While children are having their heads broken outside the seat of government, moral knicker-wetting over the Duchess of Cornwall getting a light poke in the ribs is pure hypocrisy. After CCTV footage of protesters attacking a defenceless Rolls Royce at the tuition fees demonstration was released this week, conservative commentators have exercised themselves to the point of frenzy over the "violence" of the scene, forgetting that the royals in the Roller weren't hurt, merely inconvenienced.
Unlike Charles and Camilla, many young people really were brutalised at that protest, in Parliament Square by baton-wielding police. Among them, 20-year-old student Alfie Meadows was left with bleeding on his brain after receiving a baton blow on the head from an officer of the law, but his injury, unlike Camilla's gentle nudging, has not caused a national outcry.
Meadows nearly died on 9 December, but David Cameron has not condemned this assault as "shocking and regrettable", nor called for the police officers involved to face the consequences of their actions. That night, as a barely elected government approved the effective privatisation of the British university system, thousands of students and school pupils were kettled for hours in the freezing cold, some hospitalised with broken bones and head injuries after being charged by police horses.
For a government unconcerned with such trivial issues as representing its citizens, however, the real violence that continues to be done to protesters opposing public sector cuts is of little importance compared with the symbolic violence done to the pride of the ruling elite by a smashed window and a few paintballs.
The royal family, it seems, are still entitled to tarmac-licking respect alongside their inherited millions. We may not be able to afford to fund further education for poorer teenagers, but by gosh we can afford a fleet to escort Charles and Camilla to the theatre in a Rolls Royce. Unlike Meadows and other members of the public, the royal family still has a right to consider itself safe from public victimisation.
As soon as that placard went through the window, so did all pretence of fairness on the part of the authorities. Within 24 hours, politicians were praising the police for their restraint in not actually shooting any of the unarmed teenagers who happened to run across the royal motorcade. This is to be expected: the sheer indecency of anyone daring to prod the future Queen with a placard is a breach of protocol so enormous that actual physical assaults on ordinary people are irrelevant in comparison.
The public purse can stand the cost of wiping some paint off a luxury car, but it is the symbolism of the act that matters. Alongside the Duchess of Cornwall, the entire web of hierarchical deference sustaining inequality in this country was poked with a stick on 9 December, and the coalition won't stand for that. A little jostling of the rich and privileged, however, should not outrage anyone with any sense of moral perspective.
What should outrage us is the fact that we now live in a country where symbolic acts carried out by angry teenagers who have just had their futures vandalised are considered criminal "violence" worthy of national witch hunts, while battering peaceful protesters to a bloody pulp for daring to speak out is considered "reasonable force". If we truly believe in social democracy, such special pleading for special breeding should appall us.