Comparisons? Choices?

“There’s lots of things we’ve learned about COVID and just that flexibility of people working from home – the productivity that can be driven out of that.”

This is the voice of a political leader creating opportunity out of adversity.  A leader whose policies have gained so much popular acceptance that they have a 92% approval rating. 

This isn’t the voice of Boris Johnson. 

They are the words of Jacinda Ardern proposing a 4 day working week in New Zealand . 

Jacinda Ardern credit: New Zealand Government

For a country which has an economy with a great deal invested in tourism, they aren’t words that are just idealistic, ( although  they are driven by idealism )  they are practical too.  And simple. If you have just proven that you can run a virtual polity and  an economy significantly from home, if the reality is that incoming tourism will be very low for the foreseeable future,  then why not stimulate leisure time and thus engage people with internal tourism?

I am biased, any political leader who can get away with saying the Easter Bunny is a critical worker, gets my vote . 

Politicians who seem prone to behave like the Duracell Bunny ( other high performing batteries are also available ) however,  don’t. 

While one leader engages the future, others engage the past . Jacob Rees- Mogg recently introduced the notion , as Leader of the House to abandon distanced voting systems in the Commons to force all MPs to return to the House and back to the overcrowded conditions of the House of Commons. This, apparently, is against the wishes of;  the Commons staff,  the Speaker, the unions and many MPs.

It caused Robert Halfon a Conservative MP, for whom I pretty much  hold zero political sympathy,  to say the following :- 

“If there are MPs who are sick, shielding, or self-isolating, surely it is right to let them continue to vote online, and participate in committees also virtually via Zoom and Microsoft Teams……Is it really morally just to say in effect to MPs, because you are not Tarzan-like and able to swing through the chamber, beating your chest, shouting to your constituents, ‘Look I am here!’ that you are effectively euthanised from the Commons? MPs who are disrupted by this awful pandemic are not just old horses to be sent to the knacker’s yard.” 

Robert has a vested interest, like some other MPs and reflecting society at large, he has underlying health issues , in his case Cerebral Palsy . So in these odd times, again,  I find myself supporting and praising a political opposite .

It would be an odd system though wouldn’t it? Imagine, your MP would be working  from your constituency, much more accessible, one where you would see them and they would be exposed to and share your realities. But I live in a constituency  where the MP has said he is a critical worker and his critical work is not in Scotland but in Westminster.  My MP is Alister Jack the Secretary of State for Scotland . I tried to think of him as “ Tarzan Like,”  but struggled. Even in my nightmares.

Alister Jack

Alister Jack Photo credit: Chris McAndrew

Cynics suggest that the motivation for this return to the “ old ways “ is motivated by a worrying , for the Conservatives, drop off in perceived performance by their “ big guns.” Not withstanding that he is still recovering from Coronavirus, and that does have to be taken into account, Johnson isn’t thriving at the Despatch Box. Keir Starmer is using a very strange tactic to put him in a bad light, a mixture of calmly spoken fact and logic . 

Devoid of bluster  and bunny bounce,  without a volatile opposite to gain leverage from and critically without the;  baying, howling yahoos behind him Johnson appears like a deflated balloon . They need their yahoos back, then the right wing media, that is to say the majority of the media, can get behind their cheer leader. 

Meanwhile with one exception  the pretenders to the crown have stepped up to the microphone at the No10 briefing and been found wanting . 

I am reminded of Cinderella’s step sisters who one by one fail the crucial  slipper test . From the alarming quietly spoken, robotic  monotones of Domnic Raab avoiding  any question  of note and ploughing on regardless, to Minister after Cabinet Minister whose grip on the subject has been found to be shall we say, less than detailed. 

We are seeing a political generation saying goodbye to their leadership ambitions . At a time when female leaders around the world are standout, Priti Patel is also stand out, but for all the wrong reasons, her performances have been surreal and will feature in “ how not to” political training for decades to come .  

Like or loathe his political position the exception is Rishi Sunak. He has shown a calm grip on his subject, decisiveness , he hasn’t over spoken, he hasn’t offered what he personally can’t deliver.  Thus emphasising what he does deliver, by comparison with others. Clever. He has engaged enough but not too significantly in the No 10 briefings, during which he has kept, generally, within his own brief . It has been a calculated and efficient political performance . 

It is tempting to say “the next Conservative PM,  Rishi Sunak” but the Conservatives are a fickle Party. “Fit” is more of a persuader than talent, and I have no idea of how he is seen in that context and he has to be careful not to stand out too much against failing pretenders . 

Naturally the vote proposed by Rees-Mogg passed. Every vote of course since the opposition committed political suicide in  rash of incredulous hubris last December, will pass for the next four and a half years .  We can also look forward to the economic self harm of a no deal Brexit . 2021 could be interesting . 

What I will say next breaks with every democratic bone in my body but I sense it needs saying . Does this lead to the question for some opposition MPs “ why bother going back at all?’ 

If you and your family’s health  might  be put at risk, if you have no prospect of winning a single vote for the next four and half years if the best you can hope for is a baying put down from the Government benches,  and misrepresentation in a biased press, then what is the point? 

This is particularly true for those in countries with devolved Governments and Administrations. 

Again with a sense of shock at my own words, we live in times when Arlene Foster is offering more leadership than Minsters at Westminster . But also when Mark Drakeford is able to say, without any evident contradiction or sense that it needed redress, that he and other national leaders were not consulted on decisions that have been critical to the UK as a whole. 

Johnson, Cummings, Rees-Mogg or Ardern or Sturgeon , you chose . 

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2 replies »

  1. Unlike your article, Steve, what I’m going to write, isn’t politically astute or insightful – I just thought I’d tell the tale.
    I have trouble remembering things, especially names of ‘new’ people. When I first came across Alistair Jack, for one thing I was puttering – look at him, just LOOK at him! Who does he represent, for goodness sake?
    Then, to get his name stuck in my head, I decided that he’s Posh Plank. He’s posh, he looks like a bit of a plank – the plank, will chime with Jack, and, that’s how it works, for me.
    Of course, now, he’s just The Posh Plank.

    Sometimes, I am not a nice person.

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