Memo to the Government: please grow up, you pygmies
Hopeless, feckless, incompetent...what do our politicians imagine they are doing?
By Matthew Norman
01 Jun 2012
Political punditry may not be the hardest game in the journalistic world (that honour falls to restaurant reviewing) – but it is the one that most heavily taxes one’s reserves of judiciousness. We unsung heroes of what I call the Poncetariat strive mightily for nuance and equivocation. Politics is an infinitely complex business, after all, and poorly suited to crude, simplistic judgments.
All of which is a pre-emptive apology lest you find it too subtle and neurotic in the quest for balance when I end the week that has passed by observing, of this Government, that it is simply bloody useless; that it is run by a bunch of cocky, precocious schoolchildren; and that it is straying dangerously close, if it hasn’t crossed the borderline already, to becoming a national embarrassment.
Anyone who has reached middle age will have learnt to despise governments before. All administrations endure horrible periods of mismanagement, and become loathsome to chunks of the electorate in time. Never until now, however, have I looked on a front bench and disbelievingly muttered: what on earth do these idiotic kids imagine they are doing there?
The Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Deputy PM, the Culture Secretary – these boys seem every inch as hopeless, feckless, incompetent and irredeemably immature as… well, for want of a better example, as me. And even I, for all the myriad lunacies, have never believed that I could run the customer relations department on the Marie Celeste, let alone a country as challenging as this one. What happened to the Delphic oracle’s injunction “know thyself”? Whither Dirty Harry’s counsel to an imminent corpse that “a man’s just got to know his limitations”?
Take Jeremy Hunt. In mercy’s name, please take him away, because never has the sound of a terminally degraded minister clinging to his red boxes until the scraping noise drives you to nausea been as pitiable. This cringeworthy crawler has metamorphosed in a few months from James Murdoch’s bitch to David Cameron’s human shield, and neither role falls within the remit of a Cabinet minister. But how did the hell he get there? What qualifies the winsome little jogger for high office?
Anyone eager to penetrate this enigma is directed to a website called Quietus, where its editor recalls three years working for the educational publishing company at which Mr Hunt made his millions. A certain Luke Turner writes of his old boss less with rancour than utter perplexity at how he rose so high so fast. “It was quite a shock when… we were informed that Jeremy Hunt would be standing as a Conservative MP. We were surprised, not only because we were amazed that anyone would vote for this affable lummox, but also that he’d never really displayed much in the way of political enthusiasm in the past.”
After sharing a 9/11 recollection – “Now my memory tells me that it was Hunt who, when we were listening intently to the radio reports of planes smacking into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, came into the office to demand we turned the volume down as it was affecting the sales team’s telephone calls…” – he concludes with an analysis which, though not original (Nadine said it pithier), is worth quoting all the same. “Those three years working alongside Hunt give me an idea of the kind of government we currently have, run by these former public school boys who have barged their way through life not through merit or ability, but by birth. You would not have picked out Jeremy Hunt as a brilliant intellect, a powerful speaker, a man with any convictions… It was bad enough having him as a boss. The fact that he and his chums are running the country is far, far worse.”
Reflecting on yet another omnifiascoid week, in which the unending budgetary and other U-turns made the Government resemble a bumper car in a spin, and Cameron magisterially absolved Hunt of the very ministerial code-breaking to which he had effectively confessed minutes earlier, the judiciousness can no longer be resisted. It must be said that there are worthy and impressive members of this Cabinet. Ken Clarke and William Hague remain class acts, while Vince Cable should be canonised for his declaration of war that led to George Osborne finding the solution which Mr Hunt liked so much at the time. Meanwhile, albeit a bit besmirched by continuing membership of the Murdoch Mutual Admiration Society, Michael Gove stands out as the lone adult among this fortysomething crop of pygmy Peter Pans. One need not labour the point that those four emerged from less gilded beginnings than the quartet mentioned above.
Tempting as it is, we cannot forever hark back to Churchill taking power at 65, or fixate on the generations of ministers who saw action, or worked down the mines, or wrote fine books about their political philosophies, or at the very least held down proper jobs before entering Parliament. One cannot blame this generation of leaders for being born to privilege in a decadent, post-ideological era. But you can certainly resent them for making no effort to rise above the limitations of that, and for the arrogance, conceit, callowness and general cluelessness that once again defined their week. And staring in mounting anguish at the front bench (and at the Labour one opposite), you can hardly help but pull the face from Munch’s painting, and ask in anguish when, if ever, we will see grown-ups running a British government again. Telegraph
Sunday, June 03, 2012
Memo to the Government: Please Grow Up You Pygmies
A great article, we need more like this.