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Cameron, Clegg, Hague and Fox could do with some basic lessons in government and politics

Posted on 25 February 2011 | 9:02am

My God they are still blessed, this Tory government. Can you even begin to imagine the hue and cry, the howling, raging, screeching tone of the papers and the tellybabblers if a Labour government’s handling of the Libyan crisis had been as inept as this?

The Prime Minister wandering around the region spectacularly failing to address the main point.

The deputy Prime Minister heading off for a half-term skiing trip and then saying he had ‘forgotten’ he was meant to be in charge of the country, only to be contradicted by the PM insisting that in the era of the blackberry, he was always in charge. Oh what fun they would have had if it had been John Prescott.

The Foreign Secretary telling us Gaddafi was on a flight to Venezuela, shortly before he popped up on Libyan TV to promise all manner of retribution.

He and the Defence Secretary failing to make the obvious moves needed to grip the obvious situation developing with regard to British nationals seeking to escape.

They are not exactly getting a good press. Even our pro-coalition tummy-ticklers would be hard-pressed to give them that. But they are not getting the kind of hammering the media would have sought to give out had this been TB/JP and Robin Cook in charge.

Meanwhile I see that the Channel 4 spin machine is cranking up the publicity for Jamie’s Dream School which starts next Tuesday evening. There is a very good website putting up extended trailers for the show, including this one which gives you a flavour of my first lesson. The purpose of the course is to try to teach some basic politics to a group of youngsters who have gone through school without troubling the examiners too much.

It is lessons in basic government and politics that the Tory government needs, if the handling of their first mini-crisis is anything to go by.

  • Gerald Rowden

    Alastair, I’m sure you remember the slogan “Don’t blame me, I voted Labour” it is as appropriate now as it was then.

  • Pauldwhitey

    I quite agree, was staggered to see no comment in the Telegraph today on the govt’s handling of this crisis. It’s been embarrassing at best.

  • stevo

    Their ineptitude is staggering.But the irony-call me Dave praising the demonstrations in Egypt-but condemming the student protests here-then going on to help sell weapons to……..yes you guessed it-quell demonstrationds. As that right wing dool says “You really couldn’t make it up”

  • Olli Issakainen

    It seems as if Larry the Downing Street cat has been running the show while David Cameron has been busy selling arms to despots abroad.
    Zoe Williams got it right in the Guardian when she wrote that “I think we´re looking at people with no idea what governing entails, let loose in a system with no clue about its structures and mechanisms”.
    To put it simply, the Tory-led government is incompetent. And the worst is yet to come. Britain´s economy contracted 0.6% in fourth quarter last year. Inflation is double the target.
    There is destruction ahead unless the ideological cuts are postponed. Britain is moving in direction the majority did not vote for. Promises have been broken. Frontline services are at risk.
    It is time for the media to wake up and tell the truth about this government!

  • SG

    On the plus side, this government’s still got some way to go before they begin to match the levels of deceit and incompetence we had to put up with over the previous thirteen years.

  • Watoop

    The government seem to be moving swiftly from “narrow-minded idealogues” to “joke”.
    However it is a very dangerous joke indeed with the economy tanking, thousands joining the unemployed, millions facing cuts in their standard of living and the younger generation looking down the barrel of lifetime debt and lack of opportunity.
    I’m utterly convinced that they will not make it to 2015 (despite Hague’s smug words about when the next election will be) but how much damage can be wrought in the meantime? In 9 months, we are already in a pretty big hole and the digging continues hour by hour.

  • Jacquie R

    It’s difficult not to hope this level bungling will hasten the demise of the government but, ever the PR pragmatist, Cameron is very aware of the need to “learn” from mistakes.

    On the other hand … in earlier times, even within a shaky coalition, I would have thought his chances of serving the full term were pretty high. But the climate and the situation has changed and old certainties are no longer.

    If the Tories are writing themselves into an election, Labour had better be ready. At the moment, their popularity is merely a reflection of the unpopularity of the government. Ed needs to fill in that blank sheet of paper pretty fast. Labour needs to be pro-active and not lose another moment.

  • Tracey Nally

    Well you think you have it bad in the UK, you should try living in your near neighbours the Republic of Ireland.

    We are today voting on a new government, one that we would have hoped would inspire the electorate to getting behind the powers that be and restoring our country to a place on the world’s stage.

    In short we are looking for leadership and good government. But this appears to be lacking at every turn and especially in the calibre of the candidates that have been put before us.

    Whatever currently exists in the systems of both countries, it is not producing leaders of the calibre we need or require.

    They all appear to be carbon copies cloned from the bureaucratic school of bluff, counter speak and flimsy material.

    Is it change the basic DNA or change the system that produces them?

  • Richard

    The team of intellectual pygmies with which Moribund has surrounded himself are incapable of landing a glove on the Coalition even at this most vulnerable time. You blame the media for their anti Labour stance. Instead, you should buy the shadow cabinet members a mirror each and ask them to look into them to see what we see.
    You were right to point out that Cameron should have been able to obtain a majority with the New Labour ship foundering; by the same token if Labour can only reach parity in the polls at this time, you had better prey that all your predicted factors of hell are unleashed on us.
    If by any starnge quirk your predictions turned out to be pessimistic claptrap, the “blank sheet of paper” will be a very appropriate suicide note.

  • Chris lancashire

    If these youngsters have gone through school without learning much then what happened to “education, education, education”?

  • Chris lancashire

    The Government is getting an easy ride because it is in its first year. I remember Mr Blair getting a similar easy ride after taking £1m off Mr Ecclestone in his first year.

  • free

    I truly think Ed and Ed need help in getting me engaged with the labour party.they should have been hammering the CONDEM on their handling of this libyan mini crisis.

  • Sj_broad

    Looking forward to seeing how you teach politics in a completely unbiased way.

  • Richard

    Bravo, Al. Your extract shows that if the right impassioned person is put in front of a class, then the young people can very soon become interested and motivated. Why does our system “turn off” so many young people? The quality of teachers, who are underpaid, overworked and de-motivated. Has it struck you that over time all front line service deliverers have been lambasted:
    Social workers who for their own defence have to write everthing down in triplicate fearing the next lynch mob after a public enquiry.
    Teachers who have to write lesson plans and list achievements before and after every lesson,resulting in hours of extra work every night.
    Policemen who make an arrest and have to spend the rest of the shift form filling, as both self protection and to feed bureaucrats.
    Nurses, accused so often of “not caring”, who also have to indulge in a paper chase throughout their working day, much of which is self defence in the event of something going wrong.

    The common thread is that as a nation we do not trust professionals to get on with the job we pay them to do. We must legislate against “ambulance chasers”.

    The existence of Solicitors Offices on the concourse of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is a good example of the mad world of compensation in which we live.

  • I never thought I’d see myself write this; the current prime ministerial team ‘coping’ with this mini crisis increases any admiration I might have had for Maggie and the Falklands War! Ouch that hurt. But where is the statesmanship; the leadership; the cohesion; the teamwork?

    Spot on Alastair.

  • Tracey

    Richard this disease appears to be endemic.

    Nurses cannot ‘nurse’, teachers cannot ‘teach’ and policemen cannot ‘police’ as the status quo is that one’s proverbial must be covered at every turn.

    The system as it stands needs to be dismantled and re-constructed from the top down. And I am not advocating a dismantling of public services with it being farmed out to private companies.

    I am referring to a change of attitude and an idea of can do not an ideology it will do and the overriding ethos of that its always been done this way so why change.

  • Plaingoldband

    I am somewhat disappointed that Cameron et al didn’t utter the usual words of ‘Blame Labour’ over the last few days…

  • ambrosian

    Pity you didn’t teach Jamie Oliver some politics. In the Radio Times he says he’s passionate about the state comprehensive system but then praises Gove and says that one day he would like to open a ‘Free School’.

    I say that as a fan of Jamie but he needs to understand that we’ll never have a truly comprehensive sysytem until we get rid of both private schools like the one Gove attended and absurdities like Gove’s ‘Free Schools’.
    I’m sure the excellent “Mrs AC” would agree with that!

  • You’re still great entertainment Alastair, but I do hope you haven’t been teaching those kids your out of date punch and judy politics

  • Quinney

    Know any nice grammar schools that would take them on?

  • Tracey.

    Just had a dekko at two of the clips re Jamie’s Dream School. Alastair and Rolf.

    What they had in common was a love and a passion for the subjects being taught. Surely that goes someway to communicating with these kids.

    And isn’t that what the teachers in the education system should have for their respective subjects anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps, but who is listening right now? And isn’t it a bit negative to point out the obvious, that the government has let its own people down in times of trouble while making itself a laughing stock at the same time? Perhaps the moment to make capital out of this is not now…

    I’m glad Dave’s awfully sorry and frustrated about the Libya evacuation débâcle. This would make me feel a lot better if I were one of those trying and failing to flee Gadafi.

  • mickym ~ MickFactoryBoy

    Iv been saying for ages at work that the Media are letting the Tories off the hook Bigtime. As you say, had Labour behaved in this pathetic fashion they would have been slaughtered by every Media outlet. If this is what we can expect from this so-called Coalition the sooner we have another election the better. They break promises, have no sense of what each of them are doing, and are making us a Laughing stock around the world. No visible steps have been made to sort out the spiralling Immigration or Housing crisis. The cuts are going to do more harm than good. They are fast becoming a joke that no-one is laughing at. And dont even get me started on Fuel prices, what did they say at the last budget?, we wont be putting em up,,,

  • mickym

    Your in favour of this shambles then are you?

  • Dave Simons

    If the Minister of Defence, John Nott, had not announced plans to withdraw HMS Endurance from the South Atlantic in 1981 it’s unlikely that the Argentinians would have invaded the Falklands in the first place. They tested the water in 1978 when David Owen was Foreign Secretary and, in his own words, ‘We put a few ships on the horizon’ and that had a deterrent effect. Nott’s announcement gave the Argentinians the green light to invade. I well remember the heated debate in the House of Commons on Saturday 3rd April 1982 when Maggie and her Defence Secretary were anything but statesmanlike, coherent and strong on team leadership. Jon Silkin said, ‘The sooner they get out the better’,.Only after Maggie had plundered taxpayers’ money and ordered the task force to string out across the Atlantic did she begin to save face. And of course the war turned Maggie’s political fortunes for the next seven or eight years.

  • Nicky

    It’s been ever thus regarding the media’s allowing the Tories to get away with murder – whereas Labour would be hammered by them for much less (and sometimes falsely accused by some media fiction). Regarding newspapers, their love-in with the Tories might just have something to do with how most are owned by wealthy men who have a vested interest in tax avoidance friendly and tax cutting Tory governments. In contrast, the BBC sometimes gets accused of being ‘lefty’ when it is actually trying to be balanced and impartial rather than following the newspapers’ take on the news. If anything, the BBC (chief political correspondent Nick Robinson, former Conservative Students’ supremo) also tends to give a lot of leeway to the Coalition.

    However, regarding newspapers, they’re nowhere near as influential as they used to be. Partly that’s because their readers are more sceptical about what they read than in the past, but also because we now have the alternative media represented by the internet. It’s now much more difficult for the mainstream media to peddle disinformation and bury inconvienient facts, because the public now have access to more objective sources of information.

  • Quinney

    Dave, the announcement was to withdraw Endurance, sell Hermes to India, Invincible to Australia and to cut the rest of the surface fleet by one third.
    The clanger the Argentinians dropped was to invade when they did. A few months more than the sales would have been complete, the South Atlantic winter would have been in full flow and we would have been unable to do anything.
    We were lucky in the fact that the new FRS2 Sea Harrier was just in service armed with the new AIM Sidewinder missile which enabled us to defend the fleet just enough to stop it being bombed to submission in “bomb alley”.
    The sheer professionalism and will to win of out troops against much superior odds then won the day and the Argentinians surrendered just as we were running out of ammunition.
    As the Iron Duke said of Waterloo “It was a damn close thing” so it was of the Falklands.

  • Quinney

    I might also add that those awful commie unions at places like the naval dockyards and BAe sites at Chadderton and Kingston worked their bollocks off during that conflict.

  • Dave Simons

    This was supposed to be a reply to the post by Shirley Davis but somehow it got moved!

  • Dave Simons

    Thanks Quinney. It all underlines how fragile the Tory government was at that time. If the Falklands conflict had been lost the Tories would almost certainly have been out by 1984, if not 1983. One outstanding event during the war was the sinking of the Belgrano, which to my mind occasioned a major sea change in British culture, initiating all those ‘greed is good’ and ‘who dares wins’ attitudes that so predominated during the latter 1980s. I was on a CND demonstration in Hyde Park during the Falklands War and I remember feeling and tghinking, “We are the past”.

  • Ehtch

    Is politics, and foreign affairs with it, a game or a sport?

    Whatever it is, it seems as amateur as anything at the moment.

    Can’t believe Fox is a qualified Doctor – he must have a photographic memory, and as much clinical logic as a slug. Oh dear, dear me.

    Jonathan Meades, can you give us any light on this matter?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIYZQFcBnZ8

  • Chrissie

    I’ve never understood why you don’t stand for leadership of the Labour Party (having won a seat in the House first!). You have all the attributes of a fine leader.