It doesn't really matter but... Ascot brawl was about drink, not class war

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The Independent Online

Pulses rushing! Faces flushing!/ Heartbeats speed up! I have never been so keyed up!" So goes the song "Ascot Gavotte" from My Fair Lady, but it could just as easily be describing the drunken, violent scenes at Royal Ascot on Thursday.

It was enough to knock the sight (the shocking sight, if you believe some papers) of Carole Middleton arriving in the royal procession off the front pages. Faced with images of men hitting each other with chair legs while screaming: "Are you mugging me off?" as women nearby egged them on, it's easy to imagine the Royals feeling like Henry Higgins, wondering why they let the hoi polloi set foot on the Crown Estate.

Many of the toffs and the top-hatted will see this as a justification for previous exclusivity. But the real issue is not that some people without titles (or, heaven forfend, public-school educations) had managed to find their way to Ascot. The gentry and the working classes have always co-existed reasonably amicably when it comes to horse racing.

It is really a graphic reminder of our nation's relationship with alcohol. Incidents like the one at Ascot replicate scenes which will be played out tonight in town centres nationwide. There's no reason why it should be any more acceptable in a city centre bar than at a fancy race track.

As the inebriated ladies at the recent Take That concert in Manchester demonstrated, it's the culture of drinking, not just the drunkenness, that we need to deal with. For many Ascot-goers, the hats are a mere wispy veil over the real intentions of the day, which are to go out with friends, drink a lot and shout loudly.

This is not a problem that will be solved by blaming cheap bar prices (as anyone who has bought a round at Ascot will testify), or by dismissing it as what happens when you let the masses into posh events.

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