Uh oh - Stanley Johnson said the quiet part out loud. During a recent appearance on the BBC, the prime minister's dad stated explicitly what has always been obvious: the Tory party thinks the British public are a bunch of idiots. Responding to the fact that a viewer had called his son "Pinocchio", Johnson harrumphed: "Pinocchio? Pinocchio? That requires a degree of literacy which I think the Great British public doesn't necessarily have ... They couldn't spell Pinocchio if they tried."

Johnson made a massive mistake with those comments. He strayed from the populist playbook. The one that says you must pretend it is the "liberal elite" who look down on ordinary people. The one that says you must pretend entitled toffs and morally bankrupt billionaires champion working people. The one that says you should try to conceal your disgust for the great unwashed if you want to get their vote.

But perhaps it was not a big mistake after all. It has been several days since Johnson made those remarks and I am amazed by how little anger there has been about his open contempt for the British people. There has been some outrage, sure, but you could hardly call the episode a national scandal. It is already on its way to being forgotten, written off as the latest example of a Johnson being a bumbling, blue-blooded buffoon.

Here is a quick thought experiment: imagine if Donald Trump's dad (he is still alive in this hypothetical scenario) had gone on a US network and described the US electorate as illiterate idiots. How do you think that would have gone down? I have a feeling that Americans would not have been quite so blase about the whole thing. Trump's base is fine with Mexicans being called rapists. They are fine with racist comments about "shithole countries". They are fine with gross misogyny. They are fine with demonising certain sections of society. But I reckon this sort of unadulterated derision towards the broader US public may have been a bridge too far. Trump's popularity is built on the idea that he is the anti-elite, that he is a foil to the sort of politician who sneers at the working class and calls them "deplorables". If he were to let that mask slip and talk about how stupid he thinks Americans are, how beneath him they are, I have a feeling he would not be quite so popular. He might have a much harder time winning re-election.

What is it with the British? Johnson could call the "Great British public" all manner of names and it would not affect his son's chance of being re-elected. We are not a nation of shopkeepers; we are a nation of butlers, footmen and lady's maids. We still show ridiculous reverence towards the monarchy. We still show an embarrassing deference to the aristocrats and Old Etonians who rule over us. That deference is even more embarrassing when you consider how little effort the party of privilege puts into showing respect towards ordinary people. The Conservatives has let the mask slip many times. Remember when Boris Johnson mocked the 16% "of our species" with an IQ below 85? When Jacob Rees-Mogg said Grenfell victims lacked "common sense"? When the Tory MP Andrew Bridgen backed him up and suggested Rees-Mogg was cleverer than the people who had died in the fire? When Michael Gove said that people who were forced to go to food banks had brought it on themselves because they were not "best able to manage their finances"?

The Conservatives have made it abundantly clear how little respect they have for the British people. On 12 December, let's make it clear how little respect we have for them.

*Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist

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