Saturday 20 October 2012

A Tale of Two Tories

So Andrew Mitchell has now resigned from the government as a result of his swearing at the Downing Street police (which he now admits) and allegedly calling them "plebs" (which he still denies, though it is hard to see how the police would have made that up.)  George Osborne remains in the government, at least so far, having travelled first class on a train (for while, anyway) with only  a second class ticket.

I must admit to some sympathy with Andrew Mitchell.  Most of us have "flipped" at some time or another when confronted with what we see as excessive bureaucracy  or obstructive officialdom.  I now feel the need to take tranquillisers before telephoning my bank, insurance company or other financial institution.  All that waiting, at my expense, then  pressing of umpteen buttons, more waiting, and finally, when contact with a human being is achieved,  answering interminable questions "for security reasons" when all I want is some simple information which may not involve access to my personal accounts or policies at all.

However, although I have sometime lost patience I have tried to explain that I realise  the fault lies with the management, and would they please pass on the message, and I have never sworn at the hapless "consultant."  But I do look back with nostalgia to the happy days when I could ring my bank directly and they recognised my voice. 

George Osborne's case is more mixed.  I supposed he is to be applauded for having a second class ticket in he first place.  However, having missed the train on which he had a reserved seat, and found the next one crowded, he move to a first class compartment.  Here the stories diverge.  Osborne claims that he took prompt steps to find the train "manager" (whatever has happened to guards and ticket collectors, and why are we customers now, and not passengers?) in order to pay the extra, but the witness who reported the event claims that he, or his PA, at first refused to pay the extra as "he couldn't possibly sit in standard class."  (That could have meant because there was no room.)

"Virgin" supports Osborne's version, but, with an interest in retaining the West Coast franchise, they would, wouldn't they?

Both stories reveal an arrogance about our rulers (as does the Speaker's pretence that it would damage security if the addresses of the MPs who are still cheating on their expenses were revealed).  David Cameron  made a good start by restricting the availability of government cars.  I'd like to see them taken away altogether, and that our rulers travel by public transport, the same class as the bulk of us, so that they remain in touch with the conditions the rest of us have to put up with, and then perhaps seek more urgently to improve them.

I hope that the additional £180 which was paid,reluctantly or otherwise, for the upgrade of Mr Osborne and his assistant, comes out of the funds of Tatton Tories, and not our taxes.

The sad thing is that it is on such relative trivialities as the above and not on their ministerial competence that the fates of our politicians are determined.  Andrew Mitchell put in a reasonably good performance at the Ministry  for Overseas Development and goes: as Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is the greatest disaster since Winston Churchill, and stays.

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