YET more revelations about disregard of the Covid rules by those working in Downing Street, while the rest of the country endured stringent restrictions enforced with hefty criminal penalties, were depressingly predictable. The blatant contempt by politicians, advisors and civil servants for rules they were themselves imposing shows that many regard themselves as somehow exempt from strictures under which the rest of us had to soldier on.

When a basement knees-up at Downing Street into the early hours with music, dancing, and revelry that necessitated a trip with a suitcase to acquire more drink can be juxtaposed with the Queen’s isolation as she buried her husband of 70 years alone the following day, it is impossible to imagine any defence.

The sole mercy for the Prime Minister, whose position already hangs by a rapidly fraying thread, is that he was nowhere near this shindig, but at Chequers. Even so, he cannot dodge the condemnation that will quite rightly follow these reports. The culture which has grown up around his administration, and of which worse examples emerge almost daily is, to be blunt, incapable of defence or excuse.

This particular case does not even allow for the weaselly, implausible get-outs of garden “works” drinks, misconception of the nature of the gathering, outdoor social distancing or the like. Given that ordinary citizens were arrested or received huge fines for much less flagrant offences, everyone involved in this event should be, at the very least, sacked, and possibly prosecuted. It seems likely that the Prime Minister’s own colleagues, even if unable to obtain his resignation, will insist on some such action. Their constituents certainly will.

But though Mr Johnson and his immediate circle have been guilty of the most contemptuous and insensitively arrogant transgressions, there has been no shortage of instances elsewhere to indicate that those in the corridors of power – officials, advisors, civil servants and some journalists, as well as politicians – see themselves as special cases.

Any gap between the Establishment and those in whose interests they are supposed to be governing is corrosive, and it is evident in the devolved administrations, as well as Westminster. This is not entirely new; for decades, those in public administration have tended not to come from careers in the world the rest of us inhabit, but from a background in activism or think tanks, posts as researchers, special advisors or on quangos, without much contact with those outside those bubbles.

MPs and MSPs, who might once have had a business, industry, law or trades union background, are now much more likely to be detached from the realities faced by their constituents. At least in their case, the electorate has the opportunity to remove them at the ballot box. Bureaucrats, advisors, lobbyists and party officials, equally ignorant of and indifferent to the public’s priorities, face few such sanctions.

It can be seen in the amount of time and energy devoted to issues many voters think irrelevant, marginal, or downright crackpot, while small matters such as the cost of living, levels of taxation, transport or shortage of housing never get resolved. It is evident, too, in the high-handed attitude towards football, theatre, tourism and hospitality, where, often with little warning or reasonable justification, the priorities and livelihoods of ordinary people receive scant consideration.

The measures imposed to deal with the pandemic have thrown this disparity into sharp relief; too many of those who happily slapped restrictions on the general public felt no particular ill-effects on their own lives, even if they paid lip service to them. To discover, as we have in a slew of cases – some of them still before the courts, and others which were not met with any real penalty – that a number of them did not even care to do that will enrage many, as it should. The longstanding complaint that our masters believe there is one rule for us and another for them is no clichéd moan of malcontents, if it ever was; it’s an obvious statement of fact, with evidence for all to see. And it must change.