Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Political matters

I do not often comment on current politics - it is usually far too depressing. However the events of the past 72 hours are of historic moment and do invite a few reflections …..

This has not been a Greek Tragedy but a French Farce. At one level this came about all because of the Conservatve MP for Tamworth. Now as I am sure everyone knows in the history of the Conservative Party Tamworth has a special place because of Sir Robert Peel’s appeal to his electors there in the 1830s arguing that Conservatives could and should adapt to changing circumstances ( I sometimes think that by this stage he was a bit of a pinko Liberal, but no matter ) - but that was not the reason for what has happen
ed. Rather it is because yet another MP has been alleged or shown to suffer from wanderng hand trouble. At another level it not only displayed once again the predilections when drunk of some government MPs, but it finalKT and fatally exposed to public gaze a government - or at least a Prime Minster and his staff - who were easy on evading the truth, on thinking they could say and do what they liked with no consequences. However time had run out on this experiment with reality and it has been found wanting.

Be that as it may it has proved to be a bitter harvest for Boris Johnson. Now let me be clear - I do not dislike Mr Johnson, I loathe him and virtually all his works ( support for Ukraine excluded ). Over my lifetime various Prime Ministers have attracted my impotent ire and contempt but none of them, none of them, comparable to that which I feel for Mr Johnson. After Cameron I did not think my opinion could sink lower, but then we have had the Johnson years and all that has entailed.

The seeming inability to tell the truth about so many things, the impression of there being teo diffrrrnt codes of behaviour for the favoured few as opposed to the rest of th he population, the virtual re-running of Hartley Shawcross’s trope “We are the masters now”, the appeal to a popularist politics, the appropriation of bits of national history to suit the needs of the moment, the seeming lack of concern for the financial difficulties faced by so many in contemporary society…. - all this was profoundly alienating to me and my understanding of traditional Tory or Conservative values.

Amidst the record breaking slew of resignations yesterday I did send a message of congratulations to an MP friend who had resigned ministerial office yesterday evening.
As I sit here enjoying my second celebratory gin and tonic I recall the words of Herself in 1982 and victory in the Falklands - “Rejoice Rejoice!”


Matthew F Kluk said...

As an American looking in from the outside, I can only say I agree with your comment about a different code of behavior for one group as opposed to the one required for everyone else. Well written, well said.

Matthew F Kluk said...

When Her Majesty the Queen had to sit alone in Saint George's Chapel to mourn her Prince Philip, abiding by the laws promulgated in her name by her Prime Minister and his party, yet the PM himself felt no need to obey them himself while he celebrated at social gatherings, I knew then Mr. Johnson was not quite the man he made himself out to be. Entitlement is thrown around a lot these days. But that was a powerful example.

John R Ramsden said...

I share your contempt for Boris Johnson, although I think in one way or another Tony Blair debased and corrupted everything he touched, and had and still has positively sinister plans for the future of the UK. So, for different reasons, to my mind he remains head and shoulders over every other figure in the crowded pantheon of contemptible recent PMs!

To give just one perhaps non-obvious example, of many, by starting to fund full-time infant schools for children aged three years and above, to ingratiate himself with women voters, Blair has probably seriously reduced the inventiveness and adaptability of future British generations by turning them more into conformist sheep. Creativity, genius even, stems largely from solitude, especially in the first few years of life, and for that reason no child should be corralled into schools and the like until the age of at least five, even if by then many are practically feral little monsters!

Meanwhile, back on topic, the one and only thing ever going for Fattaturk as PM is that he had promised to deliver Brexit, unlike every other contender who had a realistic hope of winning the Tory leadership election three years ago.

It was clear then, and has been since, that he is a closet Remainer. But one assumed that, having pinned his Brexit colours to the mast, he would not dare to renege on his one unique "selling point". He didn't seem to pursue Brexit very vigorously, but (for a Brexiter) the alternatives were too ghastly to contemplate!

I think many of his mounting, and in the end insurmountable, problems stemmed from the fact that he is pitifully anxious to be liked. Think of all those photos of him taken here and there, reminiscent of Kim Il Jung. Consider also the policies hastily and haphazardly adopted on the hoof to gain a good headline, with many dropped as fast once media and public attention had shifted elsewhere.

The man was a jellyfish, drifting with what he perceived (not always rightly) was the current of majority public opinion. He reminded me at times of the school kid handing out sweets, in a desperate effort to be liked, but inevitably ending up more disliked and despised than ever!

Obviously in a democracy the leaders must take into account public opinion. But achieving anything means upsetting at least some people, as Margaret Thatcher's policies proved. If the saying is true that all political careers end in failure, at least it should be because many concrete and positive achievements, even if these are necessary and in the end beneficial, have ultimately upset everyone content or reliant on the former status quo!

Then there were all the needless, insultingly transparent, Basil Fawlty lies, later having to be retracted with ten times the level of abject apology and staged contrition than had he been honest in the first place! Denying any knowledge of Bottom Pincher's previous drunken antics was the tipping point for many.

Well, who comes next I wonder, as we all doubtless do. Let's hope it is Penny Mordaunt, one of the few genuine Brexiters among the contenders!


John R Ramsden