Our overlords have no idea what they're doing, and they are not ashamedby Martha Gill / November 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
It was once said that all political careers end in failure. This now seems optimistic: most of them simply carry on.
We have an overload of failure in politics at present, it is saturated in failure, it has an embarrassment of it. There is the monumental kind, of course, like invading a country for a dud reason or calling a referendum you can’t win: that’s always cropped up on occasion. But also on the rise is the kind of obvious, flunking-a-school-test sort of failure that reveals a terrible ignorance, or a basic misunderstanding of one’s brief.
This week’s howler came from the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who confessed he “hadn’t quite understood” how reliant Britain’s goods trade was on the Dover-Calais crossing. Britain, he mused, was a “peculiar, frankly, geographic economic entity,” or in other words, an island that is quite close to France, the entry point to its biggest trading partner.
Last week it was Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, turning up to talk with a room full of editors and taking five attempts to come up with the name of a single female newspaper columnist, and even then remembering just the one. He also admitted—this man in charge of overseeing the country’s media—that he doesn’t subscribe to any British papers or magazines, before sniffily adding that he “wouldn’t answer pub quiz questions,” a line which might have been more effective if he hadn’t just tried quite so disastrously to do so.
A few weeks earlier there was something more serious, when the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley told a journalist that on accepting her post she had not known that “people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa,” the fundamental fact of politics in the province.
And not long before that, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, when asked how the Kremlin should respond to the expulsion of 23 of its spies, publicly urged Russia to “go away and shut up.” A spectacular gaffe from a supposedly professional performer in international relations.
Now, before you point out that politicians have always messed up—no doubt Cicero occasionally forgot the price of a pint of milk when put on the spot—I can just about remember a time when this still had consequences. And…