The Rich Will Always Be With Us

Great Britain

Exhibit A: The Honourable Member for the 18th Century, Jacob Rees-Mogg AKA The Haunted Chimney, about whom the writer Ian Trevett had this to say:

‘He is famed for filibustering, where MPs block bills by talking for long enough to block the progress of a bill. In his long speech to filibuster the Sustainable Livestock Bill, he recited poetry, spoke of the superior quality of Somerset eggs, and mentioned the fictional pig, the Empress of Blandings, who won silver at the Shropshire County Show three years in a row, before moving on to talk about the sewerage system and the Battle of Agincourt.’

While he seems merely an absurd caricature, what happens when upper class inbreeding goes too far, his actions do tend to radiate evil.

 

Countering him is Elvis from Dagenham, a working class lad who had his sights set on becoming a city trader. At Birmingham University he got a 2:1 in political economy, becoming the first member of his family to get a degree.

His mum used to clean Morgan Stanley’s offices and wanted her son to get a job there, but  he quickly discovered that many top companies look for candidates with a certain ‘polish’, code for the wrong class, possibly also for the wrong colour.

According to research by the London School of Economics, if you’re a working class graduate with a first class degree you’re less likely to land an elite job than a middle class graduate with a 2:2. And even if you do succeed in getting the position, you’ll earn on average 16% less than your middle class counterparts.

When WS Gilbert wrote, ‘Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes’ for the peers to sing in ‘Iolanthe’ he was waging a class war of his own that delayed his knighthood until over 30 years after Queen Victoria’s death.

Class snobbery has been openly admitted and praised for so long that a new generation of forelock-tuggers has arrived, encouraged by newspapers like the Mail and the Evening Standard. The good news is that the new generation of royals reflect the modern world.

The problem arises in keeping class out of crime novels. I’ve a scene in the next B&M with Bryant causing havoc in a posh restaurant, and realise that what I’m doing is pure Norman Wisdom – thumbing one’s nose at institutions. Class has never automatically been linked with money (indeed, the uppers on their uppers were a familiar sight) but it has become so now, so today I’m wrestling with a new problem. How do you catch someone who’s rich enough to not get caught?

26 comments on “The Rich Will Always Be With Us”

  1. Liz Thompson says:

    By ruining their reputation, if they care and/or still have one? By hiring or becoming a hacker and fixing their computer? By assassination? By kidnapping their prized pet (or child, less likely to work though)? By arson on their landed estate?
    Just suggesting….
    If voting achieved anything, they’d make it illegal….

  2. Brooke says:

    “Someone rich enough to not get caught..” say some one like Mr. Epstein? Victims outcry, evidence and bringing charges?

  3. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Perhaps if you are used to getting away with everything, you become careless.
    Maybe someone gets to whoever you pay to do your dirty work.

  4. Ken Mann says:

    I used to work as a clerk in an office that pursued rich men’s gambling debts. Embarrassment was sometimes the only weapon. That was a long time ago – I doubt that would still work.

  5. eggsy says:

    “Rich enough not to get caught”…is that more or less rich than “get caught but get let off due to expensive lawyers making a mockery of the legal system”?
    Assuming legal redress an impossibility, best thing to do would be place in a situation where that beloved money is useless. But what? Risk to life and limb straightforward, but a more satisfying and poetic situation is called for. Can’t think what – if I knew I might have tried it already….

  6. Brooke says:

    Other thoughts:

    1) Richie Rich is pursued and damaged in chilling ways by someone who cared for/loved an alleged victim of Ms. Rich. The supposed victim is so obscure, Ms. Rich doesn’t even recall the person. Or Ms. Rich didn’t actually do anything but because she is so notoriously rich and arrogant, the avenger assumes Rich is guilty and acts accordingly.

    2) Ms. Rich has an army of folks ready to do her dirty work (hat tip to eggsy and Cornelia). Because she is oblivious to human feelings and reality, she pushes, insults, steps over one who (possibly to save himself/family) turns against her and eliminates her. Or a clever victim can manipulate both and let them eliminate each other. (Too Caroline Graham?)

    3) Psychological take-down. Seldom are the rich and highborn required to do the hard work of becoming an adult and their soul-ego gaps are visible. Give Ms. Rich a psychological profile that isolates her into insanity.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    I admit that having a desire for destruction of the entitled doesn’t loom large in my psychology, possibly because I believe your headline up there, but the idea of someone buying their way free of punishment is socks rotting so what to do? Somehow the means has to be removed, either by losing the money or putting the person, as suggested by eggsy, where they can’t access it.

    What does that ratio business quoted up there mean? What is a 2:1 or 2:2 degree? I assume it has to do with a ranking of some sort? I suppose there is still the difference between a good university and a not so good one and at least that difference makes sense, although the LSE should rank right up there, especially if the degree is in anything to do with money or politics. (My degree is from a now rather old fashioned colonial university but professional courses authorized by the licensing bodies should have equal value regardless of the university giving them.That is why we had such a kerfluffle between the law society and a small university which wanted to have a law faculty although they required students to sign a sexual behaviour pledge.)

    That “polish” business is very complicated and Maggie Thatcher is proof. She sounded upper class but I don’t think she was ever really considered “one of us”. She abandoned her roots without gaining comfort away from them. An upper class person deeply into music would have more in common with a musician born in a lower class than with non-musical upper class people but it would be a Robbie Burns connection – brought up to perform but fed in the kitchen. The longer a society exists the more the class divisions show up. We have lots of people who have had money for two or more generations but it doesn’t make them upper class unless they have interests beyond money. I’m going away to think about this and search out some geographical placements for Snowy’s map. (You know, I think my son started something like this years ago and gave up when it got too complex. Never mind; carry on Snowy.)

  8. Jay Mackie says:

    Hi Helen

    Just wanted to quickly address your question regarding classes of degrees in UK universities.
    The highest grade of undergraduate Honours degree is a First (usually 70% +), then there are two levels of Second class degree – 2.1 (or upper second class – 60-69%) and a 2.2 (or lower second class – 50-59%). There is a third class of 40-49%. Lower than 40% is a fail I think, but some institutions will award a third if the student just falls below 40%. Obviously at their discretion! Historically some institutions awarded 4th class degree until the 1970s. Very few graduates are awarded thirds now, with second class of both divisions being the most common. I’m very pleased to say I got the magic First!!!

  9. Ian Luck says:

    I harbour dark fantasies where the braying prick that is Mr Rees Mogg is asked to flip a coin by Mr Anton Chigurh. It turns out well. But not for Mr Rees Mogg. Every time.

  10. Wild Edric says:

    I would suggest their downfall would be something which makes people ask “With all that money why on earth did they decide to do that?” about something very trivial. Like the equivalent of stealing a penny chew (not that there’s such a thing any more!). Possibly driven by arrogance – wealth isn’t always accompanied by intelligence but arrogance appears to be a frequent companion.

    I like Brooke’s no.1 suggestion also. Maybe a chance encounter during which something relatively minor occurs – the rich character doesn’t even recall it but the wronged party takes it to heart and it becomes an obsession to get one over on the rich man/woman?

  11. Roger says:

    Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father, William, inspired a character – Somerset Lloyd-James – in Simon Raven’s Alms for Oblivion. Perhaps you could follow his example…

  12. Ken Mann says:

    On the subject of rich, I walk through St James as part of my morning commute. Today I passed a van from a company who will supply taps with the options of hot, cold, and sparkling. It was not clear whether hot sparkling was an option.

  13. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    ‘ It was not clear whether hot sparkling was an option.’
    Unless they are rich enough to avoid the laws of physics, it’s unlikely. Carbon dioxide won’t stay in solution in hot water.

  14. Andre says:

    You’ve cropped Elvis from Dagenham out of the picture Admin. That’s the BBC’s media editor, Amol Rajan

  15. Ken Mann says:

    Good point, I’ll have to stick to sparkling cold showers.

  16. admin says:

    This is what comes of rushing things, Andre. I couldn’t find a standalone shot and trimmed the only one that came up in the search. It didn’t help that I was balancing the laptop on one knee at the time! Sorry about that.

  17. Debra Matheney says:

    A decent prosecutor is is how. Thank God Epstein finally met one after the diabolical mess that was made of his case in Florida. I know the CPS does not play a role in your books, but the federal and state prosecutors in New York may be the last hope to bring down Trump, provided we aren’t stupid enough to re-elect him so the statute of limitations run out on his crimes.

  18. Ian Luck says:

    Mr Rees(bloody hyphenated)Mogg, is exactly one of the ‘Upper class twits’ (wrong vowel in that last word, surely?) that the Monty Python team ribbed so beautifully – Vivian Smith-Smyth Smith, Gervaise Brooke-Hamster, Oliver StJohn Mollusc, etc. He wouldn’t know real life if it sprang up and bit him on the scrotum.

  19. Helen Martin says:

    But look how he wears that hat! and the suit and tie! He’s set for a job as mortician.

  20. snowy says:

    Moggy has typed a book, I stumbled across it in the Library. It is very considerably worse than average, even for a vanity project.

    The Amazon reviews of it show more wit and skill:


    “Don’t bother, I bought this because my usual brand was out of stock. It doesn’t fit the dispenser and the paper is scratchy and not terribly absorbent. Wouldn’t recommend or buy again.”

    “Came in handy as a present for my brother, who I detest.”

  21. Ian Luck says:

    Backpfeifengesicht. I apologise if I have spelt this brilliant word wrongly, but I have been dying to use it for ages, since being told on this very site what it meant. The Germans, as always, have a word that sums up Mr R.M. perfectly, and as I have a face that resembles a rucksack full of broken bells, I can use it with impunity. The above word roughly translates as: ‘An eminently punchable face.’ And what a gormless prick he looks in that hat. Would I trust him? Not as far as I could throw him. No, I’m not a fan.

  22. Helen Martin says:

    Not even as a mortician, Ian? Sorry, but that is a marvelous hat.

  23. Ian Luck says:

    He needs an Isambard Kingdom Brunel Stovepipe hat. That’s a real man’s topper.(although it’s a Stovepipe). Digging a tunnel with dad? Stovepipe. Dangling precariously in a basket over Clifton Gorge? Stovepipe. Having some snaps taken in front of your specially made chain on the SS Great Eastern? Stovepipe. And he didn’t look a berk wearing it, either.

  24. Helen Martin says:

    True. The Small Small Man in the Tall Tall Hat. Love that picture in front of the chain.

  25. Helen Martin says:

    (Rats – hit post too soon.) I do like the hat here, though; it’s just on the wrong head.

  26. Ian Luck says:

    Helen – An old brass Siebe-Gorman type diving helmet would probably suit him better. And you’d never have to listen to his stupid voice, either. Which makes me think of:
    BASIL FAWLTY (Disgusted at a snobby lady guest’s small, yappy dog) The merest breeze could do it harm. You might try putting it in a Tupperware box.
    THE MAJOR (Horrified) But it wouldn’t be able to breathe, would it, Fawlty?
    BASIL FAWLTY (Grimly) It could try, Major, it could try.

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