When Michael Foot was leader of the Labour Party, Private Eye used to call him Worzel Gummidge after the scruffy scarecrow on children's television. But none of the Thatcher Cabinet would have dreamt of calling him that.
In today's dysfunctional political landscape, the Foreign Secretary thinks nothing of calling the leader of the opposition "a mutton-headed old mugwump". John Healey, Labour's housing spokesman and one of the current party's few class acts, dealt well with this pathetic and shabby smear on the Today programme, dismissing it as the sort of thing Eton boys said.
This isn't enough to explain why Boris Johnson should think he could say it and get away with it, though. The Tory Party has always had more than its share of Eton and other public-school boys but what they brought to political life was dignity.
Their upbringing had been privileged, they may have behaved at school and university like the upper-class louts seen in the recent TV series Decline and Fall, but maturity and a sense of responsibility took over when they went into public life.
So what has happened to this country? Is a side effect of the death of deference - which is a good thing - the acceptance of nastiness and abuse? We don't just see it on social media but in parts of the media and now in politics.
Eton and other leading public schools didn't just provide the nation's rulers but much of the rest of the establishments. Now a "good" education is no barrier to some of those who go into politics behaving as crudely and mindlessly as the worst segments of the soccer terraces. Including to the rest of the establishment, such as judges.
Far from the vile ones being isolated and rejected, they are elevated to media sainthood - witness how hard it is to turn on the TV or radio without having Nigel Farage forced on you.
It isn't only in the UK, of course. Donald Trump didn't go to Eton (or any school, you might think) but he is as crude as they come, demeaning the long line of dignified US presidents. Even George W. Bush tried to look distinguished.
Where this takes politics in the future is impossible to forecast and too worrying to contemplate. What starts as a nasty smear or a rejection of treasured national structures and organisations is going to end badly. And remember, it was the sainted Theresa May who appointed Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.