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The hypocrisy of David Cameron The ex-PM has become a symbol of systemic failure

Mr Failure strikes again (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Mr Failure strikes again (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


April 8, 2021   5 mins

The Westminster village is not one world, but two. The first is the land-of-the-living — a flourishing, fractious eco-system of politicians, civil servants, journalists and their various support staff. But then there’s the other world, which the living would rather keep quiet about.

I used to work in the House of Commons — occasionally late into the evening. The empty, darkened corridors gave me the creeps, but I never saw anything too unusual. Metaphorically though, the place is full of ghosts. You try not to look, but they’re always there. Waiting. Whispering. Reaching out.

Like the unquiet spirit of Cathy Earnshaw, they’re forever tapping at the window. Worst of all is when they bear the faces of the departed: former colleagues, ex-MPs, past Prime Ministers, even. They’re not actually dead, of course, but they have gone over to the “other side”, from politics to  — shudder — public affairs.

The latest spectre to haunt the corridors of power is a very familiar face: David Cameron. I almost feel sorry for the guy. For the second time in his career, he’s become the symbol of a systemic failure.

The first time was Brexit, of course — but now there’s something else that won’t go away: a lobbying scandal.

To blame one individual for these outcomes is to ignore the guilt of the entire political establishment. And yet, on both occasions, Cameron has practically demanded the role of bogeyman.

In respect to Brexit, he was the one who called the referendum. In respect to lobbying, no contemporary politician has done more to define it as an issue of concern. He didn’t just give a speech on the subject, but the speech. It was in 2010, shortly before he became Prime Minister, when he condemned the “far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money”. He was crystal clear as to what he meant by this:

“I’m talking about lobbying – and we all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way. In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism. We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism.”

Having spent several years as a speechwriter, I can tell you that politicians don’t always write their own speeches; but you’d think that Cameron might have noticed what he was saying when he said it. To warn about the “next big scandal waiting to happen” and then become that scandal takes a special kind of insouciance.

To be clear, there’s no evidence that he’s broken any law. However, his speech wasn’t about what’s legally wrong with lobbying, but what’s morally wrong about it. Cronyism doesn’t just endanger free and fair competition, but also public faith in the democratic process. Or as he said back in 2010: “It arouses people’s worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works, with money buying power, power fishing for money and a cosy club at the top making decisions in their own interest.”

In his defence, his government did introduce legislation on the issue — the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. Unfortunately, it didn’t go nearly far enough.

The Act’s key weakness is that it only really deals with one kind of lobbying — “consultant lobbying”. Any lobbying outfit that meets the legal definition must join the Register of Consultant Lobbyists — which is regulated by the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists.

Ironically, it is Cameron himself who demonstrates the narrowness of the legislation. He was accused of acting as an unregistered consultant lobbyist, but the regulator investigated and concluded that he had not. His dealings with Australian financier Lex Greensill clearly do not break his own law.

There’s also a voluntary Lobbying Register, managed by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, which “individual lobbyists and organisations” are encouraged to join. You can explore it here. For instance, if you run a search on Mark Oaten — the former Lib Dem MP — you get this entry. Try searching for David Cameron, however, and you get zero results.

Neither the legislation nor self-regulation is achieving the transparency that the former Prime Minister promised in the 2010 speech, when he pledged to make “sure that ex-ministers are not allowed to use their contacts and knowledge — gained while being paid by the public to serve the public — for their own private gain.”

It’s not just ex-ministers, of course. At any one time there are thousands of lobbyists at work in and around the Palace of Westminster, many of whom used to work there in a non-lobbying capacity. They’re drawn from all ranks — from ex-researchers right up to ex-premiers.

Some are a nuisance. Others are useful. A few are brilliant — a genuine loss to proper politics. But all are tolerated. That’s not just out of respect to fallen comrades, but self-interest too.

That’s partly because there’s no career structure in politics. At every turn, one’s path is strewn with sudden exits. Most professions have more room at the bottom than the top, but it’s hard to think of any other career that’s more likely to chew you up and spit you out at every stage. The music industry might be the best comparison. There’s more than one reason why “politics is show business for ugly people”.

It’s even worse for those who exit politics in middle age. I’m not sure who said it first, but there’s nothing as “ex” as an ex-MP.

And that’s why the public affairs industry plays such an indispensable role in our political system. Unlike most other employers, it rewards public service. Indeed, the longer and more senior that service, the greater the reward. As annoying as some lobbyists might be, their presence is also reassuring. Those in Westminster’s land-of-the-living know that, one day, they too might need a place in the political afterlife.

It’s therefore vital that we establish a clearer boundary between the two worlds. As in Christian theology, the living must stay on one side of the great divide and the dead on the other.

That means providing long-lasting careers for politicians — not so much for their sakes, but for ours. We’ve had a professional permanent government — i.e. the civil service — for more than a century. It’s high time that we ended amateur hour on the political side of public administration too. After all, our MPs are responsible for the scrutiny of legislation, the stewardship of hundreds of billions of pounds and for life-and-death decisions affecting millions of people.

If — like other countries — we had local governments that could truly shape the development of their communities, parliamentary committees that could propose and pass legislation, and think tanks with the permanence and heft of academic institutions; then there might be more to politics than the greasy pole of ministerial preferment. We’d be able to reward public service with the purpose and respect it deserves.

In any comparable field, we’d demand decades of experience from those at the top. Not politics though. An individual like David Cameron went from a job in PR to become an MP in 2001. Within four years he was Leader of the Opposition. And within nine, Prime Minister. Six years later he was out of politics altogether, with half his adult life still ahead of him. How can that possibly end well?


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

This author calls for a professional political class.
What else have we had for decades?
And for the past 30 years, at least, politics has been almost entirely populated by people with superficially a gift of the gab, and the cowardice and cunning to slide up greasy poles; but almost no other talent at all.
They go into this walk of life because here the compliant jobsworth can find money, privilege and self-importance in a degree he or she could never attain in any other career.
Most have no managerial experience or ability: the competence actually to run something – a farm, a business, an institution – AND GET RESULTS.
They have no flair, go in for no lateral thinking.
They latch onto the latest buzzword, catchphrase or nostrum which some whizzkid has proposed and, turning that into Groupthink, plug it till the wheels of its intrinsic illogic fall off (cf belief in the UK joining the ERM, the UK joining the euro, the EU itself).
All this of course is the fault of nearly everyone. Our age is one of great spiritual decay; and in a very decadent society, a democracy produces very 4th-rate representatives in its politics.
As for David Cameron not noticing what his own speeches entail, that is par for the course.
He did the British polity real harm when he revealed that the Queen had ‘purred’ with satisfaction at the 2014 Scottish Referendum result. The tradition of a weekly meeting of the sovereign and the Prime Minister in our constitution is a valuable one because here are two people at the top of society – one in an executive position – able to talk with absolute freedom to one another about current issues, with little or no fear of career outcomes being damaged by such frankness.
A PM who reveals what the sovereign has confidentially remarked is as much a vandal as Tony Blair always was.
Her Majesty was very annoyed at this betrayal of confidence and said so.
Yet Cameron has lately done it again.
I think it highly possible that, if historians bother with this minor figure at all, they will pronounce him to have been merely ‘thick’.

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Scott
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Exactly. The writer’s call for a professional class of politicians is absurd because that is what we have now had for some decades. And the results are all around us.

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Personally I’d go for the exact opposite. I think all politicians ( more exactly MPs) should be term limited to a maximum of 8 or maybe 12 years. If you want to serve the public good then that is a great and noble thing … but it should not be your one and only career. Politics should not be a job. You should have a job/career/vocation, volunteer to serve the greater good, get well rewarded for doing so and then exit back to your original or maybe new vocation once your term is over.

Last edited 3 years ago by William Harvey
Stuart McCullough
Stuart McCullough
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

But making that happen will be like getting turkeys to vote for Christmas.

Simon Hodgson
Simon Hodgson
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

As you say history will judge Cameron as just ‘thick’, clearly could not understand that he might lose the Brexit Vote, or think that he might win the 2015 election and have to honour his pledge without Nick Clegg “get out of jail card” by refusing to agree to a vote. But politicians in their 40’s surely do not have enough life experience to be capable of making the decisions they make. One might object to the Lawyers of the past but at least they all had a professional standard to abide by and could go back to the law to make a living so had to abide by their professional. Cameron has clearly confirmed he had to do something make a living. Still find it strange that Osborne did not query who is this chap Greensill sitting in the corner telling David he can finance cheaper that the BofE……

tmglobalrecruitment
tmglobalrecruitment
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Hodgson

70m is more than just a living. Cameron and his chum Osbourne were only in it for the big payday. They worshiped Blair and he led the way in dodging dough.
Quite how we get lumbered with buffoon after buffoon is the real story here

steve horsley
steve horsley
3 years ago

who votes for them?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

I agree that seems to be true of most politicians although there are a small number who are genuine Cameron not being one of them. You appear to be wanting to increase the politicians security. That’s easy. Become a dictatorship where nobody can vote you in or out just like the EU Eurocrats who are not voted in or out. Good security at the people’s expense. I prefer democracy thank you.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Cameron isn’t unique in having no real life experience before entering parliament, but the inverse proportionality between the amount of power that fell into his lap – and his capability was (and is) enormous.
He is living proof that talentless chancers can get a long way in the system, while also lacking the ability to achieve anything meaningful outside of it.
His sleaziness almost makes Nick Clegg seem honest.
You wouldn’t bet against him working as Special Adviser to Philip Green next.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Barton
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

To be fair to Cameron, he was by no means the worst of our recent PMs. In fact, you could argue that he was the least worst since Thatcher’s departure.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Crikey! So, Major; Blair; Brown; Cameron; May; Johnson play. May and Brown go out in the first round. Major is out in the second. Johnson we have to excuse until he finishes – something might yet turn up. So Blair plays Cameron. I’m sorry to say this, but Blair is clear winner. Not a bad result for Cameron. Lawks

Chris Hopwood
Chris Hopwood
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

So why did Blair get twice re-elected, once with a huge majority?? Major was a joke, done for by Black Wednesday

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Im going to hate myself for saying this but … to be fair to Blair and Major they did both contribute to the cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland. Surely that should qualify both for the “final of the dud PMs”

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The government’s record while he was PM can be debated, which in turn may lead to a “despite” rather than “because” conversation.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Here is Patrick Taylor excellent synopsis of our last five PM’s.
How long will it last before it iis censored AGAIN? (1708:BST).

Patrick Taylor
1 hour ago (1445 BST)
There aren’t many leaders I’d have too many good things to say about – for several reasons: Firstly (and rather unfairly), because it is a great deal more fun to read and write criticism rather than praise, and secondly (and more honestly) because since the rise of the “professional politician” we have been blighted by a succession of 2nd raters.
Think back to when you were in your teens. Can you imagine your 17 or 18 year old self already eyeing a job in politics, studying with a view to gaining a place (Oxbridge, natch) to read PPE? Then a stint as a researcher, hopefully rising to be a SPAD within a high-profile department and attaching yourself to a minister on the rise? Angling and manoeuvring, with a view to becoming selected for a safe seat before too long and then settling into the Green benches before being plucked from the chorus and up the ladder towards ministerial rank – all before the age of 30?
That is not a normal child – that is not someone who has the grounding in real life that politicians used to have. No ‘Hinterland’ as (I think) Denis Healey described it? If you choose to go into public life later on in your career it is likely to be driven by ideas of service or a wish to tackle specific issues in which you have an interest or expertise. A desire to enter politics as a entire career is probably only about one’s own advancement, to use it as a stepping stone to vastly well remunerated institutional sinecures and consultancies.
I’m not sure why you single out Cameron for criticism in that regard 
.. a glance through his predecessors show they’re cut from similar cloth.
David Cameron – A PR man of unplumbed intellectual shallows who believed he was born to rule. Only agreed to hold the referendum because he was convinced he would win it and thus finally slay the Euro-dragon that had done for previous Tory leaders. Managed the unique trick (though since copied) of talking tough to his domestic audience then going to Brussels, asking for very little and getting far less, then trying to sell it as a victory for Britain. His plans didn’t work out quite as he intended, though. Despite throwing all the weight of the establishment behind the Remain cause, despite drafting in the support of foreign leaders and every international economic institution, despite spending £9million of taxpayer’s money on a propaganda leaflet, he failed to convince the country and lost the referendum. 
. BUT, at least Cameron had the good grace to recognise that he could not, in all honesty, lead the country towards the Brexit that he didn’t believe in and so he resigned. It was the only commendable thing he did.
Theresa May – As rightly famous for her personal warmth, political flexibility and persuasiveness as she is for her lithe and lissom grace on a dance floor. Like Rosa Klebb without the naïve charm. She lied throughout her premiership; to the people, to Parliament and to her closest party “allies”. She made aggressive noises towards Brussels and then cravenly backed down. Similarly she made patriotic, pro-Brexit noises in her early pronouncements but secretly started backing away from all of her promises step by step as the process went on. She is a walking case-study in how NOT to be an effective PM, every facet of her premiership was a failure. Lacking any vision to see any opportunity in Brexit and thus lacking the ability to convince either side on her unpalatable compromises. Actively undermining the efforts of her own Minister in charge of Leaving the EU by secretly carrying on parallel negotiations in the shadows with a foreign power – all at the behest of her witch’s familiar, Olly Robbins.
Tony Blair – The most shameless leader we’ve ever had and the sincerest man that money can buy. Would do and say absolutely anything in the pursuit of his ultimate goal – that of high office within the EU. He long felt that scuppering Brexit was his best hope of achieving his dream. To that end he actively colluded with M Macron, the leader of a foreign power, trying to undermine his own country’s position in negotiations in the hope that if the EU gave us nothing we could be bullied into a humiliating capitulation. He has spent the years since leaving office selling influence and connections to help central Asian dictators and amassing a fortune from his work with, and for, some deeply unsavoury characters, all whilst strutting the world stage as the (laughably titled) Middle East Peace Envoy.
I’d no more trust his motives than I would trust Jean-Claude Juncker with the keys to the wine cellar.
Gordon Brown – Still grimly continuing to try and distance himself from any culpability in the various messes he gifted the nation, even though it was he who signed the Lisbon treaty – knowing full well that it was essentially the same as the EU Constitution that he and Mr Blair had promised us a referendum on. Thought he’d get away with it by pushing the treaty through Parliament before it could be properly scrutinised. Though, even by his low standards, he could hardly have looked more shifty when, after all the other EU leaders had signed the Lisbon treaty in front of the cameras, he slunk in like a thief in the night – as though missing the ‘photo-op’ would absolve him of blame. Scottish devolution was another Brown inspired debacle. Has spent the years since office glowering with his one good eye and writing pieces for the left wing press highlighting all the problems we face as a nation yet never once stopping to consider his part in creating those problems. A socialist Ted Heath – all simmering resentment in public, no doubt boiling over when behind closed doors.
Sir John Major – Weirdly, could have been a crowd favourite if he’d handled his own PR better – and grown a pair. His early life shows he was a rebel at heart. John Major’s father was a circus performer. It is a tired old clichĂ© of rebellion, that of running away from home to join the circus – but imagine Sir John, running away from the circus to become an accountant, and then to become the elected leader of the establishment. A far, far greater act of rebellion. Surely that makes Major the greatest rebel we ever had in No 10. HOWEVER, his inner greyness, once established, completely captured him and he became timid and weak. Witness his behaviour over the last 4 years – endlessly sniping from the sidelines, making unhelpful suggestions despite pleading – when having been in a similar position (to both Mrs May and Boris) – “Whether you agree with me or disagree with me; like me or loathe me, don’t bind my hands when I am negotiating on behalf of the British nation” I’d be interested to know when, in his opinion – that stopped being good advice?
He spent much of the last few years advocating for a 2nd referendum, despite earlier stating (when he assumed Remain would win the referendum) “If we vote out, we are out, that’s it. It is not politically credible to go back and say that we have reconsidered, let’s have another referendum. If we vote to get out, then we are out and we will have to get on with it”. He went one better (or worse) by going to court to fight prorogation despite having prorogued Parliament himself in order to avoid embarrassment over the “Cash for Questions” issue. He is a steaming, canting hypocrite.
The irrepressible “Sage of Canning Town”, Danny Dyer, maybe had it right when he described David Cameron as a Tw*t but, oddly, not for the reasons he gave. Though, when compared to these 4 other recent PMs, Cameron stands out as a beacon of probity, integrity and rectitude, 
.. I guess all things are relative.
In a dung heap even a plastic bead gleams like a sapphire.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Mud Hopper
Mud Hopper
3 years ago

God, what a depressing read that was, but absolutely spot on.

David Owen
David Owen
3 years ago
Reply to  Mud Hopper

Agreed. Spot on.

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago

That was a fair and accurate description of a very poor group of “leaders”. I stand by my original quote from earlier. There should be term limits for politicians and politics should not be a career.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago

Charles,
Many thanks for reposting. It seems you are granted greater leeway in posting than I am.
Can anyone explain why my original post might have got over the wellingtons of the Mods? The only issue I guessed at was my use of the word tw*t – I’d thought to try posting again using ‘Tw@’ – but it seems as though that wasn’t the issue as it’s been allowed to stand here.
I’d rather hoped the new format would mean we no longer suffered the arbitrary moderation policies of Disqus, but sadly it appears not.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Patrick,
I suspect it was the content that offended but am as baffled as you are!
For all it faults DISQUS did allow some debate, which is all but impossible now.
Anyway “all’s well that ends well”

Sarah Lambert
Sarah Lambert
3 years ago

Excellent comment.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘How can that possibly end well?’
It’s ended pretty well for Cameron. It always seems to end pretty well for these people.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Financially – YES!
In terms of reputation; well, I suppose it depends on how much they care about how the world sees them.
It has always struck me that men becoming prime ministers as relatively early in life as Tony Blair and his acolyte D Cameron were living very dangerously.
Unless they turn out to be master statesmen who have steered the ship of state fairly brilliantly and with almost clairvoyant prophetic insight, they are likely to have to live through years, decades, of public assessment of their time in office. – The Sunday newspaper articles, the essays in think-tank journals, the biographies, the historians’ reckoning.
The vandal Blair is not yet quite 68 years old. Cameron is but 54.
Both, like their immediate predecessors and their successors in office, have been Neros fiddling while Rome burns.
The public verdicts on their tenures – in print and conversation – could become excruciating.
Neville Chamberlain had the good luck to die but 6 months after he departed from office. Generally in the past PMs tended to enter 10 Downing St at a reasonably advanced age and so could look forward to ducking and missing most of their bad press by getting into the grave first.
What will these ruinous inadequates – Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May (and, I fancy, B Johnson) – do when (a) the world economy collapses and (b) we have to confront such challenges as those of China, Iran and the ROP in deadly earnest?
Retire to caves, if caves there be, in the Mariana Islands?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Boris has leadership qualities but so had Hitler. I try to believe the best about Boris but he appears to have done nothing about the woke political correctness in the conservative party just at the moment. Marriage is at an all time low and children are being used for alternative sexual theories which would have been despicable in another age.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

The aspiration to hold political office should be an automatic disqualification

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

A lot of them joined the globalist World Economic Forum led by Klaus Schwab who are trying to arrange world government by the elite from the secret Bilderburger conferences, the same organisation which is trying to reset the world financial system and a lot of other things not in the interests of ordinary people. It is known that Blair, Brown, Prince Charles, Dennis Healy and Chris Witty are part of or in agreement with this world control. Their big slogan is “Build back Better” which is used by politicians the world over including Biden and Boris. Most of the antics have been secret for decades but it appears that they are now coming out. God help the world.

Jon Ma
Jon Ma
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Dennis Healy who died in 2015?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Ma

But he didn’t. He was remastered as a green lizard with eternal life so that his massive financial brain could invent bitcoin

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I trust he retained his prodigious eyebrows…

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Ma

Yes I thought he may have died but he was still a part of the World Economic Forum come Bilderburger Secret conferences.

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Do they meet on a flat earth or a round one?

Karen Jemmett
Karen Jemmett
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

these people?

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 years ago

If you want a good laugh read Marina Hyde’s skewering of Cameron in The Guardian today. He still gets ÂŁ115,000 a year from the public purse to run his office but apparently there is no one to answer telephone calls on this issue.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Quite a lot for one who down classed natural marriage in our country and did nothing to stem the massive abortions our country undertakes as well as talking up the undemocratic EU.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I have no problem with any one of those items.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

I do have problems. Big ones.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Look, I like the solution to this entire problem, as per the classic short story by Robert Sheckley, “A Ticket to Tranai”:ï»ż

Borg reached for the Presidential Seal, started to remove it from his neck – It exploded suddenly and violently.

Goodman found himself staring in horror at Borg’s red, ruined head. The Supreme President tottered for a moment, then slid to the floor.

Melith took off his jacket and threw it over Borg’s head. Goodman backed to a chair and fell into it. His mouth opened, but no words came out.

“It’s really a pity,” Melith said. “He was so near the end of his term. I warned him against licensing that new spaceport. The citizens won’t approve, I told him. But he was sure they would like to have two spaceports. Well, he was wrong.”

“Do you mean – I mean – how – what – “

“All government officials,” Melith explained, “wear the badge of office, which contains a traditional amount of tessium, an explosive you may have heard of. The charge is radio-controlled from the Citizens Booth. Any citizen has access to the Booth, for the purpose of expressing his disapproval of the government.” Melith sighed. “This will go down as a permanent black mark against poor Borg’s record.”

“You let the people express their disapproval by blowing up officials?” Goodman croaked, appalled.

“It’s the only way that means anything,” said Melith “Check and balance. Just as the people are in our hands, so we are in the people’s hands.”.

Harsh but fair, I think.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Geoffrey Leach
Geoffrey Leach
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Thank you for quoting that snippet. I have often thought of that story that I read in my youth over 40 years ago but had forgotten the title and author. I have now been able to find it again (along with several other of Robert Sheckley’s witty and memorable stories)

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Leach

Welc. It’s from a collection of short stories called ‘The Robert Sheckley Omnibus’ which I bought in the late seventies and I still have though it’s rather battered, don’t know if it’s still in print. Sheckley was a superb short story writer, as you say witty, and often laugh out loud funny.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
John Lewis
John Lewis
3 years ago

The problem in providing long-lasting careers for politicians is it would enable them to continue to f*ck up everything they touch long after the electorate has finally tired of them.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago

All parties have vested interests and unless the politician is financially independent, has backbone and a broad experience of life, they become controlled by them.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago

There aren’t many leaders I’d have too many good things to say about – for several reasons: Firstly (and rather unfairly), because it is a great deal more fun to read and write criticism rather than praise, and secondly (and more honestly) because since the rise of the “professional politician” we have been blighted by a succession of 2nd raters.
 Think back to when you were in your teens. Can you imagine your 17 or 18 year old self already eyeing a job in politics, studying with a view to gaining a place (Oxbridge, natch) to read PPE? Then a stint as a researcher, hopefully rising to be a SPAD within a high-profile department and attaching yourself to a minister on the rise? Angling and manoeuvring, with a view to becoming selected for a safe seat before too long and then settling into the Green benches before being plucked from the chorus and up the ladder towards ministerial rank – all before the age of 30?
 That is not a normal child – that is not someone who has the grounding in real life that politicians used to have. No ‘Hinterland’ as (I think) Denis Healey described it? If you choose to go into public life later on in your career it is likely to be driven by ideas of service or a wish to tackle specific issues in which you have an interest or expertise. A desire to enter politics as a entire career is probably only about one’s own advancement, to use it as a stepping stone to vastly well remunerated institutional sinecures and consultancies.
I’m not sure why you single out Cameron for criticism in that regard 
.. a glance through his predecessors show they’re cut from similar cloth.
David Cameron â€“ A PR man of unplumbed intellectual shallows who believed he was born to rule. Only agreed to hold the referendum because he was convinced he would win it and thus finally slay the Euro-dragon that had done for previous Tory leaders. Managed the unique trick (though since copied) of talking tough to his domestic audience then going to Brussels, asking for very little and getting far less, then trying to sell it as a victory for Britain. His plans didn’t work out quite as he intended, though. Despite throwing all the weight of the establishment behind the Remain cause, despite drafting in the support of foreign leaders and every international economic institution, despite spending ÂŁ9million of taxpayer’s money on a propaganda leaflet, he failed to convince the country and lost the referendum. 
. BUT, at least Cameron had the good grace to recognise that he could not, in all honesty, lead the country towards the Brexit that he didn’t believe in and so he resigned. It was the only commendable thing he did.
 Theresa May â€“ As rightly famous for her personal warmth, political flexibility and persuasiveness as she is for her lithe and lissom grace on a dance floor. Like Rosa Klebb without the naĂŻve charm. She lied throughout her premiership; to the people, to Parliament and to her closest party “allies”. She made aggressive noises towards Brussels and then cravenly backed down. Similarly she made patriotic, pro-Brexit noises in her early pronouncements but secretly started backing away from all of her promises step by step as the process went on. She is a walking case-study in how NOT to be an effective PM, every facet of her premiership was a failure. Lacking any vision to see any opportunity in Brexit and thus lacking the ability to convince either side on her unpalatable compromises. Actively undermining the efforts of her own Minister in charge of Leaving the EU by secretly carrying on parallel negotiations in the shadows with a foreign power – all at the behest of her witch’s familiar, Olly Robbins.
Tony Blair â€“ The most shameless leader we’ve ever had and the sincerest man that money can buy. Would do and say absolutely anything in the pursuit of his ultimate goal – that of high office within the EU. He long felt that scuppering Brexit was his best hope of achieving his dream. To that end he actively colluded with M Macron, the leader of a foreign power, trying to undermine his own country’s position in negotiations in the hope that if the EU gave us nothing we could be bullied into a humiliating capitulation. He has spent the years since leaving office selling influence and connections to help central Asian dictators and amassing a fortune from his work with, and for, some deeply unsavoury characters, all whilst strutting the world stage as the (laughably titled) Middle East Peace Envoy.
I’d no more trust his motives than I would trust Jean-Claude Juncker with the keys to the wine cellar.
 Gordon Brown â€“ Still grimly continuing to try and distance himself from any culpability in the various messes he gifted the nation, even though it was he who signed the Lisbon treaty – knowing full well that it was essentially the same as the EU Constitution that he and Mr Blair had promised us a referendum on. Thought he’d get away with it by pushing the treaty through Parliament before it could be properly scrutinised. Though, even by his low standards, he could hardly have looked more shifty when, after all the other EU leaders had signed the Lisbon treaty in front of the cameras, he slunk in like a thief in the night – as though missing the ‘photo-op’ would absolve him of blame. Scottish devolution was another Brown inspired debacle. Has spent the years since office glowering with his one good eye and writing pieces for the left wing press highlighting all the problems we face as a nation yet never once stopping to consider his part in creating those problems. A socialist Ted Heath – all simmering resentment in public, no doubt boiling over when behind closed doors.
 Sir John Major â€“ Weirdly, could have been a crowd favourite if he’d handled his own PR better – and grown a pair. His early life shows he was a rebel at heart. John Major’s father was a circus performer. It is a tired old clichĂ© of rebellion, that of running away from home to join the circus – but imagine Sir John, running away from the circus to become an accountant, and then to become the elected leader of the establishment. A far, far greater act of rebellion. Surely that makes Major the greatest rebel we ever had in No 10. HOWEVER, his inner greyness, once established, completely captured him and he became timid and weak. Witness his behaviour over the last 4 years – endlessly sniping from the sidelines, making unhelpful suggestions despite pleading – when having been in a similar position (to both Mrs May and Boris) – “Whether you agree with me or disagree with me; like me or loathe me, don’t bind my hands when I am negotiating on behalf of the British nation” I’d be interested to know when, in his opinion – that stopped being good advice?
He spent much of the last few years advocating for a 2nd referendum, despite earlier stating (when he assumed Remain would win the referendum) â€œIf we vote out, we are out, that’s it. It is not politically credible to go back and say that we have reconsidered, let’s have another referendum. If we vote to get out, then we are out and we will have to get on with it”. He went one better (or worse) by going to court to fight prorogation despite having prorogued Parliament himself in order to avoid embarrassment over the “Cash for Questions” issue. He is a steaming, canting hypocrite.
The irrepressible “Sage of Canning Town”, Danny Dyer, maybe had it right when he described David Cameron as a Tw*t but, oddly, not for the reasons he gave. Though, when compared to these 4 other recent PMs, Cameron stands out as a beacon of probity, integrity and rectitude, 
.. I guess all things are relative.
In a dung heap even a plastic bead gleams like a sapphire.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Absolutely brilliant, that has made my afternoon. Thank you so much!

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 years ago

For some reason it appears that something in that post got over the mods wellingtons and so it’s been cast into “pending approval” limbo.
I thought the new commenting pages had got rid of the seemingly arbitrary Disqus moderation issues. Apparently not!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Excellent post

Pauline Ivison
Pauline Ivison
3 years ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

What a brilliant comment, thorough and quite entertaining for a person (myself) who has only contempt for politicians, with few exceptions.

Mark Rothermel
Mark Rothermel
3 years ago

Serious question: Was this article satire or is the author suggesting the way to stop political corruption is to give them more power and money?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Rothermel

I’ll give him 1 out of 10. I don’t know why he is on here.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

Oh, come on UnHerd, you cannot possibly zap my previous post just because I suggested castration by statute for all politicians – it was a joke for gods sake – even if in rather poor taste.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Actually it could work – breed politicians out of the species.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago

Although Churchill and Thatcher were remarkable exceptions were they not?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

My suggestion was in line with practices in Ancient China, where a eunuch bureaucracy ran the forbidden city while the Emperor got on with his hedonism.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The eunuchs started life as children snatched from conquered territories to the south, but over time accreted enormous political power through managing the nitty gritty of the empire.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

From what I can tell, there were vicious rival factions and intriguing, there was lobbying, there were even informal structures in place to choose who would lead. I feel our politicians would be right at home, with the minor penalty of the chop to show seriousness about power and good faith.
I just suggested an updated version of this for Westminster, without discrimination based on race, religion or gender – but they zapped my comment.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Well on TV Johnson has been told quite openly to lock up his willy. So much for sexual morality.

Monty Marsh
Monty Marsh
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Perhaps it caused a rush of volunteers, and the server was overloaded and crashed.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
3 years ago

The skill set that a politician needs to get elected and the skill set we would like to see for someone involved in major decisions are worlds apart.
The election skill set primarily consists of persuading their local party to pre-select them to stand at an election (preferably in a safe seat) and then to have enough of a public persona to at least contribute to the election process. So factional wheeling and dealing, promises of personal support, etc. – all the things that anyone in a normal job hates and dismisses as “office politics”.
As a back-bencher, one could probably continue in this vein. However ministerial roles should surely call for some managerial skills, portfolio expertise and wisdom in anticipating the possible outcomes of any given proposal. I don’t see how modern politicians acquire any of this leading to the Yes, Minister style house trained ministers.
I too loathe the idea of career politicians but I can see the problem that the author is trying to address.

John McGibbon
John McGibbon
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

I can’t think of many roles where there are no minimum education requirements, no prior experience requirements, no requirement to demonstrate competency for a role as is the case for politicians and ministers. Looking at some of Labour’s hard left cohort, ask yourself what organisation would employ these people. Similarly what substantive role with evidence of competency has The Buffoon undertaken, I get it some may say London Mayor but aside from the gloss remember the bridge debacle, the cable car no one uses, the squandering of public money and riding roughshod over processes designed to protect it.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  John McGibbon

Don’t forget leaving TFL in a financial mess.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Or being fired from The Telegraph for inventing interview quotes? Merely an early example of his indifferent relationship with telling the truth.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

Politicians: Generally people we don’t really know who strut about on our local papers and TV trying to make a good impression but in reality are destroying the fabric of our society. There are a few exceptions where their character comes through by their achievements but most are faceless individuals which cause me nightmares because of their views.

Pauline Baxter
Pauline Baxter
3 years ago

Strikes me just how fast Cameron climbed the greasy pole. Added to which his previous job was not exactly something Britain depends on for it’s existence. Hardly what you’d call a PRODUCTIVE member of society! No sympathy from me.
M.P.’s hardly ever do a useful job of scrutinising prospective legislation. In the main they are not capable of doing that job. The best of them do help their Constituents with local problems so far as that is possible under the system.
But their only function in Westminster is to act as Lobby Fodder. It does not have to be like that. The power of the established parties in selecting candidates should be curtailed. And the Whip System in the House abolished.
Ex M.P.s do not need any ‘looking after’. They can join the unemployed or get a job, like anyone else.
Oh, and while I’m at it I’ll add that the Fixed Term Parliament Act is an abomination and should be repealed.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago

Perhaps Cameron really did believe what he is reported in this article as saying in a speech in 2010 before he became PM, about the evil-ness of lobbying and the ubiquity of corruption in parliament. The problem is that Cameron was (is) not a very strong or committed person, easily influenced by people with more brains and more money than him (Boris and Osborne both have more brains than Cameron, and there are plenty of people looked up to by the ex-PM who had and have more money). It’s quite easy for someone like Cameron to be changed and corrupted by power. As it is, he will go down as not just an ineffectual and not meaningful leader of GB, but a corrupt one too. A more effective and committed operator would have won the Remain argument in 2016, handsomely.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

“A more effective and committed operator would have won the Remain argument in 2016 handsomely” If only…

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

if only what?

Mike Wylde
Mike Wylde
3 years ago

The easy answer is to put a lower age limit on politicians and, perhaps, even add in a required level of expertise in something other than politics, anything so long as it’s not politics. John Prescott’s experience as a ship’s steward was appreciably better experience than Cameron’s as a SPAD.
Maybe 30 for election to a local council, 40 to parliament and 50 to become a Cabinet Minister. We even now have Cabinet Ministers who have about 2 years experience of parliament (and absolutely no experience of running a team of people any bigger than their constituency office – and they may well have a manager in to do that)

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

I don’t think age is really the issue. There are plenty of stupid, evil old men and women, and quite a few gifted under-40’s having some integrity. Think Wm Pitt the younger. And for a year or two, I did think that T Blair had integrity in his toolbox. It’s true that Biden is (currently – may it last) showing us that a real oldie can cut the mustard, but maybe he’s just the exception that proves the rule. I agree though with proven competence in another profession or line of business.You can get that, and some scars of experience at ages between 25 and 40.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Wylde

Perhaps a higher age threshold for voters too. No representation without taxation.

Ian Wigg
Ian Wigg
3 years ago

The article illustrates just how misguided those who demand an elected second chamber and and elected head of state are. Maybe in an ideal world but God help us in the real one.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

What has happened to Patrick Taylor’s excellent synopsis of the performance of our last five Prime Ministers posted about two hours ago? (1445 BST)
Surely it hasn’t been censored!

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Possession Friend .uk
Possession Friend .uk
3 years ago

Best thing you can say about Cameron, is he gave us the referendum ( albeit because he thought, wrongly, that it would vindicate his position) When the result didn’t, he promptly had to sling his hook, which was ultimately the best thing.

Ian Gribbin
Ian Gribbin
3 years ago

If the policies are right, your career will be lengthened in politics, generally speaking. The problem is the group think, that has pervaded government for the past 3 decades.
Nonetheless of them ever go back to first principles, even when the situation begs it. You see this in stupidity of joining the ERM, the credit crisis, the austerity measure imposed (which now look utterly retarded given what we’ve splashed on covid) and the covid reaction itself.
We have not had adults in charge for a very long time. Biden and Boris administrations represent the infantile dressed up as the competent. Very easy to do when you have a dumb, servile electorate and a low brow media.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

You are a great writer and commentator but you have no idea of being poor and working class.
No other career likely to chew you up and spit you out, Really?
Trying being a tradesman who’s back goes, no work then.
Try being a shelf stacker and being made redundant, no work then.
Every job uses you up and spits you out the only difference is 4 years as an MP and I would probably never have to work again.
No sympathy for over indulged rich people who want more, always more

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Best
Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago

Hypocrisy (partially disguised by bullshit), self-elitism (real or imagined), arrogance (whether self-made or to the manner born) and mental shallowness (almost by definition, without knowing it) – all or most of these characterise the House of Commons as well as defining what it takes to rise from a backbencher to someone in power, in which both cream and garbage rise to the surface but, as Cameron and many others of his ilk have discovered, garbage does eventually sink to the bottom.

Last edited 3 years ago by Rob Alka
Colin Reeves
Colin Reeves
3 years ago

“That means providing long-lasting careers for politicians”. No, we need exactly the opposite: politics as a career path is what is wrong with the way we’re governed. We need term limits and age-based qualifications for MPs. Electing 20-year old MPs is ludicrous. There should be evidence of some competence before they can stand. OK, there is the occasional Pitt the Younger, but don’t forget that in 1783 Oxbridge graduates aged 24 actually knew something other than PPE (or its Cambridge equivalent).

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

I think it would be better to go the other way. Rather than creating a long term career path for our supposed representatives give them 4 years or may be 8 max.

J J
J J
3 years ago

Can anyone think a post war British PM whose reputation we (the media?) have not destroyed once they left office (some while in office)?
It seems to follow this process:
British People: Do these completely contradictory and impossible things
British PM: Fails to do contradictory and impossible things.
British People: You corrupt incompetent b*****d
Repeat with new PM

J J
J J
3 years ago

Can anyone think a post war British PM whose reputation we (the media?) have not destroyed once they left office (some while in office)?
It seems to follow this process:
British People: Do these completely contradictory and impossible things
British PM: Fails to do contradictory and impossible things.
British People: You corrupt incompetent bas*ard
Repeat with new PM

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago

What drivel. I’m perfectly happy with DCs representations on behalf of Greenshill capital. The government can support them buy cannot support Gupta because Gupta is not transparent. Meanwhile Ed Miliband is calling for the government to fund Gupta’s Liberty Steel. What’s the difference? It would have been cheaper to do as DC suggests than cough up the guarantee or nationalise. No one of course mentioning the fact that Mrs Sturgeons 1/2 billion pound guarantee is likely to be called; that would be journalism and detract from the campaign. The whole union movement is just one big lobbying behemoth with menaces and are the . There is nothing wrong with politicians speaking to people who have a view or interest be it a company, union, environmental lobbyist etc. all the better if they actually know what they are speaking about. It is politics, its messy all round. The only thing lower is a journalist and this one is full of faux moral indignation.

Howard Medwell
Howard Medwell
3 years ago

we are a “winners and losers” society and most people’s sympathies are with the winners. Reading about “Dodgy Dave’s” latest high-jinks, most voters’ response is not, “string him up!” but rather “good on yer, mate – that’s just wot I’d do if I had the chance!”