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In defence of Boris
In your latest podcast you and your team expressed a sceptical view on Boris and asked for listeners to make the contrary case. As a Conservative member I do not hold a candle for Boris but would make the following points:
1) The UK currently has a very poor set of politicians and by this low standard Boris, while currently short of the Pericles/Abraham Lincoln standard, is perhaps a little bit special.
2) Boris does not have the full range of leadership skills shown by, say, Thatcher or Churchill, but he does have a few talents. He can cut through the political noise and can campaign in a way that energises a significant number of voters. He carries great credibility with Brexiteers which few other politicians can match.
3) One could be concerned at his lack of care for detail/process etc but in theory and in practice he can find people to cover these areas.
4) We are told that the EU will not renegotiate but a large number of people believe that the UK has not yet really tried to negotiate to leave and it is worth giving somebody a go at seeing what the EU does under pressure. If his limited but real skill set can break the Brexit deadlock and get us out of the EU then many voters will be eternally grateful to him.
I thought your discussion on devolution was superb and worthy of your returning to it in more detail.
Toby Guise’s article this week on Boris and gamesmanship makes the interesting and correct observation that the film School for Scoundrels is based on the work of the author Stephen Potter.
I saw the original School for Scoundrels film, starring the caddish Terry-Thomas and Ian Carmichael, at the cinema in Glasgow in 1960, the year it came out. I must say that although it was very funny it helped turn me into a feminist.
One observation. Has Boris Johnson realised that School for Scoundrels was fictional and not a documentary? Or does he regard it as an instruction manual?
Sense on no deal
David Paton’s article on Reaction makes interesting and balanced reading. I am constantly surprised with the biased, inaccurate and negative reporting by the media on Brexit, and this article makes a useful and timely contribution to the public’s understanding of the key issues.
Even more so at the present time, when the claims and counter claims are flying thick and fast from both Prime Ministerial candidates against a background of lies, evasion and half truths from the competing Remain/Leave camps.
We can only hope our elected representatives come to their collective senses and reflect on David’s analysis and conclusion and act accordingly.
Kumbaya, Tim Farron, kumbaya. Tim Farron’s piece for Reaction this week suggested – if I may paraphrase – that this beleaguered nation gather round the cheering heritage of its sporting prowess, two World Wars and – God help us – Eurovision (“no matter how badly we do”) and somehow hug out the divides that cross these islands.
It was a sort of PoundLand “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” moment, except where the brioche is replaced by Sky Sports. “Let them watch Super Sunday, and rejoice! Rejoice!” perhaps.
What a hopelessly lightweight contribution at a time of crisis.
A more thoughtful response – only a moment’s thought at that – would be to look more carefully at the causes of Brexit, and the deep structural divides which split this nation. Might not fixing those really tackle the lack of empathy, and promote the sense of forgiveness that Mr Farron desires?
The inequality between rich and poor in this nation would – one would have imagined – be a rich seam for a Liberal Democrat. This is the structural problem facing our nation: economic growth and the policies to drive it have worked for decades, but most economists agree that a widening gap between rich and poor is an inevitable consequence of that sort of growth.
It’s time to address that problem. And it can be done in ways that stimulate a post-Brexit economy. We need not sacrifice growth in a search for dignity for all.
Changes to the tax system could encourage investment in wealth-generating business, not property, to improve our productivity. Tax breaks and incentives could stimulate the building of more affordable housing – unavailable to speculators – to give more young people a stake in society as property owners.
Government could choose to reverse austerity cuts to benefits to offer relief to poor working families, especially, who have found it increasingly hard to make ends meet. After all, any benefit cut that makes it harder to work, not easier, is wrong.
There’s more than this, of course, from finer minds than mine. But it’s clear that reducing extreme inequality doesn’t just make people happier, and the nation a nicer place to live. It makes us all wealthier. When inequality means debt, destitution, food banks, rising crime, the ill health often associated with poverty and, of course, increasingly angry swings to extremist politics, making the poor better-off benefits us all.
And, yes, then we really can enjoy our rich sporting heritage, and Eurovision if we must.
But as anyone who owns an old house knows: paper over a crack and it will quickly reappear. Only by addressing the underlying structural issues can you resolve the problem. It’s time to transfer that understanding to our nation, before the forgotten and left-behind discover Brexit doesn’t solve it all, and turn their fury elsewhere.
We need more, and better, from our elected representatives.