No, no, not you, Dom, my regular commenter here at D&N; I mean Dominic Cummings, the maverick SpAd who departed from government at the weekend but only after tossing a grenade into the lobby as he left! I wrote about him two posts below. He follows in the footsteps of Steve Hilton, a previous SpAd to 'Dim Dave' himself who departed for the USA last year but who managed to restrain himself from pissing on the No. 10 carpet before he left. His reasons were more or less the same as Cummings's - a total lack of grip from the centre, constant Lib-Dem interference, a recalcitrant civil service and a complete lack of resolve at the highest levels to achieve radical reform. Hilton has obviously cooled off somewhat because he has recently returned to No. 10 on a very part-time basis. I wonder if he and Cummings will meet for a quiet lunch?
Before I go further, I would add a comment or two on Cummings's historical complaints concerning the general uselessness of British governments going back to the 19th century - see my previous post. It may well be true, as Bismarck complained, that Palmerston and his ilk were less than knowledgeable concerning the then miniscule state of Prussia but the reason might have been that they had a global empire to run. Also, it is not fair to accuse the British governments of 1900 - 1914 of blundering about in an ignorant morass. Lord Grey was foreign secretary for nine years up to 1914 and he had a very clear idea of what was coming and why and what we would have to do about it. Similarly, we were blessed with Lord Fisher at the Admiralty who drove through much needed reforms in our principal defence force which allowed us to deal with the very greatest threat during the war.
Perhaps they were the exceptions that proved rule. However, today Cummings's description of the current state of our political leadership confirms exactly the general sense I have of lacklustre leadership dribbling down from men who have absolutely no clear sense of direction and who will seize any opportunity to jump on a passing bandwagon so long as it is bright and shiny and new - HS2, anyone? The problem is, as Alex Massie spells out in his essay at The Coffee House, David Cameron is a Tory not a radical. True Tories do not believe in ideology which is why so many of them hated that arch-ideologue, Margaret Thatcher. And it is why today so many conservative ideologues despise David Cameron.
Here, from Alex Massies's essay, is Cummings's depiction of what passes for our government today:
Westminster will swoon at the criticisms of Cameron (‘a sphinx without a riddle’), Ed Llewellyn (‘a classic third-rate suck-up-kick-down sycophant presiding over a shambolic court’) and Craig Oliver (‘just clueless’) but that’s just the gags, really. The substance is elsewhere. As in:
“MPs have no real knowledge of how to function other than via gimmick and briefings. That’s also how No 10 works. It’s how all of them are incentivised to operate. You get ahead by avoiding cock-ups and coming up with tactical wins, you don’t get ahead by solving very hard problems.”
As for civil servants:
“The poor buggers are caught between structural dysfunction and politicians running around who don’t really know what they’re doing all day or what the purpose of their being in power is. Everyone thinks there’s some moment, like in a James Bond movie, where you open the door and that’s where the really good people are, but there is no door.”
Any of that ring a bell with you? To me, it sounds louder and clearer than a peal of bells from my church next door!