Thursday, December 31, 2015

Arise Sir Lynton ...

Most of the names on the New Year's honours list are worthy and uncontroversial but people always find something to make a fuss about.

As 2015 comes to an end I have been killing myself laughing at the utterly hypocritical outrage from various Labour party members about the award of a knighthood to Lynton Crosby, the campaign "guru" who helped David Cameron win the election.

Those people who also criticised the award of honours to Labour and Lib/Dem election strategists are entitled to make such a criticism but in all candour, all three of what were the main parties have made such awards and the going rate for election strategists who win elections (and sometimes even those who lose them) has been a couple of rungs higher than a knighthood, it's been a peerage. All of David Cameron's four predecessors as prime minister, not to mention Labour and Lib/Dem leaders who never became Prime Minister, have put election strategists from their party into the House of Lords.

Tony Blair ennobled Philip Gould, Margaret Thatcher ennobled Tim Bell, John Major ennobled Maurice Saatchi, Gordon Brown ennobled Peter Mandelson, while Paddy Ashdown nominated the Lib/Dem election wizard Chris Rennard (a decision which came back to haunt the party). Most recently Spencer Livermore, who had been the Labour Party's General Election Campaign Director for its unsuccessful 2015 campaign was nominated by the party for a life peerage and became Baron Livermore as recently as October 2015.

So if anyone reading this is one of the people who didn't give the tiniest bleat of protest when the architect of Labour's unsuccessful 2015 election campaign got a peerage,  but screamed blue murder when the architect of the Conservatives' successful one got a knighthood, I'd like to thank you for enabling me to finish 2015 with one last really good laugh at your expense.

There is a totally different argument about whether any of these people should have received honours. In my opinion it is perfectly acceptable for political service to be rewarded by an honour of some kind in either of two circumstances: first, if the honour's recipient was a volunteer, e.g. their service was unpaid, not materially rewarded, or involved a net material cost to themselves; or secondly, if it was particularly distinguished or exceptional.

I don't think there's any reasonable doubt that devising and supervising a strategy which won a clear majority in an election which all the party leaders, all the so-called "experts" and most other people thought was going to be much closer and produce a hung parliament was pretty exceptional. As David Herdson put it on the "Political Betting" website,

"Crosby's understanding of the public has been shown by events to be massively in excess of anything the pollsters managed. For that insight alone, from which others can learn, the honour is deserved. He is a market leader in his field by a mile: in any other industry there'd have been no criticism.

Besides, far better for the state to reward political service with cheap gongs than with real power or money."


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