An unclassy act

An unclassy act

I LISTENED to it so that you don’t have to. I was driving peacefully through a small Irish town when it came on the radio. RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor was interviewing Sarah Ferguson, who was once married to Prince Andrew. I had to pull over. Indeed, in the coming days I listened back to the whole thing again in case I’d somehow just got the wrong end of the stick. But believe me, I listened to it again so that you don’t have to, at all.

It’s hard to know where to begin but I have to start by saying this is not about Sarah Ferguson herself. In a precursor of today’s social media spite she was right in pointing out how toxic her treatment by 1980s and 1990s tabloids was and I have no interest in attacking her on an individual level. Indeed, I’m not being cruel when I say I have no interest in her whatsoever.

This is about how the British upper classes look now that they’ve all succumbed to the cult of celebrity and become so keen to let us see them up close. From this side of the Irish Sea I can assure you we have our fair share of fools and absolute eejits. How many of them are convinced of their own superiority by virtue of breeding, though, I’m not so sure.

This interview portrayed a class, if I can take Ferguson as at least somewhat representative, so lacking in self-awareness as to be beyond parody.

That’s the British upper classes — buckets of self-regard but absolutely no self-awareness.

POMP & PRIVILEGE Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew at Royal Ascot (Getty Images)

These are just some of the quotes taken from this interview of someone sitting in the Royal Lodge in Windsor as broadcast on RTÉ Radio One. “I’m a single working mum — I’m very Irish — I’m Irish in all ways — I love to give — You’ve gotta have a craic — I became the Duchess of Cork — I’m very authentic. That’s why I’m such a good mother now — I’m stratospherically sensitive which is why I’m so creative — I’m independent and rebellious — Prince Andrew has had a rough time — I’ve spent most of my life giving to others out in Poland and everywhere. I am a philanthropist.”

Good God, it was excruciating. But, perhaps, she is not representative. Perhaps, the British upper class is not really like that. Perhaps her ex-husband is more so. Good old Prince Andrew.

And remember his interview? The one where he couldn’t sweat and was fixated on Pizza Express in Woking. The cliché used is a ‘car crash interview’ and I think the cliché came in to being for that very interview.

Arrogant, deluded, and demonstrably dim. Remember that old, silly joke about the cream of society being called so because they are rich and thick?

Or instead take Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Take for example his most recent appearance in front of a cross party group of MPs. Blustering, arrogant, angry. Using as many words as possible in order to obfuscate the truth. Overwhelmingly pleased with himself.

Indeed the comparisons between Johnson and Trump are unavoidable and that is not a compliment to either man. Or how about Johnson’s old Eton school friend Jacob Rees-Mogg. In fact take any occasion in which you have seen Rees-Mogg as an example of how the British ruling classes really should not be allowed out on their own. Jacob Rees-Mogg appears to have created an appearance for himself that is predicated on assuring the observer of Rees-Mogg’s superiority.

Further, like Johnson, like the Royals, like so many others they have confused the incredible self-assurance given by elite education with intelligence. Unfortunately for them the era of constant, rolling news and endless social media which has seduced them all lets us lfe what this is. It is the emperor’s new clothes.

We are over here in Ireland looking in. We see Britain from a different angle. Maybe it gives us a particular insight. But you know that already don’t you? You’re being taken for a ride by a class of people who are demonstrably ridiculous. Eton, the Royals, the right wing press, a slew of minor public schoolboys. If you want to go along with it that’s up to you. But you can’t say you weren’t warned. They’re warning you themselves.


Joe Horgan tweets at @JoeHorganwriter