, actually.

That said, Osborne isn't an Old Etonian - wasn't he known as Oik in the Bullingdon Club because he only went to St Paul's? - so I suspect he represents the depths of social diversification to the current PM.
posted by Grangousier at 5:54 AM on October 23, 2012


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