X Close

The politicians we didn’t deserve Alan Duncan's diaries epitomise the emptiness of his generation

What would Alan Clark say? (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

What would Alan Clark say? (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)


April 9, 2021   4 mins

It is a generally acknowledged truth that the best political diarists — from Alan Clark to Chips Channon — are always second-rate politicians. In fact, the success of their journals is often because they never made it to the top, thereby allowing them to observe and snipe from the sidelines. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that the present age seems to be throwing up so many aspiring “great” diarists; people who, knowingly or otherwise, will never escape their legacies as unremarkable figures in history.

Last year, for instance, we had the diaries of Sasha Swire. She was the first member of the Cameron circle — her husband being former MP and Cameron chum Hugo Swire — to spill its secrets. The serial rights for her diaries were bought by the Sunday Times, and inevitably the newspaper was eager to make comparisons with leading diarists of the past. Indeed, the paper’s publicity shot for the first serial — printed on the cover of its magazine — showed Swire sitting in bed, surrounded by the day’s newspapers, pen in hand, glasses and diary at the ready, with a volume of Alan Clark’s memoirs on the bedside table.

Yet the comparison harmed more than it helped; it merely made the thinness of the material on offer look  thinner still. Swire’s revelations changed nothing and illuminated nothing. They showed the Cameron circle to be exactly what we thought they were: fairly entitled, noticeably cliquey and slightly lazy. Apart from a throw-away sexual reference that Cameron once made to Sasha Swire, all that was on offer was the startling revelation that Conservative party politics is replete with jostling, resentment and failure. Swire distinguished herself only in being the first of her tribe to betray the pack-leader.

Now, less than a year on, we have another contender for “great diarist of the decade”: Sir Alan Duncan. In a similar format to Swire’s, Duncan’s new book was bought for serialisation by the Daily Mail, which grandly described Duncan’s efforts as “the most explosive political diaries ever”. Inevitably, they also ran with “Alan Clark, eat your heart out”.

Poor Alan Clark. If anything, Duncan’s efforts are even more tedious and less revelatory than Sasha Swire’s. He “reveals”, for instance, that his old Oxford contemporary Theresa May was not a very good people-person; that the special advisors around her had rather too much influence and power. He also “reveals” that he has a great dislike for Boris Johnson, describing him as a “buffoon” and as a “selfish, ill-disciplined, shambolic, shameless clot”. Yes, it was quite the scoop.

Perhaps the situation would have been different had the shots come from someone who had hitherto displayed the discipline and restraint of a Trappist monk. But Duncan has never been quiet about his dislike of the Prime Minister: just two years ago, he could be found in every newspaper criticising Johnson for his “fly by the seats of his pants, haphazard” style. To be fair to Duncan, back then he could also be found telling the BBC that he felt no personal animosity towards Johnson, and indeed “wanted him to succeed”.

But as his diaries make clear, Duncan never wanted Johnson — or, for that matter, any of his colleagues — to “succeed”. Indeed, it is hard to find a single politician who Duncan admires: Priti Patel is a “witch”, Andrea Leadsom “despicable”, Andrea Jenkyns “ghastly”, Steve Baker “useless” and so on.

But tedious as they are, his witless insults shed some valuable light on why diaries such as Duncan’s often fail. For in order for a diary to be great, it must first give the reader a window on to a world we would otherwise never have seen. Second, the diarist must be able to write with some degree of self-analysis or self-knowledge. Alan Clark, for instance, was extremely aware of his flaws: as a womaniser, a snob and an otherwise often unlikeable figure.

Duncan, like Swire before him, illuminates nothing, while his vanity makes self-reflection impossible. For example, in his book he is dismissive of those who he believes supported Brexit for opportunistic reasons — without any reference to his own opportunism. There is, for instance, no mention of reports that, at an early stage in the EU referendum, Duncan met with the heads of Vote Leave to discuss taking a leading role in the campaign. When it became clear that Vote Leave might have more senior politicians than Duncan to call upon, he went to the other side. What can be said of such behaviour? Is it principled or opportunistic? Duncan — unlike Clark — is unwilling to say.

It is the same whenever Duncan seeks to find explanations for jobs he wanted but was not offered. During the 2016 reshuffle, he hoped to not only get the junior portfolio at the Foreign Office, which he was given, but also the job of Minister for the Middle East. His explanation? That the Conservative Friends of Israel went ”ballistic”; that people didn’t want him because “I believe in the rights of Palestinians and it’s quite clear that they don’t. They just want to belittle and subjugate the Palestinians.”

What Duncan does not seem to understand is that it is precisely for statements like that one that he was so unfit for the role he so desired. Put to one side the fact that he made his money in oil deals in the Middle East before entering politics. Or that his analysis of the landscape was even more unsubtle and unnuanced that his diaries portray them to be.

The main reason Duncan could never have been made Minister for the Middle East is that he had a history of sounding-off in unusually partisan terms against a country which is a major ally of the United Kingdom. It is because he spent years saying things that were undiplomatic that Duncan was never made the UK’s top diplomat. Not a surprise, really.

Somehow, the more we learn of the generation of politicians that has just left us, the less you want to know. At one point in his diaries, dated May 2019, Duncan confides that he has just had breakfast with David Cameron: “He is so glad not to be in the middle of everything that is going on at the moment.”

They are just as we thought: shallow, vainglorious, entitled and unremarkable. If they are glad not to be in the middle of “everything that is going on at the moment”, suffice it to say that the feeling is very much mutual.


Douglas Murray is an author and journalist.

DouglasKMurray

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

117 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stuart Noel
Stuart Noel
3 years ago

Wow. Don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed an intellectual knifing this much, Douglas Murray is brilliant

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Noel

Perhaps. But a three-year old child could put the intellectual knife into Alan Duncan, who has always been an obnoxious little twerp.
I have learned over the years never to read diaries – the best bits will always be in the papers and widely reported – or collections of letters. That said, I did recently learn a lot from a collection of Hugh Trever-Roper’s letters to Bernard Berenson in the 1950s.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Was T-R aware of Berenson’s dealings with the loathsome Devine?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I don’t know. There is no ‘Devine’ listed in the index. I hold no particular brief for T-R. He was something of a snob and made a fool of himself over the diaries (can’t write the H word here!) But this book was entertaining and enlightening.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Interesting, I completely agree about T-R who destroyed his reputation over the ‘H’ diaries affair, much to the unconcealed joy of much of Oxford!
I only asked because somewhat earlier (1930’s) Joseph Devine, an ‘art’ dealer from Hull is reputed to have had highly controversial dealings with the New York ‘art’ expert Bernard Berenson. It all revolved around supply & demand and the crucial ‘authentication’ of art.
Both men became astonishingly rich, Berenson ‘trousering’ an estimated $44 million, whilst Devine was ennobled, and went on to reek havoc in the British Museum with the Elgin Marbles.
Given that T-R was duped I couldn’t avoid the coincidental nature of your original comment!

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

I think you mean Duveen

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Yes, apologies, a Freudian slip!

Incidentally last two apologies today Censored?!

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Alan Clarke’s diaries are worth reading mainly because there is minimal political content or insight about major political figures inside them.

bell.mariana
bell.mariana
3 years ago

….and his style is full of humour (sometimes self deprecating). A joy to read even for a foreigner like me who learned English as an adult.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago

You mean Duveen.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Apologies! A Freudian slip.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago

You mean of wanting to make him divine. I think he must have been a colourful rogue.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Platzer
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Yes indeed, the ‘Art World’ has yet to recover.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Solid thinking as always, Fraser. I’d also add that in the modern era, and certainly in politics, surely almost nobody keeps a diary other than one they expect to be published, which is therefore written and pre-edited accordingly.
Duncan’s effort is thus no genuine Pepys-style diary, full of hilarious indiscretions and excruciating personal information never meant to be shared. Pepys had a significant political-naval job, about which he wrote interestingly. He also had a chronic w@nking addition not helped by his penchant of paying a penny to go backstage at the theatre and watch the actresses changing. He puts all that in his diary too, and the bathos and contrasts of his material are often achingly funny.
Duncan’s effort was probably written from the outset for public consumption as an intended post-career earner, starring the author as the main character. It’s likely to be about as instructive and informative as his election address, but less interesting, funny or truthful.

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

What is his election address? C/o The Marine Commando Club, Paddington (thanks to “Round the Horne”).

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Gourley

“Hello sailor “?

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The diaries of Harold Nicolson and his disciple James Lees-Milne, the latter not a politician, are worthwhile and a pleasure to read.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Platzer
Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I agree with you re diaries but was pleasantly surprised by the book on Chris Mullin’s diaries (A view from the foothill). As compared to Duncan, Mullins appears both an intellectual giant and a wise man.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“ learn a lot from a collection of Hugh Trever-Roper’s letters to Bernard Berenson in the 1950s.” – sounds thrilling

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

As they say in football, you can only beat the team that’s put in front of you.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Noel

Alan Duncan = John Bercow

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Noel

Alan Duncan-a legend in his own lunchtime. Used to get pink with pleasure on being invited onto comedy shows and never realised they despised him. DM seems to be using his diary to knock present government who they seem to be at odds with.

Vikram Sharma
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

Alan Duncan exemplifies the loathsome class of politicians most of us detest, so there is hardly going to be anything to be learnt from his outpourings. The larger unanswered question is why we can’t get better leaders in the West.
There is no single or simple reason, but point worth considering is Nassem Nicholas Taleb’s argument about rulers/ decision makers having ‘skin in the game’; that is that have to suffer the consequences of their decisions. In Hamurabbi’s eye for an eye code there was a profound message, not of revenge but responsibility. A builder who built a bridge was then forced to have his family live under the bridge for a few months. If the bridge collapsed, the builder had skin in the game, so would not build a shoddy bridge.
From career politicians to the managerial class, people in power have no skin in the game now. In the NHS, CEOs of NHS hospitals arrive on a five year contract. They dismantle a few things and cut a few services in the first three years to show cost cutting and efficiency on their cv and start looking for the next job. Each CEO thus leaves a trail of destruction behind with no consequences to face. In earlier time a medical superintendent led the hospital for decades, so had to live with the decisions they made. To build something takes a lifetime; to dismantle just a stroke of a pen.
in a five year election cycle, your interests as a politician are never aligned with the interests of the country. Unless we get politicians who genuinely love their country or a system where failure in politics leads to punishment more than just losing elections, we will continue to face this.
a benign ruler who loves their country and people would be far better than this parade of parasites who go from PPE to SPAD roles and then MPs.

Last edited 3 years ago by Vikram Sharma
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Good points.
The trouble for all politicians is that they are trying to fix large, wicked problems within a relatively short time period (one term), and are beholden to a demanding 24hour news-style narrative.

Perhaps that is a bit charitable to politicians – like you say it really requires someone with an absolute love of their country to say “screw it” and get on with it.

borrieboy
borrieboy
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

..plus, if I may suggest, a good level of intelligence and a good work ethic. See Thatcher.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  borrieboy

Really many in the North would disagree – she was completely disconnected

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Baggley

Disagree. Margaret Thatcher was and remains, quite popular in the North (of England). I don’t mean the Peoples Socialist Republic of Scotland.

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

“demanding 24hour news-style narrative.”

Thsts the key point. Its the media that drives the policy. The cart is dragging the horse. No wonder we are going in the wrong direction

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I think the demands of the media are a real problem. Instead of putting in a solid day’s work at their desk, carefully formulating policies and getting home at a reasonable hour and getting a decent sleep, they are in studios from 4 am to midnight having to ‘say something’ and react.
No wonder they are all over the place mentally. Heavy metal bands have less punishing schedules.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

As always, good points, Vikram. Short-termism is the problem that bedevils democracies. With their eye on the next election, governments will always shy away from doing the necessary but unpopular things. That is why the problem of funding our health services will not be fixed in the near future. One longs for politicians to engage in a thoughtful conversation with us about these things, but they don’t dare.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Re your last sentence, it may also be that most simply aren’t that able. I suspect Boris, for all his faults, IS more able. This will annoy the hell out of his less able colleagues, like said Duncan.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

There is enough funding in our health services, but there are too many non-workers “managing” it.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Until recently the UK had plenty of ships captains who were prepared to go down with their ships. If a captain loses a ship he has made a mistake. Any job where mistakes cause the person to die forces responsibility on them. We now have a situation where people are well paid and move on before serious errors of judgement come to light, let alone sacked for making mistakes.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
3 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

That’s true. The old aristocratic class, which I don’t want back, by the way, at least had to ‘go over the top’ first.

Simon Baggley
Simon Baggley
3 years ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

They weren’t old school aristocratic class – they’ve always been safe and only ever sacrifice the odd truly inbred cretin – most leaders who went over the top were far from aristocratic

Pauline Ivison
Pauline Ivison
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Brilliant comment, thank you.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Very good points. The MOD is especially egregious at rotating or losing staff who then never see the end game of their major decisions.

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Yes. This is one of Thomas Sowell’s main points regarding intellectuals and the visions of the ‘annointed’, those whose ‘ideas’ are decoupled from real-world consequences, for themselves in particular, with no thought of others.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

I can’t imagine reading anything produced by this arrogant toad. He’s always struck me as the most loathsome and pointless politician we ever produced – and that’s up against some pretty stiff opposition

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

The real answer to this, and to nearly all other questions about our politics and society, was given in the most seminal statement concerning our age: the conclusion of T S Eliot’s essay of 1931, ‘Thoughts after Lambeth’. – “The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.”
Our country, like the rest of the world now, is spiritually ultra-decadent. One consequence, among many others, is that it gets fourth-rate politicians.
Click.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

““The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.””

Actually this is not true. There are plenty of civilised philosophical defences of Western culture which do not depend upon either a theocracy, or institutional religion.
To give one example, there is the concept of ‘civil association’ propounded by Michael Oakeshott in his book ‘Of Human Conduct’ in which a common purpose (e.g. to establish the supremacy of any particular inclusivist religion or encoded ideology) does not exist.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

So why has our society and culture gone downhill so very much, ethically, emotionally?
Douglas Murray (not a Christian) laments, above, the puerile quality of politicians today.
We have people (as Eliot predicted in an interview at the time of his essay) knifing one another in the streets – and quite pointlessly too.
We are riddled with drug addiction, sex addiction, anything goes morality, very poor parenting.
Such things existed over the centuries – but not on today’s scale.
As Peter Hitchens has pointed out, when the present British Queen came to the throne in 1952, children behaved respectfully to their parents and their teachers; which meant, among other things, that they could be taught plenty, given plenty of knowledge and skills. People on modest incomes were slim, not fat (think of the obesity epidemic); crooks feared the police. – The only thing not policed in Britain today is Crime. The only drug in wide use 70 years ago was aspirin.
I could go on for hours. We live now in a UK which is neither happy nor good. Its malaise is universally confessed.
There have been sages throughout all known centuries advising people to be good, and telling them that the way to meaningfulness is in Virtue.
Confucius is a perfect example of that perfect wisdom, 5 centuries before Christ.
The difference between him and all the other sages on the one hand and Jesus, the Son of God, on the other, is that on the Cross the Christ BROKE THE POWER of sin.
Socrates was spot-on about very much too. But he had not got the means to rob ravenous lust of its burning force; paralyse the power of fear; bind up the compulsion of peer-pressure; and liberate the individual from such thralls.
Nor is it likely that many people will have much respect for the Golden Rule if there is not the carrot of eternal life and the stick of eternal damnation to goad them into being at least half decent.
When Queen Elizabeth the First was on one of her innumerable travels round her kingdom, she stopped at Ely and there attended divine service in the cathedral. A first-rate musician herself, she sent the sexton to the organist (the composer Christopher Tye) with a message to the effect that his instrument was out of tune.
‘Tell Her Highness’ replied the testy and tetchy Tye, ‘it is her ears which are out tune, not my instrument’.
No one could have dared to behave like that to Stalin or any other of the great murderous dictators of human history. Being a Christian woman in a Christian country meant that the Queen imposed no penalty on that musician and just put up with having her reproof sent back to her with interest.
I am not saying that we lived in a good country, a thoroughly virtuous and happy land in the past. No.
What I am declaring is that we have got a lot worse steadily over the past 4 centuries since belief in Christianity became ever less fashionable.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

“we have got a lot worse steadily over the past 4 centuries since belief in Christianity became ever less fashionable”.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration! What about the Reformation and subsequent rise of Puritanism and similar beliefs? Then the 19th century Evangelical Oxford Movement and the concurrent Catholic Emancipation?
No the ‘collapse’ as you see it is far more recent, in fact almost within my lifetime. The culprit? Science and Education perhaps? Or just a feeble ‘Church’?

Graham Thorpe
Graham Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

I am certain that there is a much in what you argue, Peter. Possibly you could widen the idea past Christianity/Church alone and into the idea that we are victims of a wilful destruction in belief, generally.
Even without the reward/sanction system that supported religious belief, we have a political system that has an in-built interest in destroying any trust or belief held by voters in anyone else. The whole thing looks as if it was designed with the very aim of destroying what it purports to protect and advance.
But of course we can “all agree” to worship the one true deity – the NHS.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

“People on modest incomes were slim, not fat (think of the obesity epidemic)” – because they were malnourished and there wasn’t cheap sources of calories. I’m not sure this was a good thing, not that the obesity epidemic is a good thing, but at least people, even on modest incomes have the ability to eat well if they exercise self-restraint.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

On Unherd it never takes long before someone stsrts lamenting the decline of religious belief, even where, as here, that has nothing to do with the issue. Most of the social and technological progress of the past 200 years has been made in the teeth of fierce but wholly irrational opposition from the religious lobby. I am glad to see that their influence is stadily declining. Trying to piggy-back on the issues discussed here as a wayof extolling religious belief simp,y is not going to cut it.

John Sansome
John Sansome
3 years ago

These diaries simply reflect the pettiness and spiritual poverty of our times. It is hard to admire people who choose to waste their lives sowing poison and malice. No-one should expect our politicians to be perfect, but to bolster one’s ego by trashing them says far more about the trasher than the trashee, and certainly doesn’t help create a better society. 

Scott Powell
Scott Powell
3 years ago

I wonder when we are going to put ‘representative’ back into representative democracy? Career politicians represent a small, vain, privileged, and petty subclass of society.

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Powell

The situation will not change while the old Westminster parties continue to select such poor quality candidates and the system continues to keep out newcomers. In what other market place is it so difficult for a new proviser to gain market share.
Excessive power over candidate selection by the party leaderships is a part of the problem as local associations are unable to select candidates who are not clones of the party leader (University, PR, researcher, bag carrier, MP).

Richard Brown
Richard Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Smith

For all those potentially high-class politicians now reading this, perhaps you had better get down to your local political HQ and volunteer. Alternatively, let’s realise that we get the politicians we deserve and, unless we can support them and create the environment for them to safely operate in, we will get more Alan Duncans.

Scott Powell
Scott Powell
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Smith

I believe a number of the founding fathers in the US were also farmers/property holders, or otherwise in some other profession within their communities. I wonder if this is a much better model of politics? ie. being ONLY a rhetoric-spewing career politician is bound to be divorced from any real community representation. For a long time I’ve believed the people making these broad decisions affecting the lives of many should have skin in the game.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Smith

Get more Independents in Commons,VOTE INDEPENDENT MAY6 2021…A lot of Non-jobs like paid Mayors,PCC politicizing the police need culling..

Simon Baker
Simon Baker
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Smith

Duncan was an oil trader before he became an MP, not a researcher

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Powell

But who would want to be a politician today? Almost unversally reviled and insulted by all. It doesn’t even pay for well as a job.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Quite agree. The Prime Minister earns ÂŁ150,000 while some Council Chief Executives earn up to ÂŁ450,000 just for providing a service. Something is wrong here.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Really Lammy &similar mPs of ALL Parties.. claim ÂŁ180,000_ on expenses &ÂŁ82,000pa
How many reading this are in Low salaried jobs or Unemployed thanks to sARS2 ?…pretty well heeled, MPs took it upon themselves to spend ÂŁ500 on laptops & not commute during Lockdowns , but claim Travel expenses!!

Last edited 3 years ago by Robin Lambert
Graeme Cant
Graeme Cant
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Powell

Rubbish! The UK is a representative democracy and the elected representatives are precisely that – REPRESENTATIVE!.
They are an accurate sample of the people who elect them. Many of us are vain, privileged and petty not to say mean-spirited, selfish, ambitious and avaricious. We are as entitled to be represented in our parliament as are the humble, charitable and wise. It is an old and outdated vision of governance to see it as being appropriately done by ‘leaders of men’ who are outstanding examples of our species. That’s called autocracy or oligarchy.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

What is it with British Politicians? Is the system so rigged that any creativity is weeded out about half way up the ladder? I read the Daily Mail for some reason and the half which devotes its self to Britain is even duller than these Bios, a total snooze. If it wasn’t for Covid and Markle that entire half of the paper could just be blank for all the interest UK generates in this most correct of all worlds. And not just the Politics are utterly tedious, it would seem the entire place is, just police doing petty stuff and someone calling someone else a racist, or the Scots talking about de-Sassenaching but will not ever get around to it.

At least the USA section always has some absolutely wild madness in it. Seattle/Portland antifa burning something, Florida man teaching his pit bull dog to drive his truck wile high on meth, IIhan Omar marrying another brother, AOC blaming global warming on cows, Pelosi Kneeling in the Senate Foyer, and tearing up stuff and being barking mad, Hunter Biden smoking crack with strippers and sleeping with his sister in law, Biden himself with his ‘You Aint Black’ and getting his leg hairs stroked, and the biggie – Trump, real action. Fertile ground for Biographers.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Be careful of what you wish for.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well as you’ve got 350m folk, you should be able to come up with something.
What starts over there seems to come over here, so I think we can blame Americans for the superficial style of our media nowadays.
Try reading The Times instead.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Oh and I forgot. USA only has 2 political parties. If that isn’t backward, I don’t know what is.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Getting your dog high on meth, whether you then attempt to teach it to drive or not, should be prosecutable as animal cruelty.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well they are currently throwing petrol bombs at each other in Belfast, so all is not lost.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Actually cows do have hand in global warming/climate change. Firstly they pump out methane and secondly forests are cut down to provide them with grazing land. Trees of course help remove carbon from the atmosphere.
All that wasted land inefficiently used for beef, when the same land could produce so much more protein rich food for humans as plants

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  nick harman

More Greenwash garbage, 43/59 Global Warming predictions have failed in last twenty years, The Earth with Carbon is actually greener than it was 50 years ago..We may be able to Feed people from sub sahara, I suggest you fly with Greta Turdberg she has a season on BBC tv now with bogus Witterings

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I actually prefer sleazy UK politicians to sleazy US ones. The UK ones have the redeeming (and comic) trait of generally being inadequate, slightly desperate losers whereas the US ones have nothing beneath them but the core of a vacuous, coiffered jerk.

John Lewis
John Lewis
3 years ago

I had the misfortune to be at the same school as Duncan. He was widely loathed even then.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  John Lewis

Yep, same at University

Michael James
Michael James
3 years ago

I wrote off Duncan back in 2009, when he reacted resentfully to the restored controls over MPs’ expenses. Yes, democracy is in trouble when people like him are so often elected.

Zed Zed
Zed Zed
3 years ago

The smug, self-righteous little man, both in stature and intellect, was, unfortunately for me, my MP until he went off in a huff at not getting his own way. I actually contemplated moving house to get rid of the sanctimonious little sh*t. Fortunately he slinked off and beat me to it, so at least he saved me some stamp duty.

Last edited 3 years ago by Zed Zed
Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
3 years ago

Horrible smarmy unlikeable little man, the sort that gets Tories their bad name with the man in the street. Knighted for what? Like Starmer, the other side of the same coin he goes round the country, as Willie Whitelaw said of Wilson, “stirring up apathy.”

David Barnett
David Barnett
3 years ago

The paradox of politics is that the qualities necessary to gain and keep power are inimical to the wise benevolent exercise of that power. That is why we usually get vacuous narcissists in the higher ranks of politicians.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Barnett
David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago

What ghastly people all of today’s polliticians are and without exceptions as far as I can see. None of them seem capable of rising as high as mediocrity as I believe Simon Heffer recently observed of members of Johnson.s cabinet.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

A few of the younger Tories seem to be decent and talented. People like Kemi Bedonoch (apologies for any misspelling) and the guy who turned up for his job at an energy plant on Christmas Day despite having been elected in December 2019.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Perhaps some hope then among the young.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

We struggle in this country because we are obsessed by history. Either we were wonderful because of what we taught the world or we were evil because of the battles we fought.
100 years ago, our politicians were mostly from an upper class. A lot of ordinary people did not have the vote. The politicians advised everyone what to do and nobody had the knowledge to argue. They made bad mistakes but nobody dared to point this out.
Ordinary people fought for the vote – even though they no longer use it. Ordinary people tried to fight for equality (whatever that means) and the Labour Party became stronger. We developed a social system of health and we encouraged people to stay out of work by paying them money to stay at home. We joined Europe and allowed our industry to be decimated so that the only high-paying jobs are now government jobs. We encourage everybody to ‘have a say’ about everything. This means that we can’t actually do anything because we have to wait 10 years for the discussions to take place (3rd runway at Heathrow).
So, the politicians are still upper-class intellectuals but they can’t easily tell us what to do. They have to hide behind fake science. They watch their opinion polls and avoid doing anything which would get ‘downticks’. They play a role, “We are of the people. We listen to the people.” In fact, the civil servants tell them what to do.
We get what we deserve. If people voted, slowly the politicians would change and actually listen. The politicians need to be trained, like dogs. Brexit was a good example. The SE of England is so much richer than the rest, that they tried to control everybody’s thinking. They lost.
In the next election, vote people out of power who you feel are not doing a good job. Vote for anybody, even the Monster Raving Loony Party, if they still exist.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

‘So, the politicians are still upper-class intellectuals..’
Most of them seem to be middle-class dimwits. I noticed over 30 years ago that even the dimmest members of the middle classes were going to ‘uni’, and we now see the results in parliament.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Indeed. France, altho’ the quality has declined in the last fifteen years. had in recent times, politicians and presidents who, rogues as they were, were also men of intellectual calibre. General de Gaulle’s memoirs had literary worth, his successor Pompidou edited a standard anthology of French poetry that I had at school and which is still widely used, Mitterand a bibliophile and Chirac a connosseur of Asian art. It is hard to imagine modern British or American politicians with such interests tho’ it was different in the nineteeth century. The”middle-class dimwits”, only boobies welcome to the club, dominate in the Anglosphere.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

‘In the next election, vote people out of power who you feel are not doing a good job. Vote for anybody, even the Monster Raving Loony Party, if they still exist.’

If only….However, voting for anything other than the 2 main parties will be a wasted vote under FPTP. We’ll still end up with Tory or Labour – more likely Tory.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
3 years ago

Everything in the comments said of Duncan, could be, and probably were, said of John Bercow. I wonder if, by chance, they are related.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Maxwell

They certainly look very similar.

Simon Baseley
Simon Baseley
3 years ago

A diarist who was rather good, James Agate, said: “The English instinctively admire any man who has no talent and is modest about it”. On this basis it seems that this was advice Alan Duncan might well have heeded.

steveoverbury
steveoverbury
3 years ago

Who’s Alan Duncan?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

So, I guess the lesson is that the diaries of past politicians carry all the intellectual heft of a discussion in a junior high school cafeteria.

Ben
Ben
3 years ago

The Cameron years resemble the lazy Tory years of the 1950’s with very little hard thought going into the long-term future of the country or indeed the purpose of those who were in office. Cameron was in every sense the political grandchild of MacMillan, Eden and Douglas Home.
Post-Covid, it is to be hoped that the Conservative party re-discovers a sense of purpose, energy and direction.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben

Note quite true.

What about the infamous Rail Modernisation Plan of 1955, or our first Motorway (9 miles of it) in 1959, and don’t forget we even managed to dump most of the rest of the Empire with very little fuss, compared with let’s say the French.
Then we pushed on rather lethargically it must be said with Nuclear Power, and kept up our NATO commitments, with 50K troops in Germany.

Finally our humiliating effort to get into Europe must also qualify as an attempt, however misguided, to plan for the “ long-term future of the country” as you so charmingly put it.

Incidentally, as you may recall it was splendid little country, full of the spirit of Enid Blyton, and there really was “honey still for tea”

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Motorways Built by Ernest Marples brother (John) Transport minister Prefigured lord beeching,an iCI chemist butchered 8,000 miles of tracks? helping cause Traffic gridlock in 1960s,1970s and exabated by Councils idiotic narrowing of roads,dangerous for pedestrians,cyclists,Motorists alike/..>?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

Do you actually remember the railways of the 50’s?

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben

The hopeful element today is that the large Boris majority from 2019 stems from the northern Red Wall, who expect results and leadership, not from the usual southern conservative apathy. That fact may be enough to galvanise Boris and his people into meaningful effort.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Why Starmer? The only person available perhaps who was not an unelectable lunatic?

I think you nailed it there, James. At the time, the talk among online leftoids was that Starmer should get the gig over the others because he was, supposedly, the one “the Tories most fear”. The alternatives were all unelectable lunatics or at best abject, completely empty suits, so while this probably true it still doesn’t make him remotely a contender or threat. The Tories “feared” Starmer more than the others like the Wimbledon champion fears the 600th-ranked player more than the 650th.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jon Redman
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

All we need is “None of the above” on the ballot paper and perhaps then we might stop voting for them. However, I suspect the handouts of money and promises of state help will keep these idiots in parliament.

Richard Brown
Richard Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

And that, with all due respect, is an anarchical statement. What you are saying is that no-one ought to be running our lives for us.Somebody needs to, otherwise nothing gets done.

E E
E E
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Brown

Pretty much “None of the above” is taken too literally? Your view that somebody [anybody?] needs to take charge pretty much explains the Johnston election win.

Chris Wilson
Chris Wilson
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

It isn’t actually needed as a category. I wrote it on one ballot paper.

cjhartnett1
cjhartnett1
3 years ago

Douglas makes his first error in the title.
Duncan is EXACTLY the kind of empty suit that politics deserves.
And , as the Brexit pony show revealed? No better than a docile, powerless and cowed electorate merited.
Douglas himself is a fine man and a good,even great writer. Christopher Caldwell wrote better of our immigration debacle ,with less credit than Murray received. But Murray did bring the message back in a rational way, for which we are grateful.
His Woke book is excellent , but has a plea for tolerance and forgiveness that shows his limits. He is honest and decent, but this is a spiritual battle, not one of style or content.
He’s on the road, but- as we’ve seen with his absence over the Covid War- unreliable in being unable to read across and see how ” intersectional” these battles are.
To chuck velcro darts at the flank of a pathetic rainbow painted picador like ” Sir” Dunc is hardly taking on the bull is it?
Time to join us on the streets Douglas. A spineless and empty year, but we could do with you. You’re intelligent and articulate, integrity too. But you need courage. Shafting a Duncan with untamed wit is one thing. Refusing to wear a mask and rejecting gene therapies that Mengele and the Yellow Star pod people are trying to compel ,us quite another.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
3 years ago

Does it make one a better politician if you’re not entitled? There doesn’t seem to be much recent evidence to suggest that.
What is today’s definition of ‘entitled’ anyhow. A Twitter creep accused me recently of being ‘entitled’ because he had divined that I’m white.

Last edited 3 years ago by Deb Grant
Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Alan Duncan, EU fanatic, Petro millionaire, Complained ÂŁ70.000+ expenses ”MPs are forced to live on Scraps” A typical Tory greasy pole merchant..Good riddance to him &others in Lib-dem,labour,SNP,Plaid,Green ranks

Mark St Giles
Mark St Giles
3 years ago

Diaries like this tell us nothing of any value except that today’s politicians are a dreary bunch of careerists who probably couldn’t make it anywhere slse

johnofbahrain
johnofbahrain
3 years ago

The ‘politicians we didn’t deserve’? What politicians do we ‘deserve’? As Douglas knows, in a democracy, you get who you vote for and, therefore, exactly what you deserve. That’s the depressing truth and question I’d like him to answer.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
3 years ago

Totally agree. I never met Duncan, but he sounds from this piece exactly like the kind of person to avoid: self-satisfied, fundamentally ignorant and uncivilised, and the worst sort of chancer. I’m afraid that Cameron’s lot are mostly of that ilk.
The fact is that Cameron only became PM because the country in 2010 didn’t want him or Gordon Brown, so boosted Clegg. The compromise ended up as a Tory Government, as I suspected it would once the Tories had thrown Clegg and the Lib Dems a few scraps, and got inside no 10.

Matt Sutcliffe
Matt Sutcliffe
3 years ago

A splendid article indeed Douglas. “Perhaps the situation would have been different had the shots come from someone who had hitherto displayed the discipline and restraint of a Trappist monk.” Brilliant! I cannot bring myself to read Alan Duncan’s diaries but I would fascinated to learn how he presented the interrelationship between his work for the oil trader Vitol and his ministerial roles. No doubt an interesting topic in the light of one D.Cameron’s current travails.

bell.mariana
bell.mariana
3 years ago

The photo is brilliant: a fatuous, frivolous, vacuous mutt-groper.

John McIntosh
John McIntosh
3 years ago

Brilliant Douglas: as always, you’ve hit the nail squarely on its head. What a pusillanimous, two-faced, odious little man he is.

Geoffrey Preston
Geoffrey Preston
3 years ago

c

Geoffrey Preston
Geoffrey Preston
3 years ago

v

E E
E E
3 years ago

Haha. Wonderful! We need more of Duncan’s conservatism…
[Of the present and recent tory crowd] “They are just as we thought: shallow, vainglorious, entitled and unremarkable.” Haha.

mac mahmood
mac mahmood
3 years ago

Clearly D Murray knows best. When it comes to the question of rights, Palestinians have none. Stands to reason!

harry.adam
harry.adam
3 years ago

Still, he is dead right about Bojo.

nick harman
nick harman
3 years ago

Wasn’t made Minister for the Middle East because he was openly gay, surely?

Kelvin Rees
Kelvin Rees
3 years ago

Club gossip.

thomasgcarver
thomasgcarver
3 years ago

Actually, I enjoyed reading Alan Duncan and Dominic Hobson’s 1995 book, Saturn’s Children.

R P
R P
3 years ago

Seems to be that Ducan has vanity in abundance. He has achieved nothing of any note in politics, to my knowledge, yet seems to think his insights would be of interest! Better add deluded and foolish as well to the vanity charge!

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago

You can do better than this. But I can see why you gave in to temptation.

Edmund McCarthy
Edmund McCarthy
3 years ago

What did snooty Douglas Murray mean when he said we knew what Cameron was like? Maybe he and other journalists did: did the great majority know? I think not. Let’s have even more candid accounts of our leaders and politicians, please. Well done to Alan Duncan and to Sasha Swire for letting us know more than Murray wants us to.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

One 2nd rate commentator criticises another – at least Alan Duncan had people vote for him at some point. I guess there were will always be someone, somewhere willing to pay for Douglas Murray’s execrable dirge. Glad it will never be me. If ever there were a way to devalue a brand.

Alastair Romanes
Alastair Romanes
3 years ago

If the diaries are as meretricious as Murray asserts, I suppose we can’t complain about a review that says how meretricious they and their author are. But at such a length? Murray perhaps is starting to pay too much attention to his followers.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alastair Romanes
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

Was your own contribution worth three sentences and an edit? I think not.