12 August 2011

David Cameron, former Bullingdon bully, criticizes rioters

It is always such a challenge to divorce the class angle from British affairs. Two of the most vociferous critics of the recent rioters in London and other cities have been Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson. As it turns out, these two old Etonians know a little about vandalism themselves. Back in the '80s, during their Oxford days, they were members of the infamous Bullingdon Club.

The club is famous for its misbehaviour, a favourite form of which is trashing restaurants. Their notorious dinners typically involve members booking a private dining room (usually under an assumed name) and drinking themselves stupid before wrecking the place.

On the night the attached photo was taken, the group was strolling through Oxford after dinner when one threw a plant pot through the window of a restaurant. Six of them were arrested and spent the night in a lockup before being released without charge the next morning. Cameron escaped.

We might expect the Prime Minister's personal experience with gangs and vandalism to provide him with some empathy for the wild oat sowing youth of Tottenham, but I wouldn't be too optimistic.

In any case, one thing can be said for the Bullingdons. After trashing a restaurant they characteristically pay for the damages by peeling off high-denomination bills from their fat wallets. A bit of noblesse oblige, if you like. But then the Bullingdons are rich men's sons, they can afford it. The rioters of recent days are hardly equipped to do likewise. The rich are indeed different from the rest of us.

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