Ngozi Fulani, third left, on her visit to Buckingham Palace last week (Credit: Getty images)
6 December 2022
If a visitor to my house suggested they had been abused and verbally attacked when they came to tea, I probably wouldn’t be in a particular hurry to invite them round again for nibbles. If that person had subsequently caused a very public stink and embarrassed and humiliated a valued family friend of extremely long standing, I would most definitely give them up as a bad idea. I certainly wouldn’t invite them for ‘talks’.
But this is pretty much the approach taken by the King and Queen Consort to Ngozi Fulani, the domestic abuse campaigner who says she was asked repeatedly where she was ‘really’ from when she visited Buckingham Palace last week. Now the Royals have ‘reached out to Ngozi Fulani on this matter’ – which is a bit like checking to see if a grenade went off by giving it a good old shake.
This is perhaps the model example of a peculiar phenomenon I’ve noticed over the last few years: of privileged people cringing before their detractors, and often doing so in a highly cringe-inducing way.
There is no class hatred in Britain more virulent than that of the minor public school boy for the major public school boy
Should Charles and Camilla indulge someone like Fulani, whose various appearances in the media resulted in the brutal ousting of Lady Susan Hussey? Hussey, who served as the Queen’s lady in waiting for more than 60 years, has already offered her ‘profound apologies for the hurt caused’. What else is there to be said?
Despite what the Royals might think, or are being advised, offering another olive branch does not show a positive modern progressive outlook. It doesn’t make people think you’re big hearted and beneficent. It is simply abasing yourself, showing that you can be pushed around. It also signifies that you have no self-respect. It is a late-stage-of-the-game loser’s move.
Fulani is a perfect exemplar of an increasingly powerful corner of the establishment. A part of me cheers on such folk, because it’s fun to see the ‘marks’ – daft posh people – flailing. But the effects of these shakedowns are getting too pronounced. It’s getting uncomfortable. And the posh people are now doing it to themselves.
We have another recent model illustration of this. A Spy Among Friends is an ITV drama about the Philby-era security services. It stars Damian Lewis (Eton) and is written by Alex Cary (Westminster). That’s Lucius Alexander Plantagenet Cary, the hereditary viscount of Falkland by the way.
Cary told the Daily Telegraph that he invented a working-class woman character (played, gloriously ironically, by Anna Maxwell Martin, daughter of the managing director of a pharmaceutical company) whose natural born nous would see through the ‘white, upper class dinosaurs’ (Lewis’s words) of MI6. That’s Damian Lewis, of Eton, talking about a time when the population of the UK was 99 per cent white.
‘It’s a part of British society that I come from and it’s always something that I’ve been aware of – my privilege and class and all of those things,’ said Cary. The irony here is that such grovelling atonement is merely the latest manifestation of this privilege. Because who is it supposed to impress? Other posh people, that’s who. Nobody else cares. As ever, it’s all about the poshos.
There is no class hatred in Britain more virulent than that of the minor public school boy for the major public school boy. This explains so much of the animus felt towards Cameron and Boris (Eton) by the likes of James O’Brien (Ampleforth) or George Monbiot (Stowe). In the case of the King and the Viscount we can see this terrified genuflection from the aristocracy to the middle class.
The magical working-class character who’s brighter than all those toffs is getting increasingly prevalent in mass culture. We’re surely not far off being told that Churchill’s cleaning lady was the real hero of World War II – ‘By ‘eck, you soft lads have made a right pig’s ear of this – anyone wi’ two eyes in their head can see you should commence a counter invasion of Normandy on 6th June 1944’.
Why stop there? How about a biblical drama? Enter Hepzibah Clinkerthwaite – ‘Well, Mr high-and-mighty Jesus so-called Christ, you’ve got yourself into a right pickle here and no mistake, get down off that donkey and buck your ideas up!’
I preferred the posh when they were doing their (supposedly) exclusionary thing because at least it was aiming (roughly and not always successfully) for excellence: the whole point of them was to do elevated, unusual stuff. Without that, I wonder, what are they for?
I’ll add some plain speaking working-class words of advice of my own to the King and the Viscount. Please, don’t be such a bunch of mugs. Show some self respect and some gumption. Stop apologising, lecturing and cringing for status points. Tell the people trying to shame you to do one, or better still just ignore them. Stick to what you’re good at: create something beautiful and transcendent, above and beyond the pathetic student politics of today. And Charles, if you really want ordinary people to like you, never throw over your mother’s mates.
Failing that, give us your money and naff off.