ONE of the lead prosecutors, a 37-year-old female lawyer, put it bluntly – Ghislaine Maxwell procured young girls for Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual gratification “so that the defendant could stay in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed”.

And she went on: “While this horrific abuse was going on behind closed doors the defendant was jet setting in private planes and living a life of extraordinary luxury.”

Maxwell is emblematic of a certain ­cadre of the filthy rich – not in the sense that the latter indulge in her depraved offence of human trafficking, but that they almost ­always feel a sense of personal entitlement.

Those virility symbols, thinly disguised as luxury “yachts” parked side by side in tax havens like Monaco, those glossy ­supplements containing advice as to how some financiers might spend bonuses worth what lesser mortals might earn in a decade, those insanely priced handbags and other high end ephemera all devoted to ­cherishing the notion that this clientele breathe a different and more rarified air than the rest of us.

For many of them, too much is never quite enough. Imelda Marcos owner of some 1600 pairs of shoes, used a luxury ­hotel when in New York; her many ­storeyed ­townhouse there was just for the lavish ­parties. It is ­alleged that she and her late husband ­cheated the Philippines out of some $10 ­billion during his ­presidency.

Super rich hotelier Leona Helmsley, jailed for tax evasion, once famously ­observed that “we don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes”. It was that kind of arrogant exceptionality which finally brought her low.

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The brand in question isn’t always just about money. It is also the reason that so many Tory voters found the scales ­dropping from their eyes when they observed that Covid rules were also just for “the little ­people”, not for the Prime Minister and those close to him.

Just as they had when his erstwhile ­consigliere Dom Cummings offered his ­risible excuse of testing his eyesight during lockdown day tripping. What made that episode of power abuse so utterly sickening was his belief, and apparently that of his boss, that he could safely relay this work of self-evident fiction to the press and the public since they would surely come to ­understand that with power comes ­irresponsibility.

In Johnson’s persona there’s little doubt that an Etonian education, like those of many top English public schools, has instilled an innate sense of being ­better than the common hoi polloi.

When fellow old Etonian David ­Cameron felt that what the publishing industry most lacked was his memoir, he could find no room private enough in any of his homes in which to locate his muse. Instead he spent £45k on a custom build “shepherd’s” hut. No sheep have been sighted in the vicinity.

Similarly, never has the phrases “our betters” been so inappropriately used as in the TV miniseries which dissected the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of ­Argyll in the 1960’s. The decade itself may have earned the soubriquet ­“swinging” but ­nobody swung quite so ­enthusiastically as a certain type of aristocrat whose ­personal morality was on the elastic side of loose.

The behaviour recounted was ­beyond tacky; the kind of all-consuming self ­indulgence which utterly shocked a ­populace whose own family would have excommunicated them for considerably less.

One of the scenes I found particularly offensive was the Duchess, played by the brilliant Claire Foy, discussing her sexual tastes with a woman friend, whilst both were having a pedicure.

The women on their knees at the ­upmarket tooties were clearly ­considered so lowly in the social pecking order as to be safely rendered invisible. It was a crass moment among many – tales of greed, ­sexual incontinence, and a supremely ­callous disregard for the feelings of ­anyone but themselves.

A sense of entitlement, however, comes in many different guises. There was some footage posted on social media this last week which I find it impossible to erase from my mind’s eye. It shows a young woman, maybe late 20s, early 30s, ­gleefully going through a vaccination ­station and trashing its contents.

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Outside are the massed ranks of ­photographers and camera people she and her fellow antivaxxers had ­doubtless tipped off as to the time, place, and their nefarious intentions. Outside too are a phalanx of her tribespeople ­sporting ­banners deriding the push towards ­keeping the population safer by helping keep the virus at bay. It was posted by a weary medic who said despairingly “why do we bother?”.

It doesn’t seem to me that the plea of interference in “personal freedom” holds much water in the anti-­vaccination ­community. They should not be at ­liberty to risk the health of others, most ­especially their own friends and family. I asked an elderly friend the other afternoon what her then seven-year-old sister had died of. “German measles,” she said.

What saved so many more children from needless death from that and ­other childhood killers was the advent of ­vaccines. The re-emergence of some of these diseases is a direct result of rogue operators spreading false information and feeding the contemporary appetite for conspiracy.

The nonsense spouted about the ­current Covid related vaccines is just as spurious and just as lethal. The evidence is mounting that too many beds in ICU are now occupied by those who felt able to ignore their invitation to protect themselves.

They have become victims of their own prejudice, but worse still are ­actively ­preventing the use of these beds for post operative patients. Their “personal ­freedom” has deprived others of their right to essential care.

There are now a plethora of sites across social media where these ­conspiracy ­theories are breathlessly recounted and recycled. Nothing, it seems, is too ­outlandish for those eager to believe three impossible things before breakfast – from a conspiracy to secretly implant chips, to a belief in the malign power of phone masts. Covid fantasy sites have become a trollers’ paradise; conspiracy central.

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There is a particularly gullible audience for this in rednecked American states where nothing is considered too ­ludicrous to serve up as solemn truth.

During the Trump years, it was ­commonplace to find his faithful ­believing that Hillary Clinton and other high ranking democrats were running a paedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza store. The fact that the store in question proved not to have a basement failed to shake this article of bad faith.

As we approach the first anniversary of the January 6 storming of the USA’s seat of government, it’s clear that there is still no shortage of the gullible; no sign that the voice of reason is holding sway.

What is so utterly unforgiveable is that elected Republicans, including those who cowered under their office desks that dark day, are content to rewrite history rather than offend the hallowed “Trump base” whose votes they long to harvest.

That too is an abuse of power. A belief that once you gain office you can argue black is white; unblushingly display an acute case of selective amnesia in the great cause of your career. That too is a skewed sense of entitlement.

Meanwhile honest citizens there and here, try their best to obey guidelines ­constructed for communal safety. Pay their taxes honestly on time, even as they know others are stashing fortunes beyond the reach of the taxman. Work at great personal risk to keep others fed, warm and healthy.

These are the folk in my personal New Year’s honours list. These are the people who will save our society from itself if we give them a decent chance.

They are ­entitled to hope that in 2022 more of the meek and the honest can ­inherit the earth.