Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: Prime Minister

May was histrionic. June could be historic.

Saturday, 25 May, 2019

When Prime Minister Theresa May stepped up to the lectern outside No. 10 Downing Street yesterday to announce she was stepping down as Tory leader on 7 June, a weary press and public exhaled a sigh of relief. Yes, there were pious expressions of sympathy from pundits declaring to be moved by her emotional statement, but their tears, unlike those of the genuinely upset Mrs May, were of the crocodile kind. Theresa May will be judged as one of the UK’s worst leaders. That’s the harsh reality. She took office at a time of crisis, but also opportunity. The Brexit vote was a democratic demand for change, but she wasted that opportunity, and then drove Great Britain deeper into crisis.

Theresa May was a technocrat, and the kind of politics preferred by technocrats is best exemplified by the Brussels bureaucracy. Not everyone wants that kind of politics, though. So, what next? Brexit means Boris writes Stephen Robinson in The Spectator. This bit will strike a chord with all those members of the typing class who have struggled with deadlines:

“I can’t say I know Boris well, despite our once having been Telegraph colleagues, mostly on different continents. I cannot say I even like him that much. I resented him when I edited the paper’s comment pages for filing his column three hours late, which meant I couldn’t get home to see my infant children.”

In the end, May was histrionic. June could be historic.


Trump Day

Friday, 20 January, 2017 2 Comments

The Trump transition ends this morning and the Trump presidency begins this afternoon. How will it go? No one knows because leadership is so often determined by what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called “Events, dear boy, events.” Still, even if the coming four years disappoint friend and foe alike, Americans should be grateful to Donald Trump for one thing: ending dynastic politics, at least until 2020.

If Hillary Clinton had won last November, four of the last five US presidents would have come from two families: Bush and Clinton. In early 2016, so many of the then “respected” pundits predicted that the White House race would come down to another Clinton v. Bush run off and cynical Europeans took great delight in claiming this regular swapping of the top job between two connected families exposed the rot at the heart of American democracy. They were right. The election of Donald Trump has put an end to that. We wish him well in the difficult days ahead.

The White House


A one-woman revolution

Sunday, 6 April, 2014 0 Comments

“A year ago this coming Tuesday, I was travelling to London on a train, correcting the proofs of my biography of Margaret Thatcher. As we reached Charing Cross, I signed off the last page of the book (which concerns victory in the Falklands war). When I got off the train, I discovered she had died.” […]

Continue Reading »

Gaitskell’s baths and Cameron’s jumpers

Thursday, 14 November, 2013 0 Comments

Brrrrr! There’s a nip in the air. Back in mid-October, the UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey said that he wears jumpers at home to keep his heating bills down. The next morning, Prime Minister Cameron’s spokesman was asked whether people should “wrap up warm” and wear jumpers. He said: “That’s not a question that I have asked him. Clearly, he is not going to prescribe necessarily the actions individuals should take about that but if people are giving that advice, that is something that people may wish to consider.” The Daily Mirror duly (mis)informed its readers: “David Cameron left sweating as voters hit out at ‘put a jumper on’ energy advice“. The insinuation being that the Prime Minister was a cold-hearted toff. But the dirty nature of what passes for British politics (and the reporting of such politics) is not exactly new as this diary entry by Hugh Gaitskell shows.

14 November 1947: “How easy it is to say the wrong thing! How easy it is not to recognise one has said the wrong thing!

About three weeks ago I made a speech at a municipal election meeting in Hastings, I was very tired when I got there but it was a good meeting. I tried to keep my speech fairly above party despite the coming election and inevitably referred to fuel economy in the course of it [he was Minister of Fuel and Power]. Then I let fall two fatal sentences:

‘It means getting up and going to bed in cold bedrooms. It may mean fewer baths. Personally, I have never had a great many baths myself and I can assure those who are in the habit of having a great many baths that it does not make a great deal of difference to their health if they have fewer. And as far as appearance — most of that is underneath and nobody sees it.’

warm jumper Of course the first sentence was said in a joking manner and the second was a pure joke, and the audience laughed and took it as such. It is the kind of thing I have said again and again at open air meetings to liven things up. After the meeting one of the local people who was driving me round referred to this, and said he would not be surprised if it was in the headlines the next day. Though he, himself, thought it a joke and took it as such. The press did pick it out though not very flamboyantly. However on Tuesday it so happened that Churchill was making his big speech against the Government and he made great play of these remarks of mine. I was not present at the time but everybody tells me that he was extremely funny at my expense. Since then I have become associated in the public mind with dirt, never having a bath, etc. I am told that at the [Royal] Command Performance no less than three jokes were made about this by music hall comedians, though they all seem to have been in quite a friendly manner.

First of all, I did not worry at all. It seemed inconceivable to me that anybody could believe that it was anything but a joke. However, I now consider I really made a mistake.”

Hugh Gaitskell (1906 — 1963)

Talking of baths and jokes, here’s one: What happened to the leopard who took a bath three times a day? After a week he was spotless!


Doorstepping

Thursday, 1 December, 2011 0 Comments

“Please could you get me a quote responding to this specifically and a more general one saying what you think it will achieve. As I said we will be publishing the piece at 14.30 GMT so a quick response would be appreciated.”

That’s how “doorstepping” (cornering somebody for an unexpected interview) is done by e-mail. Even though the sender is a journalist with a “quality” newspaper and although he uses the word “please”, the naked threat is conveyed by the formulation “we will be publishing the piece at 14.30 GMT so a quick response would be appreciated”. In other words, we’re going to press with this regardless of what you say.

In its “Editorial Guidelines“, the BBC elaborates upon doorstepping thus: “Any proposal to doorstep, whether in person or on the phone, where we have tried to make an appointment for an interview with the individual or organisation concerned must be approved by a senior editorial figure or, for independents, by the commissioning editor.”

How does approval by “a senior editorial figure” or by “the commissioning editor” turn an invasion of privacy in something beneficial for the public? What extraordinary moral standing do these people possess that renders a questionable practice acceptable? If “a senior editorial figure” called Jack tells a reporter called Jill to doorstep a person called Di, is that OK then?

In the relatively courteous 1960s, an inexperienced John Simpson attempted to doorstep Harold Wilson at a railway station. The pipe-smoking British Prime Minister rewarded him with a sharp punch to the stomach.

The biter got bitten in the early 1990s when Lorraine Heggessey of the BBC doorstepped the doorstepping reporter Roger Cook over allegedly dodgy reporting tactics he had used during a show on Arthur Scargill. She then chased him down the road shouting, legend has it, “Answer the question, you fat bastard!”

But in Ireland, where different standards apply, some of the doorstepped were willing to go beyond epithets and punches. In “Veronica Guerin: The Life and Death of a Crime Reporter“, Emily O’Reilly recounts that, “Throughout her time in journalism, she doorstepped politicians, the child of a politician, crime victims, armed robbers, murderers, suspected murderers…” On 26 June 1996, when Veronica Guerin stopped at a red traffic light on the outskirts of Dublin, she was shot dead by an armed man on a motorcycle.

Tomorrow, here, victim impact statements.