Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Quote of the day 2nd February 2022

 “I get it and I will fix it,” he told the Commons yesterday. But if Boris Johnson wants to “fix it”, he must prove that he really does “get it”. There must be no more hubris. The next nemesis he will not survive.

(Daniel Johnson, conclusion of a piece in "The Article" which you can read here.)


Paul Holdsworth said...

After waiting what seemed like an age for Chris to pass any comment at all on the illegal gatherings in Downing St. under Johnson's watch, I found his first pronouncement more than a little deflating ("The culture of entitlement at the top of British society must end" - 1st Feb 2022).

Chris attempted to pull everyone into this quagmire that is uniquely Johnsonian. Chris felt there were guilty parties throughout the top of society - politicians across the spectrum, civil servants, even sportsmen and women (surely the omission of some of the worst offenders, top businesspeople, was just an oversight). He did acknowledge that this latest example of exceptionalism at the top was both the worst, and solely a Tory (let's be honest, solely a Johnsonian) issue. Although others in his party have sullied themselves by lamely attempting to defend the PM, they have been roasted across the media for it (not just by the BBC). And rightly so.

So I was enormously relieved when the above quote appeared in Chris's blog.

To be honest, it's not the quote itself that's so important, but Chris's invitation to read the entire article from which it is drawn.

While I'm sure Chris would say the column is someone else's opinion, not his own (which is true), I'd respectfully suggest that, if you want to know what ever-loyal Chris REALLY thinks about this almighty mess, then read the article the above quote is taken from. Chris has helpfully provided us with a link.

Chris Whiteside said...

I can't work out from your comment whether or not you agree, Paul, that the damaging culture of thinking that rules are for other people is engrained in far too much of society, not just politicians and not just any one party.

If you don't accept that, then you are as blind to the faults of anyone except Boris Johnson and his associates as you accuse his defenders of being to his.

Yes, I probably should have included business, and not to do so was an oversight.

I had previously written that I was one of the people who were waiting for the Sue Gray report. I did make a comment about it - and quoted passages from it which raise some serious concerns - as soon after the initial findings came out as I had a practical opportunity to do so and within 36 hours.

You have an unfortunate habit, Paul, of putting words in my mouth which go beyond what I had said or written and suggesting, not always correctly, that you know what I really think.

I did not write that the problems on which Sue Gray reported were uniquely Tory though I did indeed write that it was the latest and worst example of this pernicious culture.

Sue Gray herself wrote that there were errors by "different parts of No 10 and the cabinet office" which I do not take as an attempt to exculpate any particular one of those parts from blame - rather, I think, she is saying that there is an awful lot of blame to go around.

The PM does have to take responsibility for events he was at and others he knew about or should have known about.

However, he is responsible only in the sense that the head of an organisation has a duty to fix something that goes wrong in that organisation whether he was personally to blame or not, for those events he did not sign off on and could not reasonably have been expected to know about. For example, I don't believe for a second that that the PM knew about the social events which took place in Downing street a couple of days after he was discharged from hospital after nearly dying of Covid-19 and went straight to Chequers, a couple of score miles away, to recuperate.

You are not wrong, however to read into my publishing the quote from Daniel Johnson and the link to his article, that I hope people will read it and learn from it.

I particularly hope that those around the PM see it, and treat it not as an attack from an enemy but a warning from a friend, and a friend who they would be wise to listen to.

Paul Holdsworth said...

I should have been clearer. Yes, of course I agree with you that a culture of entitlement exists at the top (That's why I added business to your list).

I have indeed put words in your mouth. My excuse (such as it is) is that you sometimes say nothing of substance about a major issue of the moment (such as Partygate and the possibility that the PM has knowingly misled parliament), or pass comment so cryptically (usually via quotes) that reading the runes is the only way to work out what the devil you're actually thinking.

As for your last paragraph - whether they've read the column or not, "those around the PM" is, as of now, a rapidly evaporating band. Mirza, Rosenfield, Doyle, Reynolds, maybe Norazanski, all fleeing the good ship Bojo just as fast as they can. I wonder how many more will have departed by the time you read this?

Chris Whiteside said...

Of course, sometimes the reason I don't comment on an issue is because I don't always know the facts of the case and am more reluctant than some people involved in politics on all sides to express ill-informed opinions.

Your point about my often cryptic turn of phrase is well taken.

I'm afraid it is a feature of British politics is that one gets no higher than District Councillor before you start to encounter conventions - often codified in published codes of conduct which councillors and MPs can get in very hot water for breaking, even more often informal conventions - that there are certain things you are not allowed to say.

So most of us start speaking or writing in code, to hint at the things we need to communicate but are not supposed to say by clever use of the things we are allowed to say.

The late Sir Ian Richardson's catchphrase from House of Cards, "You might very well think that, I couldn't possibly comment." meaning "Yes, but don't you dare print that I said this." was a fictional but brilliant example.

Perhaps many of us, including myself, should ask ourselves if we speak or write in code too often and could sometimes be clearer.

Paul Holdsworth said...

One of the joys of having no affiliation to any political party is that I can say exactly what I like - I can be as plain-speaking as I choose about any one and any thing, with no requirement to toe a party line. It's why I would never get involved in party politics, and why I wonder how anyone can become active in party politics, even at a relatively junior level, and maintain their integrity and self-respect. I certainly couldn't.

Yet we need politicians, and good ones too. There are plenty of good politicians out there, of course, but our current arrangement, with all the strictures on plain-speaking that you describe, tends to attract those who are most happy to be less than open, and who display a facility for dissembling.

I honestly believe that the vast majority of politicians ARE honest, but the more slippery ones do the rest of the political class a grave disservice, as we are currently seeing all too clearly.

Chris Whiteside said...

I understand your position, but actually the constraints I referred to are not wholly or even mostly due to party politics.

It comes with holding office - even as a district councillor, and even if you stood as an independent and are not affiliated to any political party.

Paul Holdsworth said...

Ah, I see. Sounds positively emasculating!

Chris Whiteside said...

I wouldn't go quite that far.

But it is something that many people who get elected as new councillors, either as independents or for a political party, often do find very frustrating.

The challenge, in my humble opinion, is to come to terms with the realities of the rules and structures you have to work with, to know when you can get away with defying or changing the rules and when you can't, and to try to adapt to reality without surrendering your ideals or your objectives.