Why the posh live in grubby chaos

The upper classes don't worry about something so trivial as a dirty house.

A survey suggests more than 60% of Britons think their friends' houses are filthy. Sounds accurate to me. I'm not always struck by the cleanliness of my friends' houses and I'm sure they're never amazed by the cleanliness of mine.

Boris Johnson's sister, Rachel, takes the same view. She once read a piece in the Daily Mail about her Somerset farmhouse, which began: "The carpet looks filthy, the fireplace brims with ashes and a dog is shedding hair on the floor. The chair cushions are on their last legs, propped on decrepit armchairs, showing no signs of ever having been cleaned. Worst of all, the lady of the house seems to be wearing wellington boots in the sitting room. But the thing you may find really shocking about this tableau is that it is not the home of some slovenly slattern"

In The Times this week, the chatelaine of this "grubby chaos" as she calls it, expresses the view while protesting that she herself is not posh that the posher you are, the lower your standards of hygiene seem to be. "Posh people have different standards, generally lower, as it is considered common to mind dirt or blood or mess or mud." Cleanliness, in other words, is never close to stateliness. Grand people never throw things away. They "keep Stiltons till they suppurate, and game till it's crawling with maggots, in separate larders of course". They are not remotely bothered by what people think about their clothes, houses, cars, wives or behaviour, though they may reach for their gun "if you insult their dogs".

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When the financier Damian Fraser went to stay with the Roper-Curzons, says Johnson, he pulled open a chest of drawers in his bedroom to stow his clothes and "found it full of dirty saucepans". Johnson herself once shared a house with the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His solution to the washing-up problem after dinner parties was "to throw the used crockery out of the window". Mary Killen, the etiquette expert, lives in a house in Wiltshire that her friends fondly call the "grottage". People like staying there, she says, because they can feel that at least their houses are cleaner than hers. Well, nobody ever went to their grave wishing they'd cleaned the fridge more. Dirt, as Johnson says, is nature's antibiotic. Living in a grubby house is much more fun than living in a spotless one.

Charles Moore's biography of Mrs Thatcher is full of surprises. One, as Daniel Finkelstein points out in The Times, concerns Willie Whitelaw. Moore quotes from the diaries of Airey Neave who, before running Mrs Thatcher's campaign to be Tory leader, considered running Whitelaw's. "Today," wrote Neave in December 1973, "I suggested to some Members that Whitelaw should be PM but they thought him too emotional'." To this Moore adds the footnote: "Willie Whitelaw was drinking very heavily at this time. The word emotional' is partly a code word for drunk." Blimey, as Finkelstein says. He never knew this. Neither did I.

Tabloid money: let's put immigrants in the House of Commons

"Nick Clegg's alma mater, Westminster School, is on a fund-raising drive," says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail. "Headmaster Dr Stephen Spurr has written to former pupils of the £30,000-a-year institution asking them to contribute towards new school equipment. Must-have items include: £12,000 for a Magic Planet digital globe; £6,000 for a trophy cabinet; £25,000 towards a £75,000 Steinway piano; and £1,500 towards board games for whenever the skies refuse to co-operate'. A former pupil remarks scathingly: Doesn't surprise me. The school is in the lifestyle business nowadays rather than education.'"

John Bercow has told the Romanian parliament that immigrants to Britain work harder than the locals, writes Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror. Bercow said many new immigrants in recent years have come with aptitudes and a commitment we haven't always seen in our labour force. "Bercow's statement contains more than a grain of truth, even if he said it to suck up to his Romanian hosts. Most immigrants don't come here and laze about on the welfare state. Most work their socks off. The man who repaired my drains is French. My dental hygienist is Polish. My papergirl is Romanian." My pizzas are "delivered by a polite, hard-working east European. Immigrants work hard. So let's sack John Bercow and get a Commons Speaker from eastern Europe".

"Now David Miliband is going to New York to do his big international charity job, the question of what to do with the grand Primrose Hill family mansion he inherited arises," says Guido Fawkes in The Sun. "Brother Ed Miliband is rumoured to have been frostily rebuffed when he hinted that he would be interested in trading up from his £2m Dartmouth Park home to the £3m north London townhouse where the Miliband boys grew up. You can sympathise with David. He expected to inherit the Labour leadership from Tony Blair and he is not going to want to give Ed what remains of his inheritance."