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Lincoln film, not to mention TB’s first 2.5 years compared with Cameron’s, reminds what a pygmological government we have

Posted on 10 January 2013 | 8:01am

I was lucky enough to go last night to a preview of Lincoln, the new film about America’s greatest President. Immediate thoughts – Daniel Day Lewis nailed on for an Oscar, great decision by Spielberg to focus on a relatively short period of his political life, climaxing with the vote to abolish slavery, pleased it showed Lincoln’s ‘dirty hands’  approach to politics, a bit uneasy about some of the private life dialogue between Mr and Mrs Lincoln,  but overall brilliant film about a brilliant man.

My son was with me and as the film ended, he had a similar thought to one I had at several moments during the film, namely ‘Cameron should avoid this unless he wants to feel deeply inferior.’

Lincoln is such a giant that it is hard to put any politician past or present up against him, but there was something depressing about the timing of this reminder of what great political leadership can achieve, coming so soon after the highlight of an ill-advised and badly executed ‘mid-term review’ by David Cameron and Nick Clegg was a reference to a Ronseal tin. Emily Maitlis from Newsnight was there, so I thank her for telling me that one of the things said on a Ronseal tin is ‘medication required after swallowing,’ aka pass the sick bag Dave.

There was something so pygmological about the whole exercise. First, backward-looking is not a good posture in politics, as we found with our equally ill advised ‘annual report,’ dropped a couple of years in. Second, in so far as Cameron and Clegg did have an eye on the future, it was vague to say the least. Third, without a clear vision and strategy (his DNA problem) there is bound to be disproportionate interest in process and presentation, as with the stuff about the the audit broken and unmaintained pledges. Pygmological with knobs on.

The other thing that came home was just how little they have achieved. They had one big goal – deficit reduction – and have failed on it. At this stage in the first Blair government, if we thinking about history, we could look back on Bank of England independence, the minimum wage, the New Deal, a referendum legislated for, fought and won to set up a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, successful presidencies of the EU, Commonwealth and G8, a war fought and won to reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and much else besides.

Some of these – plus Diana’s death of course – have been the subject of feature films already. I am not saying that is how historical success should be judged, nor am I putting the above on a par with Lincoln. What I am saying is that compared with the first two and a half years of Tony Blair’s government, Cameron has very little to look back on, which is why the tone and the demeanour on Monday were so misplaced. And in so far as he has hit the cultural space, we have had When Boris met Dave, and Posh.

Meanwhile, his catastrophic handling of Europe leads the Administration of Lincoln’s successor Barack Obama to warn of the disaster it would be if we sleepwalked our way out of the European Union. Yet it is all of a piece with a style of leadership that is all talk about the moment, never the careful plotting towards important strategic goals.

A real leader would see that the UKIP surge in the polls is not much different to the kind of support Lib Dems got mid-term until they became a part of government. Instead of challenging the nonsense they spout, Cameron panders to it. At least John Major, though he may have been ineffectual, didn’t do much damage. This guy is entirely capable of seeing Scotland leave the UK and Britain leave Europe, all while cutting the economy to shreds. I suppose the decline of Britain from strong modern power to pygmological irrelevance would be a good subject for a film. But all things considered, we should prefer it didn’t happen.

  • “pygmological”? Hate to be ignorant here, but this is a word Google hasn’t heard of either…

  • MaryMary

    Pygmological: pygmyish? pugnacious? (both?) …I like it, but – define please…!

  • Anonymous

    The media, the white cells of life at the moment aren’t they, making a sore point into a festering boil, as like some anti-christ to penicillin.

    Take Blair for instance, and how they treated Winnie pre-WWII. OK, Winnie did have problems with the miners and at Gallipoli, and there was that Norway adventure at the start of WWII? And his self-publicity during the main Boar War.

    See, no human being is perfect, but the media sell papers on it – the rabid dogs of vultures that they are.

    Sermon over.

  • Anonymous

    Language is to be invented. And I don’t mean when you catch your fingers in your car door, but can produce some bizarre phrases from all people, the Vicar even.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t the “strategy” to reduce the public sector as much as possible under the cover of “reducing the deficit?

  • Anonymous

    And oh yes Alastair, mention Elizabeth Fry to Grace, ref Twitter, incredible wimmin from history. And of course Lizzy One.

    it’s just a phase….

  • Anonymous

    I will have to turn up at your door one day Alastair, and drag you to a Chelsea v. Palace match, or even a Barnet v, Eastbourne match – same difference.

    Then take you for a pint of orangeade at the Glasshouse Stores in Soho, and then to the Roadhouse in Covent Garden to meet some fannies and penises.

    Only joking, about the door, that is. Won’t do that – see you at Fulham Broadway instead, near the ticket office.

    Swans last night, ey Alastair, ey?

  • Anonymous

    Roadhouse – what, Chinawhites??? fuck that,

  • Petepsy

    I had to look up pygmological, and then realised it was a play on pygmy. I saw Cameron on the Andrew Marr show, he didn’t come across like a leader, more of someone with a mental health issue who could only repeat the same things over and over again. It seems this government’s politics is scapegoating all the perceived “bad” people, this way they get tabloid press headlines. It’s also because they just don’t have an idea what they are doing. Lets face it, a chancellor who has a degree in modern history not to mention a degree in self-importance with a generous proportion of arrogance thrown in. Yes, pygmological is a apt word to describe them.

  • Mark Wright

    This government is pygmological in the truest sense of the word; it doesn’t really mean anything.

  • Anonymous

    More London Town, Alastair, from Glenn Gregory and Sheffield friend,

  • Anonymous

    You know Alastair, when me and my mate when we were around twenty, we were dj’s in a local working mans club, in the Pelican club, Pontyberem. And we reduced weekly fights in the crowd from one a week to none. My mate is Eirian by the way, runs the artificial ski slope in Pembrey Country Park these days – we were and are still are on the same wavelength. Give him a shout if you want to get up to speed with skiing on the cheap – just tell him Ehtch sent you. ; )

    Still get hugged by underage girls from then, Gwenda Owen especially, now a welsh famous welsh folk singer,

    CHRIST! it is getting parky, right though my bones it is pal, Alastair. From the steppes of Siberia.

  • Anonymous

    It was quite funny when meeting Gwenda again, who was a bigger star than me, and her fawning after me, as if I was a bigger star than her, because what she remembered locally about when her fifteen when young, when I suddenly re-entered her life, electrically sound system roadied for her then, at a wedding party in Gwbert – well up the scale it was in the welsh farming community, crachach today like..

    Made me laugh when I overheard a musician mate of her’s to calm down and peidwch, when he thought she was just after my fellow welsh arse, which she was, like horsefly round horseshit, but I think he didn’t know the full story, because he was from Cardigan.

    I’m a heartbreaker me – nurses in St, Davids’ asylum told me, in 1983, and so it has turned out.

  • Anonymous

    Incredibly biased, but for the Lincoln references. Lincoln was the greatest president, and a Republican.
    Clearly Cameron has achieved not much, but more than Alastair says (if Blair had carried out the Libya operation what would Alastair say?)
    Tony Blair achieved a lot less than Alastair says, and some of the things he called “achievements” were nothing of the sort. Alastair is just listing things that were “done” and mistaking that for “achievement”. No doubt if Blair had joined the Euro Alastair would be listing that here today and because we’d have no alternative to compare it with, he would credit the economic growth achieved as being down to the euro.

    The one good thing Gordon Brown did, was keep us out of the Euro. Obviously he only did that to spite Blair, but in a way its like having a congress check the president, what would Blair have done had Brown not been there to thwart him?

  • Anonymous

    Its certainly not about reducing the deficit, if you want to reduce the deficit you do not do what this lot have done, all they are doing is following the spendthrift policies of Brown but calling them austerity instead of whatever similarly deceitful name Brown called them. If you carry out the policies this lot have carried out, then you get the results this lot have got.

    They should be looking to cut the public sector but they should not be deceitful about it. Brown added 1 million people to it and what did we get to show for it? Higher public spending and more labour voters, thats all.
    I recently had to sort out some paperwork for my car, and help a friend with his agricultural subsidy form, which really brought it home to me. We either want low taxes, few public servants, and realise we have to do a lot of stuff for ourselves, as is the case in some other countries. Or if we must pay the high taxes, then we want the public sector people we hire, to do stuff for us.
    We have concocted a situation whereby we pay the taxes, we hire all the pen pushing admin bureaucrats, yet we still have to do the paperwork ourselves! Absolutely bonkers!
    I remember working for big contractors on government projects. We employed tribes of admin staff, because the government would pay us more money that way even though they had absolutely zero value. They used to regularly come round to us workers and ask us to fill in forms for them! If you are hired to do paperwork at least do the damn paperwork yourself! Now I work in a small company and the admin staff do the admin and let the rest of us get on with actual work. Bliss.