andrew mitchell

Andrew Mitchell picked the wrong insult by branding police "plebs."

David Cameron's Chief Whip denies he used the term after officers refused to follow his command to open Downing Street's main entrance for him.

But innocent or guilty, the raging storm over 'Gate-gate' is hugely damaging for his boss, Prime Minister David Cameron.

Accusations that the Conservative government is comprised of a bunch of privileged 'posh boys' dog his government.

The number of millionaires in his cabinet is, slightly disingenuously, gleefully mentioned by Labour opponents regularly.

The word taps into the tortured issue of class in modern Britain and a raw nerve at No10.

Which makes 'pleb' precisely not what should come from the mouth of Cameron's chief enforcer.

Unfortunately for him, Andrew Mitchell embodies much of what rivals lampoon about the Tories.

The privately educated Cambridge graduate and former investment banker is worth around £2.2m.

But it's not okay to say it.

The word 'pleb' summons up thousands of years-worth of cultural inheritance.

It is a loaded term weighed down by baggage  - most of which was quickly emptied onto Mitchell's head.

So why is 'pleb' it such a dirty word that he was called to resign when Gate-gate broke?

Its use can be traced back to ancient Rome as a term for the mass of non-aristocrats. This lineage to classical Latinate civilisation is not very helpful in the present context.

Being a 'plebeian' meant you were above a slave, but were barred from holding high rank in judicial or religious bodies. In other words, the type of position in which you get doors (or gates) opened for you by minions.

As Chief Whip, Mitchell is part of Cameron's exclusive Star Chamber or inner circle.

Using the insult pleb clearly marks out who does not belong in that rarefied atmosphere.

In recent times, it was a word used in English public schools for 'low-born' pupils whose parents were not aristocrats or landed gentry.

Common as Muck?

Today, the word is more derogatory.

The word today is connoted with being a dim-wit, ignorant, inferior - or 'common as muck.'

Call someone a pleb today and you are basically saying they belong shovelling dung outside the castle walls.

Think of how the sentiment would look as an action.

It is like driving your Jaguar into a puddle to soak people waiting at a bus stop - then flipping them a two-finger salute as you speed off.

Another factor which Mitchell may not be able to help much is that he has the look of a successful man who is very pleased with himself indeed.

In a society which aspires to be classes and considers itself meritocratic, this is not ideal.

But for a party which is ultra-senstive about accusations of being out of touch, it could trigger a full-blown meltdown.

De-toxifying the Tory brand was something Cameron made his priority upon becoming leader in 2005.

Members were even banned from swigging champagne from flutes at one conference because it might look bad.

Critics calling for Mitchell's head do not underline that he reportedly used foul language to police officers.

Political rivals know the reported 'pleb' slur strikes at a core weakness the Tories have.

Now they want to see this former UN peacekeeper blown away by the P-bomb.