Saturday, 13 July 2019

Eton ethos

Our former prime minister Harold Wilson was born and brought up in Hundersfield and to mark the connection the University of Huddersfield holds an annual Harold Wilson Memorial Lecture.  This year the topic was "The Will of the People" and the lecturer was the anomalously styled (Anglican) Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines.  The entire lecture is well worth reading and can be found  here

Early in the lecture Bishop Baines quoted this comment on the transition of the premiership  from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown in 2007

“[It's a] transition about as democratically proper as the transition from Claudius to Nero … It’s the arrogance. It’s the contempt. That’s what gets me. It’s [his] apparent belief that he can just trample on the democratic will of the British people. It’s at moments like this that I think the political world has gone mad, and I am alone in detecting the gigantic fraud. … Everybody seems to have forgotten that the last general election was only two years ago…”

Surprise, surprise: the writer was Boris Johnson, current contender and front runner to take over the premiership from Theresa May.

Bishop Baines continues:

[Johnson] went on to say: “They voted for Tony, and yet they now get Gordon, and a transition about as democratically proper as the transition from Claudius to Nero. It is a scandal.” But, he doesn’t leave it there; he goes on to speak of a “stitch-up”, a “palace coup”, “North Korean servility”, a “fraud and double fraud”, and demands a “mandate from the British people” – a “democratic mandate … by asking the public to vote at once on him, on the new EU treaty, and on the implications of the devolutionary settlement”. He concludes: “Let’s have an election without delay.”

Can we now assume that Johnson, if and when he ascends to No 10, will  promptly  call a general election to validate his accession?

Of course not.

Johnson, who was sacked from The Times for making up stories about the EU when he was their correspondent in Brussels, and from Michael Howard's Shadow Cabinet for lying about  an extra-marital relationship, uses words off the cuff to suit whatever is his present situation, and , like Donald Trump,shows no shame in the future for doing the opposite of what he has said in the past.  The famous "British " value"; "My word is my bond" seems to have no resonance

A more extensive list  of examples and incidents which demonstrate Johnson's unsuitability for any form of public office, never mind the highest in the land, is given in an earlier post.

Johnson's rival, Jeremy Hunt, is only marginally better.  Both of them promise they will be able to negotiate a better leaving deal with the EU than Mrs May did, Johnson because of his "oomph" and Humt because of his experience as an entrepreneur.  Both promise extra spending, Hunt for the Navy (his dad was an Admiral) and Johnson on anything you care to mention. Nine years of austerity and  no  Magic Money Tree are now in the dustbin of history.  Both pander to the lowest instincts of the 160 000 largely male, elderly and white Tory electorate - demonising immigrants, getting tougher on criminals and cutting taxes for the already well-heeled

What values were they taught at school, Johnson at Eton, Hunt at Charterhouse, where he was head boy?

Both would do well to recall the third verse of our Recessional Hymn for tomorrow:

Cure thy children's warring madness,
Bend our pride to they control;
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in goods  and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss they kingdom's goal.*

I know Eton has a chapel because you see pictures of it.  I'm sure Charterhouse will have one too.  I imagine this hymn will lbe sung frequently in both.

Maybe its sentiments are meant to apply only to we lower orders.

 * from H E Fosdick's "God of grace and God of glory" to be sung to Harry Smart's "Regent Square."


  1. I was listening to a tv comment about the 6 million petition. It was mentioned that Johnson had not been set 'borders' when he was a child. This let him please himself as to how/what he did in his life. He has become sure of himself,Teflon man, another Trump, witness his actions. Irrisponsible, a danger to the country.

    1. Agreed: another Trump. How can our MPs be so stupid as to but him in the run-off?

    2. How can our MPs be so stupid as to but him in the run-off?

      I know; it boggles me too. It should obviously have been Raab.

  2. The Blair -> Brown transition, of course, was significantly different from this one in that there wasn't any kind of contest. Brown was simply handed the keys to Number 10. Boris this time is going through a full leadership contest, which even May didn't do in 2016.

    Having said that, though, the main point of Boris's article was that the Conservatives were in opposition at the time and it is the job of the opposition to use any excuse, however flimsy, to call for a general election. Labour have certainly done so ever since they went into opposition; Jeremy Corbyn does it every Wednesday. It is understood that the opposition don't really mean it as a logical argument (the Blair->Brown transition was perfectly constitutionally proper, as Boris surely knew), they just want a general election so they can try to get into government.

    Having said that I expect a general election quite soon, probably next spring. Once the UK is out of the EU we will need a government with a solid majority, and that's the only way to get one.

    1. Points taken, though I doubt very much if an early election will produce a parliament with a solid majority for any one party

    2. After we leave, the Brexit Party vote should splinter exactly like the UKIP vote did after the referendum and flow mostly back to Conservative, some back to Labour. So that puts the situation back similar to 2017 except:

      (a) the Lib Dems are now splitting the Remain vote with Labour, potentially letting Conservatives through the middle in some marginals, and

      (b) a Boris-led Tory party won't run a terrible campaign like 2017's: Boris, having no principles and only the vaguest connection to reality, will go out there and promise, promise, promise, instead of hiding away and poppin gup only to offer to tax dementia.

      Oh and also

      (c) the novelty value has come off Corbyn and people are starting to see him for the nasty spiteful hateful little man he really is (and always has been).

      So I think an election after leaving the UK has a fair — maybe 60%? — chance of returning a Conservative governmnet with a reasonable majority (say around 20). Not a sure thing by any means, but slightly more likely than not, I think. (Of course if Labour manages to dump Corbyn for someone electable then all this is null and void).