Plebgate judgment

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I spent Monday, November 24, in courtroom 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. For a small part of that time, I testified as an expert witness; for the rest of the day, I was an interested spectator.

What was the occasion? Peter Walker explains (“Andrew Mitchell and the Plebgate affair explained for non-Brits“, The Guardian 11/27/2014):

It all began on the evening of 19 September 2012 when Mitchell, then chief whip of the government – effectively the enforcer for the ruling party, the person who keeps discipline and makes sure ministers vote as they are ordered – tried to cycle out of Downing Street. He was in a rush, en route to an engagement, and wanted to ride directly out of the main vehicle gates.  

But to Mitchell’s displeasure, he was told to dismount and walk his bike through a pedestrian entrance. He argued with the officer on duty, PC Toby Rowland and, according to the officer’s account of the exchange, told him:  

Best you learn your fucking place – you don’t run this fucking government – you’re fucking plebs.  

All this was gleefully recounted in the next day’s Sun newspaper, and even though Mitchell denied using the word “plebs”, the continued bad publicity led him to resign just over a month later.

The row has rumbled on ever since, including minute examination of CCTV footage from the evening in question, and culminating in a legal case which finished on Thursday that saw Mitchell sue the Sun for libel over its story, while at the same time Mitchell was sued by PC Rowland for calling the policeman a liar.

I’ll explain my testimony shortly, but first, let’s take a look at the trial’s outcome and some of the reactions in the media. Karen McVeigh, “Andrew Mitchell loses Plebgate libel trial“, The Guardian 11/27/2014:

Andrew Mitchell, the Tory MP and former cabinet minister at the centre of the Plebgate row lost his high court libel trial on Thursday in a ruling which sees him facing a legal bill of millions of pounds and leaves his political career in tatters.  […]

He had sued News Group Newspapers (NGN) over a September 2012 story in the Sun which claimed he had launched an offensive and arrogant attack on Downing Street police officers who refused to allow him to cycle through the main vehicle gates, branding them “fucking plebs”.

The Sun based its report on the account given in his log by PC Toby Rowland.

The judge, Mr Justice Mitting, told the court: “For the reasons given, I’m satisfied, at least on the balance of probabilities that Mr Mitchell did speak the words attributed to him, or so close to them as to amount to the same, the politically toxic word pleb.”

In his judgment at the end of the £3m joint libel trial, Mitting described PC Toby Rowland, the police officer who claimed the MP had used the word, as a “rather old fashioned police officer” who was “well-suited to his job” as a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group, and that he believed him.

“He is not the sort of man who had the wit, the imagination or the inclination” to “invent in the spur of the moment what a senior cabinet minister would have said to him” Mitting said, in a ruling which took over two hours.

Oliver Wright, “Plebgate politician Andrew Mitchell – privileged upbringing and temper tantrums were his undoing“, The Independent 11/27/2014:

Rugby, Cambridge, Lazard, Parliament: Andrew Mitchell’s life until the evening of 19 September 2012 was one of rarefied privilege even by the standards of Conservative MPs.  

But his background, along with a fiery temper, was his undoing. Because the single word that ended his political career was one that only a man of his class and background would have used in anger.  

The police may well be capable of making things up – but “pleb” was always an unlikely word for them to fabricate.  

Contemporaries of Mr Mitchell’s at Rugby – although none that knew him personally – say that “pleb” was common parlance among the boys, who used it to describe the non-teaching staff at the school.  

At Cambridge, the Latin slang was also used sotto voce by the same young adults to describe the college porters, cleaners and “townies” they came across. PC Toby Rowland – by that definition – was most definitely a “pleb.” Indeed one of the problems facing Mr Mitchell in the aftermath of the original allegations was that so many of his colleagues believed it was a word he might have used. 

The verdict, like the previous stages in the affair, has been very widely covered: Karen McVeigh and Nicholas Watt, “Andrew Mitchell’s career left in tatters after losing Plebgate libel case“, The Guardian 11/27/2014;”Andrew Mitchell ‘probably called police plebs’, judge rules“, BBC News 11/27/2014; Sean O’Neill, “Andrew Mitchell faces ruin as he loses ‘Plebgate’ libel case“, The Times 11/272014; Adrian Shaw, “Andrew Mitchell plebgate: Ex Conservative chief whip has lost his libel action“, The Mirror 11/27/2014;  Paul Peachey, “Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules that he did say ‘pleb’“, The Independent 11/27/2014; “Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell did call policemen ‘plebs,’ judge rules“, The Telegraph 11/27/2014; Martin Robinson and Arthur Martin, “Former Government whip Andrew Mitchell faces £3MILLION bill after libel judge decides he DID call police ‘f****** plebs’ – because the officer lacked the ‘wit or imagination’ to make it up“, The Mail Online; Jim Pickard, “Andrew Mitchell faces £3m bill after ‘Plebgate’ case is thrown out“, Financial Times 11/27/2014 ;  Paul Cheston, “Plebgate libel verdict: Judge rules Andrew Mitchell DID say ‘politically toxic word pleb’London Evening Standard 11/28/2014; Lucy Fisher, “No way back to front line for the man they called Thrasher“, The Times 11/28/2014;  Archie Bland, “Class war by distant proxy: the Andrew Mitchell trail from inside court 13“, The Guardian 11/28/2014; and so on.

And after the verdict, even Mr. Mitchell’s friends and natural allies seem to be less than whole-hearted in their support: Simon Heffer, “My friend may be an arrogant idiot… but he’s not evil“, Daily Mail 11/27/2014; James Kirkup, “Plebgate: Let’s try not to enjoy Andrew Mitchell’s downfall too much“, The Telegraph 11/27/2014.

As I understand it, Mr. Mitchell’s case was mainly based on two theories: first, that he was the victim of a police conspiracy; and second, that the CCTV camera recordings of the incident demonstrated that his interaction with PC Rowland was too brief to allow for Rowland’s version of the exchange to have been spoken.

The conspiracy theory was bolstered by revelations about police misconduct in the aftermath of the case, including one officer who was sentenced to 12 months in prison for “gross misconduct” because he sent an email to his MP, posing as a member of the public and claiming to have seen and heard the exchange. But Mr. Justice Mitting found it implausible that PC Rowland and the other officers on duty at the time were involved in such a conspiracy, either before or after the incident.

My involvement was in reference to the second theory, namely that the duration of the exchange, as calculated from CCTV recordings, was simply not long enough to allow for PC Rowland’s version to have been spoken. My instructions were:

[Y]ou are asked jointly by NGN and PC Rowland to provide a written report opining on the length of time the exchange as reported by PC Rowland might reasonably have taken to enunciate. We expect that you will provide a range of possible timings, rather than one timing, which you consider most likely.

We would anticipate that your conclusions will take into account matters such as:

(a) the circumstances in which the conversation took place;
(b) the nature and emotional content of the exchange;
(c) variations in the speech rates of individuals;
(d) allowances for pauses;
(e) allowances for overlap.

There may of course be other variables you consider should be taken into account.

In fact I ended up writing a supplementary report as well, and exchanging a set of questions and answers with Peter French, who was hired as an expert witness by Mr. Mitchell. And in the end our estimates, which were not very different, were well within the length of time that examination of the CCTV recordings allowed.

Peter French and I arrived at time estimates by slightly different methods. He used speaking rates calculated basically by taking a stretch of recording such as a speaking turn or even a whole speech, counting words or syllables, and dividing by the elapsed time to get a rate. He cited rates from various published studies, and from his own measurement of Andrew Mitchell’s speech.

I preferred to treat spoken phrases and silent pauses separately, and also to differentiate rates according to phrase length —  shorter phrases have slower average rates, due to the fact that final syllables are lengthened. I cited rates calculated from published speech corpora (e.g. Switchboard and the spoken portion of the BNC), as well as rate calculated from measurements of available recordings of Andrew Mitchell. So for example I plotted syllable count against average per-syllable duration for all of Mr. Mitchell’s phrases in an 11/26/2013 interview with Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, and added a locally-weighted polynomial regression line (which is relatively close to analogous estimates taken from millions of syllables in the Switchboard corpus):

I also calculated the distribution of his (74) turn-internal pauses in the same interview — the 25th percentile was 0.186 seconds, the median was 0.303 seconds, and the 75% percentile was 0.418. Mitchell’s alleged outburst was 20 syllables long:

Best you learn your fucking place – you don’t run this fucking government, you’re fucking plebs.

So if we assume that he produced it without an internal pause (which is not implausible, since he produced 13 phrases of 20 syllables or longer in the Jon Snow interview), then the regression-line estimate would be 20*0.177 = 3.54 seconds. If we assume that he broke it up into two phrases of 7 and 13 syllables (“Best you learn your fucking place [silence] you don’t run this fucking government, you’re fucking plebs”), and add a silent pause of median length, then we get something like 7*0.209+13*0.181 + 0.303 = 4.119 seconds. And for three phrases of 7+9+4 syllables (“Best you learn your fucking place [silence] you don’t run this fucking government [silence] you’re fucking plebs”) we would get 7*0.209 + 9*0.196 + 4+0.232 + 2*0.303 = 4.761.

Eliminating spurious precision, we get something like 3.5 to 5.0 seconds as a plausible range of durations. If you try recording yourself acting out the alleged outburst, I think you’ll find durations consistent with this estimate.

Here’s a passage from the end of the court record of Peter French’s testimony:

MR JUSTICE MITTING: One rather elementary question. If I were just considering the 20 syllables uttered, it is said, by Mr Mitchell, the broadbrush range that I get from your evidence and that of your colleague is 3 seconds to 4.5 seconds. Is that roughly right?

A. The fastest rate would be — the very fastest rate would be 2.85, my Lord.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: Yes.

A. The slowest rate would be 7.7 and the three average rates: the first one based on the Police Federation recording would be 4.1 seconds.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: Yes.

A. The second one, based on the Snow interview, would be 12.9.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: Sorry, 12.9 seconds?

A. Sorry, I do apologise: 4.2.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: Thank you.

A. 4.2. And the one based on the London club recording would be 4.4.

And from the end of my testimony:

MR JUSTICE MITTING: — if the whole things runs together at a fast-ish speed? Giving a rage of 3.5 to 5 seconds within which — with or without pauses — those words, if they were spoken, were spoken?

A. Exactly. As the scatter of points in that plot indicates, that’s the expectation based on the central tendency. It’s possible, of course, to speak more rapidly or more slowly than that.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: Of course. There are outlying possibilities.

A. Yes.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: But excluding those, I would be right to take the range as 3.5 to 5?

A. Yes, my Lord.

MR JUSTICE MITTING: Thank you.

As you can see, the range emerging from our two approaches, in the end, was quite similar.

Throughout the day —  which also included testimony from expert witnesses about reconstructing the events from CCTV recodings, as well as testimony from a number of police and security officials about Mr. Mitchell’s language and behavior in previous encounters — I was impressed with the judge’s command of the evidence and with the quality of his questions.

Update — I haven’t seen the text of the judgment, but apparently our testimony played a role. From Archie Bland, “Class war by distant proxy: the Andrew Mitchell trail from inside court 13“, The Guardian 11/28/2014:

You couldn’t help but be lost in admiration for [Mitting’s] forensic command of the detail: you’d need a memory palace to keep it all straight. And yet it almost all seemed irrelevant. A judgment that took over an hour to read boiled down to the fact that two phonetic experts judged that Mitchell would have had time to say the “toxic phrases”, and that he had told his deputy that he didn’t know what he had said very soon after.

Update #2 — In the comments, RP informs us that the judgment is here, and that the phonetic evidence and its implications are discussed in paragraphs 98 to 124.
 

 



37 Comments

  1. CLThornett said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

    For helping to put an end to Plebgate, many thanks.

  2. Rube said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

    I am bizarrely happy that the law is now using science for this kind of thing, not “good, plain common sense”.

  3. GeorgeW said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

    I don’t think I would be delighted to be described by the judge as “not the sort of man who had the wit, the imagination or the inclination” . . . ” On the other hand, £3m might soothe my feelings.

  4. Mark F. said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    Is the -gate suffix common in the UK? If so, is that a new thing?

    [(myl) The Wikipedia article “List of scandals with ‘-gate’ suffix” cites at least these other U.K. examples: Rinkagate (1976), Flakegate (2000), Officegate (2001), Fallagate (2002), Betsygate (2004), Camillagate (2005), Stormontgate (2005), Taxigate (2005), Sachsgate (2008), Squidgygate (2008), Bloodgate (2009), Smeargate (2009), Irisgate (2010), Hackgate/Rupertgate/Murdochgate (2011), Pastygate (2012).]

  5. RP said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

    GeorgeW – that £3m is what Mitchell has to pay to cover legal costs incurred by NGN and by the police officer and Police Federation. None of that goes into the pocket of PC Rowland, as I understand it. However, I don’t think the question has been decided yet of whether Mitchell owes Rowland any damages in compensation for libel, so that might be still to come.

    Mark F. – the -gate suffix has been extremely common in the UK for many, many years.

  6. Peter Evans said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

    A rum affair indeed. Young middle-class me somehow acquired a snooty disdain for pseudosingular “pleb”. (Of course I now know that there’s nothing shameful about backformation.) Was Rugby, Mitchell’s snobbish school, less patrician than my own (obscure) school, or was it morphologically enlightened?

    As for the verdict, Marina Hyde puts it well:

    “He is not the sort of man,” opined Mr Justice Mitting of Mitchell’s nemesis PC Rowland, “who had the wit, the imagination … to invent in the spur of the moment what a senior cabinet minister would have said to him.” You know what that sounds like? Judicialese for pleb.

    [(myl) The OED has citations for pleb going back to 1795, including S.T. Coleridge in 1819, and an indication that it was Westminster School slang for “A tradesman’s son” as of 1902.]

  7. Chris Waigl said,

    November 28, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

    Wonderful post, thanks!

    (You actually called him “My Lord”? Even though you aren’t British, so he isn’t really *your* Lord? Was this a long-reflected decision or did you just say, hey, that’s what his title is in that foreign system, so I’ll go with it?)

    (I once, a long time ago, read something by a UK judge about how watching US TV shows influenced how defendants [who are probably not called defendants in the UK, or England & Wales, or whatever] address the court. Specifically, “Your Honour”, which of course isn’t how you do it in Britain.)

  8. Jason said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 12:35 am

    @Chris Waigl

    Well of course he’s “My Lord” because he’s a High Court judge, not a District or Circuit judge, and thus a better kind of judge entitled to a better form of address than the lower-ranked “Sir” or “Madam.” The classless society maintains strict class divisions between the ranks of judges.

    Unlike Australia where every judicial officer, from Magistrate to Chief Justice now answers to the uniform title “Your Honour.” (with a handful of exceptions.)

    There may or may not be some great sociolinguistic significance in this.

  9. Thomas Rees said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 2:44 am

    The wonderful thing about plebgate is that it involves an actual gate. Literally.
    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2014/9/1/1409594361946/Plebgate-CCTV-still-014.jpg

  10. John Walden said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 3:35 am

    “I was drunk as a judge when I committed the offense”

    “The expression is “sober as a judge”. Don’t you mean “drunk as a lord”?”

    “Yes, m’lud.”

    Just because we have these feudal forms of address we don’t always use them with a degree of respect. You only have to hear MPs call each other “The Right Honourable Gentleman” or barristers saying “My Learned Friend” to other barristers to know if they mean it. Barristers call mere solicitors “My Friend”.

    I imagine PC Rowland called David Mellor “Sir” with no great enthusiasm.

    Old anecdote:

    “I have listened to you, Mr. Smith, but I am none the wiser.”

    “Possibly not, m’Lud, but you are much better informed.”

    Presumably the lawyer F.E Smith was not yet Lord Birkenhead at the time or there would have been some kind of lord-off between him and the judge. He was linguistically of interest for supporting antidisestablishmentarianism.

    At my school we even called day-boys “Plebs”. We had unpleasant words for just about everybody except us.

  11. Doreen said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 5:12 am

    To me (someone originally from the US who has lived in the UK for ~20 years now) the most surprising aspect of myl’s account is the use of the term “CCTV” where I would have expected “surveillance [camera]” or “security [camera]” in US English. Is “CCTV” widely used in the US with that meaning these days, or is this post just adopting the terminology from the UK case?

  12. Stephen said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 7:52 am

    @Chris Waigl said,
    “You actually called him “My Lord”? Even though you aren’t British, so he isn’t really *your* Lord?”

    So would you expect a non-American in a formal setting to call Barack Obama ‘Mr President’, ‘Mr Obama’, ‘Barack’ or ‘Barry'[1]? After all, Obama is not *their* president.

    1. AFAIUI His common name until he was in his twenties.

  13. RP said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 7:55 am

    @Chris Waigl and Jason,

    You can see which judges are entitled to be addressed as My Lord, which as Your Honour, and which are Sir/Madam here:
    http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/you-and-the-judiciary/what-do-i-call-judge/

    The fact that Mr Justice Mitting has the title “Mr” tell us that he isn’t a Lord (he isn’t Lord Justice Mitting – he doesn’t hold a peerage). But he is addressed as “My Lord” in court, and in his judicial capacity, by virtue of the office he holds.

    (Actually, I checked on Wikipedia, and the judge was Sir John Mitting. But we never say “Sir Justice …”, which is presumably why he is called “Mr” in this context. One reason might be that the title “Sir” must always be followed by either a first name or a full name, never a surname alone.)

    The fact that we address him as “My Lord” despite him not being a Lord is analogous to the fact that we frequently address men as “Sir” despite them not holding knighthoods nor any other title. (They would never have “Sir” in front of their name, unlike Sir John, but they would still be addressed as “Sir” in the same way that women get called “Madam”).

    Calling him “My Lord” acknowledges his position as a senior judge, but despite the “My” it doesn’t seem to carry the implication that the speaker owes him feudal allegiance. After all, members of the House of Lords address each other as “My Lords” too:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/141127-0001.htm#14112775000411

  14. John Walden said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 7:59 am

    I mixed up David Mellor with Andrew Mitchell. One swore at a policeman, the other at a taxi-driver.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 9:05 am

    The few times I’ve been in court in America (as juror candidate, at traffic court, etc.), I heard a lot of common people saying “Yes, sir” and “Your Honor” (I believe that I overheard lawyers explicitly advising their clients to do that).

    If I were a witness at the court of Mr. Justice Mitting, I probably would have addressed him as “Your Honor”, just out of American instinct, but in so doing I may have been wrong according to the protocol of the British setting. It’s quite probable that anyone being called to testify in a court of Mr. Justice Mitting’s standing would be instructed how to address him. I met members of British royalty on several occasions (including Prince Charles who came to Philadelphia with Camilla in January of 2007) and was instructed by a protocol officer beforehand how to address them.

    Incidentally, I have a number of acquaintances who are British lords and sirs, but they are all professors. None of them wish to be referred to as “Lord” or “Sir” in academic conversations or publications.

  16. Robert Coren said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 11:33 am

    Not only might Mark (or any other “foreign” participant) have been “instructed” in how to address the judge, I would suppose that if he were present in the court before giving his testimony, he might have noted how others addressed him, and chosen to follow their example.

    Meanwhile:

    Distinction ebbs
    Before a herd
    Of vulgar plebs
    (A Latin word).

    –W. S. Gilbert, Iolanthe

  17. Peter French said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    Here’s a link to the full judgement, including a summary of the contribution made by the phonetics experts at points 98 – 123-ish:

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2014/4014.html

  18. Peter French said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    The customs of address and reference to High Court Judges in the jurisdiction of England and Wales are a lovely example of British quirkiness. They (the male ones, that is) are referred to by the title ‘Mr (Justice + surname’) as if they were commoners. They are addressed in court as ‘My Lord’ (and in a third person but direct address as ‘Your Lordship’). However, the reality is that they stand somewhere in between commoners (misters) and peers of the realm (lords), because on gaining office they are knighted. And knights are addressed as ‘Sir (+first name)’, which is the form of address and reference they receive in extra-legal contexts.

  19. Stephen said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

    @Victor Mair
    I would be very surprised if an academic wanted a sir/lord title used in an academic setting.

    Partly it is the context and partly the fact that an academic position is, to some extent at least, earned but that obtaining a sir/lord title has a large degree of luck attached to it.

    Some positions (e.g. senior Civil Service and military ones) normally have a knighthood (with the title of ‘sir’) attached to them. AFAIUI at very senior levels when being appointed to to that level and lower down when retiring. However there are, obviously, fewer posts at any given level than at the level above it and who gets the promotion can easily depend upon being in the right place at the right time.

    For academics, getting noticed by ‘the Establishment’ helps a lot in getting a title and being very academically distinguished in a very obscure area gives less visibility than being less academically distinguished in an area that is of interest to the government.

    Also there is a hierarchy of titles and ones of nobility come last. So the knighted, holder of a chair (e.g. of divinity) who is also an ordained CoE minister would be the The Reverend Professor Sir John Smith.

  20. AB said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

    This is all part of the subtelties of British snobbery. For an academic to actually *use* the title of Sir, Lord etc, in an ordinary professional context would be a sign of the utmost gaucherie and parvenudom. The same holds with actors I believe. It is said that Ben Kingsley was much mocked for wishing to be addressed as “Sir Ben”.

  21. AB said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

    *subtleties

  22. Jim Breen said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

    Andrew Mitchell’s Grauniad article had a small slip. He wrote: “(whip) … makes sure ministers vote as they are ordered”. It’s *members* who are under the whip. There is no question about ministers not voting the party line, as custom obliges them to resign if they don’t.

  23. RP said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

    I slipped up on one detail myself, as I implied that although not all judges addressed as “My Lord” were Lords, all judges titled “Lord Justice” were Lords – which isn’t the case. It is the case for some such judges, but not all.

    @Jim Breen,
    I think you mean Peter Walker’s article, rather than Andrew Mitchell’s. I noticed the inaccuracy you raise, but I don’t think it is as wrong as you think it is. All Conservative Members of the Parliament are subject to the whip (unless they have had the whip withdrawn, which is a severe sanction and is a warning shot that unless they make amends, they might not be allowed to stand for the party at the next election). But Ministers need to be told how to vote, too. After all, if they were to vote against their own government’s measures by mistake, that would be extremely embarrassing and even if it were in error, a resignation might still be called for.

  24. Jim Breen said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

    @RP. You’re right, of course. I mistook a subheading for a byline. (Being half a planet away Andrew Mitchell’s name hadn’t penetrated very well.)

  25. Rebecca said,

    November 29, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

    In the US, conservative politicians tend to be pretty good at speaking “good ‘ol boy”, even if they are upper crusty themselves. Is there that variety of conservative politician in Great Britain?

  26. RP said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 4:15 am

    Rebecca,
    The best candidate I can think of, although not from the Conservative Party, is Nigel Farage, the leader of the small rightwing party UKIP (albeit a former Conservative). He’s remarkably good at making people think he is an ordinary man of the people, standing against the Establishment, even though he went to a fee-paying school and later worked as an investment banker.

  27. MM said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 10:19 am

    @John Walden: barristers called each other ‘My learned friend’, and solicitors call each other ‘My friend’ (in court). But barristers don’t call solicitors ‘My friend’ because they are not regarded as being in the same profession – ‘friend’ here meaning ‘colleague’. (And in parliament, ‘my friend’ means a member of the same party).

  28. MM said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 10:29 am

    @RP Even if the judge were addressed as Lord Justice Mitting (as a judge of the Court of Appeal), he would still not be a lord. It used to be the custom to appoint judges of the House of Lords as Lords – obviously. Now the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords has become the Supreme Court of England and Wales and it is not on the website you cite. The site is here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/index.html – I think they are all still appointed lords.

  29. RP said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 11:09 am

    @MM, I realised this afterwards and issued a later correction, but I don’t blame you for not seeing it (or perhaps it was not clear). Thanks anyway for clearing that up and for the additional detail.

  30. Stephen said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 11:21 am

    @RP
    Nigel Farage did go to a fee-paying school (the same one that Raymond Chandler attended) but not one with anywhere nearly the same overtones of elitism as Eton, where David Cameron went.

    Also he was not an investment banker but a commodities trader, mostly (only?) in metals.

    In the media, the ‘Farage was a banker’ line comes across (to many including me) as lazy journalism at best or an attempt to smear by association.

  31. Stephen said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    I meant to add that c. 7% of children in the UK are educated at fee-paying schools, so that does not mark someone out as having had a life right at the top of society.

  32. RP said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 11:55 am

    To my mind 7% is relatively small, but it depends what number you compare to or what figure you are expecting, doesn’t it? Dulwich seems to be one of the traditional public schools, one of the twelve members of the “Eton Group”, but I don’t know quite where it stands in the hierarchy. It certainly isn’t as well known (or as prestigious) as Eton.

    I think you are right that he was a commodities trader. His father had been an investment banker, not him. Thanks for the correction.

  33. Stephen said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 12:57 pm

    7% means that (at the simplest) there is a 1 in 14 chance that someone you meet went to a fee-paying school.

    The UK has 73 MEPs so on the 1 in 14 basis, five of them should have been educated at a fee-paying school.

    In reality, the %age of people in certain jobs/professions who were educated at a fee-paying school is much higher than 7% (which raises a much bigger issue that I won’t go in to here).

    I cannot readily find a figure for the %age of UK MEPs who were privately educated but for MPs (in the 2010 election) the figure is 34%.

    So a political figure having been privately educated should not come as any sort of a surprise.

    However my main point was that 7% of the population is c. 4.5 million people. So obviously richer than average but by no means a guarantee of coming from a multi-millionaire family.

  34. J. W. Brewer said,

    December 1, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

    For relative snob appeal based on school attended, try this on for size: “Eton is a posh school; Harrow, I was always told by non-Harrovians, is not. At university, 30 years ago, the boys from Dulwich College were looked down on as south London barbarians and pursued around the place by imitations of their supposedly cockney argot.” http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/our-pm-is-too-posh-to-push-for-the-union-with-scotland–and-knows-it-9053632.html (I assume the writer is this fellow http://www.djtaylorwriter.co.uk/index.htm, whose disclosure of his own educational pedigree connotes . . . well, it connotes whatever it connotes to those better versed than I am in the semiotics of UK class-consciousness.)

    I suspect that at least in the old days Raymond Chandler was a less prototypical alumnus of Dulwich than P.G. Wodehouse, who (sez wikipedia) was about 5 years ahead of him. Wikipedia separately claims that for a while in the mid-20th-century, the school had a quite significant number of students from less affluent backgrounds with government-funded scholarships (which probably led to the stereotype Taylor describes), although that may have gone by the wayside a little bit before Farage’s time. Although if Farage’s parents were sufficiently plugged into social-snob stereotypes, they would have known the school had the reputation Taylor alludes to (ambitious smart kids from non-posh family backgrounds! Oh, the horror . . .) and sent their son there regardless.

  35. Aaron said,

    December 2, 2014 @ 11:17 pm

    I’d like to register my disappointment that this scandal was not known as “gategate”.

    As Thomas Rees notes above, there was an actual gate! What a missed opportunity.

  36. RP said,

    December 3, 2014 @ 4:34 am

    @Aaron, It was known as Gategate, at least for a while, at least to some people. This is still noted in Wikipedia. It perhaps didn’t catch on.

    @myl, The judgment is here:
    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2014/4014.html

    Your evidence and its implications are discussed in paragraphs 98 to 124.

  37. MM said,

    December 3, 2014 @ 4:37 am

    @RP
    Yes, sorry, I did read a lot of the comments but not every word.

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