You May Say I’m an Upper-Class Twit, But I’m Not the Only One

A few mornings ago, I was eating breakfast at one of the clubs in the Pall Mall-St. James area. A gentleman at the next table was expounding his views, at high volume, to a woman I took to be his wife. If she ever said a word, I didn’t hear it.

The man was getting up in years, had longish, silver hair and a wispy beard, and was dressed well but a bit eccentrically. Seemingly delighted with his own voice, he conformed to the image of what, as I recall, Monty Python called the upper-class twit.

I tried not to pay attention until I heard the man say, “The Israelis always shoot first.” Also the Americans: “The Americans, they always shoot first, too.” Who, in contrast, are paragons of self-restraint? The Russians. Interested by now, I wondered what the context would be, in which the Russians are apostles of non-violence. It never came.

The orator moved on, seamlessly, to instruct his wife in British law as it relates to double jeopardy. It used to be, he said, that once acquitted by a jury a person could never be tried again for the same offense. But the law changed, he said, as a result of an awful case in which four white men murdered a black man. Critical evidence was covered up by the police and the men were acquitted. It was, our man announced with evident relish, a case of “police racism,” and it led to a change in the law of double jeopardy.

I have always wondered who, in Britain, could possibly support the far-left bigot Jeremy Corbyn, who is likely to be the next Prime Minister. Labourites like to pretend that they mostly represent coal miners and the like, but those days are long gone. Today, I suspect their more important (if not necessarily more numerous) supporters are bigoted upper-class twits like the one who inflicted his opinions on me at breakfast. That guy could have been a Corbyn clone.

Seventy or eighty years ago, an upper-class twit’s prejudices would stereotypically lean to the right. That, too, is no longer the case. (“How the House of Lords became the right’s worst enemy.”) Nowadays, a bigoted upper-class twit’s prejudices seem likely to align with the far left. Which tells us something, although not, by any means, everything, about why Jeremy Corbyn is a plausible candidate for Prime Minister.