Saturday 14 October 2017

Tory Trainwreck: A Modest Insight

Much as I try to banish negative thoughts at the weekend, it is pretty hard not to catch oneself musing on the unedifying spectacle of senior Tories participating in the slow-motion trainwreck that is Theresa May's decline and fall.  What good do they imagine will come of their bitching and backstabbing?  Is it not weakening the Brexit negotiations?  Are they not conscious of the prospect of handing over the whole shop to the marxists-in-waiting?  Can they not imagine what irreversible damage could be wreaked by McDonnell in just a year?  Who would wish to go down in history as being instrumental in that?

Then something came back to me: perhaps obvious, but (IMHO) enlightening in its stark simplicity.  Years ago I came across a quotation - that inevitably I now can't find** - from a senior politician of the 19th(?) Century which ran roughly as follow:  to be Prime Minister of Great Britain for even a single day!  Did ever a Roman emperor of old wield even one tenth of the power? 

That captures a particular world-view rather neatly, and it occurs to me that the problem resolves to this: there are enough shameless politicos for whom it is their one and only guiding light, so that they will risk any amount of collateral damage to achieve it.  So what if it lasts only a month?  That it ends in utter catastrophe?  That their name will be dirt forever?  They will have had their 'single day'; and that reviled name will at least forever be on the roll of Prime Ministers of Great Britain.

It's even better (or worse) than that.  There is so much time before the putative 2022 GE, they might get hundreds of days!  And in such a long time, Something May Turn Up!  It's a no-brainer - what's not to like?!

The will to power (© F.Nietzsche 1883) is so powerful that for people like this, no further details are required.  As Robert Redford's newly-elected President asks in the closing sequence of The Candidate:
"What do we do now?"  Then the media throng arrives to drag them out, and he never receives an answer.

 ** a small prize for anyone who can turn it up

UPDATE:  reader Carl Edman has turned up the quotation
  - it was Melbourne,  see comments below.  Good man! - he can come again.


Fulby said...

Re the Tories, I think each side sees themselves as the reasonable ones, and assume that surely the other side will back down instead of causing calamity. I'm sure they think they're being 'resolute' and 'determined' while playing chicken with Britain's future.

Electro-Kevin said...

Two things

- Most Tory politicians are actually liberals

- Most Tory politicians are Eurofederalists

Yes. They'd sooner hand over to Corbyn because he is more in their image than the Redwoodians are.

Anonymous said...

So, ND, do you think this is why May signed up despite knowing she wouldn't be very good at it?

Raedwald said...

...Yet there is something about the office that enobles even the meanest and basest of persons, if just a soupcon. Even Blair, now the most loathed and reviled of creatures, was inspired to contain the public hysteria at the death of Diana, for the good of the realm. Though everything else he touched turned to shit.

All political careers end in failure, and nearly all PMs exit in ignominy, but for a brief moment, even just for a day, each of those monochrome faces that line the grand staircase, however crooked, misguided, meretricious or malevolent, once did something worthwhile. It's the nature of the office.

Electro-Kevin said...

"Even Blair, now the most loathed and reviled of creatures, was inspired to contain the public hysteria at the death of Diana, for the good of the realm."

Actually he didn't contain public hsyteria - and certainly not for the good of the realm. He used the upheavel to stage a coup.

He anointed the deceased "The People's Princess", appropriated the powers of the Monarchy and thus confirmed this country as a republic. On went his wrecking of our institutions like a cowboy builder in a cathedral.

It took a brave man to question the vicarious grief at the time.

I never voted for Blair.

I never trusted Blair.

I hated the sight of the man having worked him out to be a charlatan from the first few speeches of his Labour party leadership.

Jan said...

The irony is it's actually quite difficult to achieve anything radical unless you can first change "hearts and minds" of the Civil Servicce otherwise you will be thwarted at every juncture. That was what Blair managed so well and look how hard it's been to change anything much and why politicians now seem only to fiddle round the edges. Look at how hard it's been to introduce UC. Blair managed to capture the media and the House of Lords as well as the Civil Service and we are still paying the price.

So the top job will likely go to someone like Trump who just wants the glory as a figurehead. Luckily that didn't happen here. TM is well-meaning as far as I can tell and not in it for the money or glory......just not very effective.

Dick the Prick said...

Justine Greening, Grant Shapps, George Osborne, Nicky Morgan, Amber Rudd and Sajid Javid have all openly said they want to be PM. I wouldn't particularly want any of them as my boss. Maybe the selection process is to blame, maybe the Tories have always been New Labour but because Labour was Labour, we never realised it.

I've started taking Morrissey's recent advice and have stopped watching the news so much.

Have a good weekend folks. Off to the Lincolnshire Wolds to visit chums. It's the middle of blinking nowhere!!

dex said...

Did you perhaps misremember the quote? I found this quote regarding being the governor general of India, found in this article about the East India Company, near the end.

"So it was, for example, that Lord Cornwallis, the man who oversaw the loss of the American colonies to Washington, was recruited by the EIC to oversee its Indian territories. As one observer wrote: “Of all human conditions, perhaps the most brilliant and at the same time the most anomalous, is that of the Governor General of British India. A private English gentleman, and the servant of a joint-stock company, during the brief period of his government he is the deputed sovereign of the greatest empire in the world; the ruler of a hundred million men; while dependant kings and princes bow down to him with a deferential awe and submission. There is nothing in history analogous to this position …”"

Nick Drew said...

dex, that's a very similar sentiment but no, the one I saw was definitely w.r.t. being PM

thanks - we always like good historical stuff around here - but keep searching!

anon @ 10:25 - amateur psycho-analysis is always great fun, on C@W we're as guilty as any, and used to spend hours on G.Brown several moons ago

as regards May, I think we can all see what she's very good at (would be ideal for that semi-political President job they have in Ireland, cf Mary Robinson; or headmistress of a big, well-established girls school that was actually run by the no.2)

my reading of her is that she always been a Very Good Girl (and very presentable) all her life, and has learned that Very Good Girls get big treats; and has come to the conclusion that she's such a Very Good Girl (e.g., never complained all those years when G.Osborne was dissing her & slashing her Home Offce budget), she's entitled to any treat she wants

trouble was when that absolute git Timothy whispered in her ear and said, you can also go down in history as the PM who did some Real Good, I have this portfolio of cool ideas, you just say & do what I tell you ... oh, and you can revenge yourself on Osborne too ...

Carl Edman said...

I believe the quote you are looking for is an anecdote from the memoirs of Charles Greville and quoted, e.g. at . When William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, was asked to assume the office of PM in 1834, he told his secretary Tom Young that:

"‘he thought it a damned bore, and he was in many minds what he should do - be minister or no’. Young said, ‘Why, damn it, such a position was never occupied by any Greek or Roman, and, if it lasts two months, it is well worth while to have been prime minister of England’. ‘By God that’s true’, said Melbourne; ‘I’ll go’."

Where can I pick up my "small prize"?

James Higham said...

It's beyond us, it will all now unfold.

dustybloke said...

In 1940 we were unbelievably lucky. At a time of great peril, two men stood centre stage. Two men who valued freedom of the individual as the greatest treasure of civilisation. Two men who despised and were revolted by Hitler and his Nazi creed.
Churchill in this country was elected to lead the country by fellow politicians too weak to carry out their self imposed mission of appeasement and too frightened to take a stand.
Franklin D Roosevelt was a steadfast friend to this country in its time of need. The USA was lucky that this was so. Had FDR not entered the war - had Japan not been unbelievably foolhardy - then Hitler would have had The Bomb and ICBMs in 1947 and would have waged nuclear war on the USA.
Now that incredibly lucky break will be reversed by a couple of desperately unlucky ones.
Theresa May's weakness allowed the appalling Timothy and Hill to gain complete control over her. The terrible trio wrecked the Tory party and have let Corbyn and McDonnell in. They can see their liflong dream becoming reality and will leave no stone unturned to achieve it.
They will transform this country at a time when, post Brexit, it will be at its most vulnerable. Outside the EU we will need to trade internationally and be home to big international companies. The CoMac duo despise business, despise businessmen and despise profit. They will tax every action of the common man and wreck the economy in a matter of months.
Once the business infrastructure is broken, it will be broken for ever.
I'm off to get the gin out of the fridge and sod the tonic...

Steven_L said...

sod the tonic...

Quite right, it's Saturday night, just shake it on ice, perhaps add a little dash of orange liqueur and a nice of lemon to the shaker. I also think it's worth noting that both Churchill and FDR were smokers, whereas Hitler despised tobacco.

Electro-Kevin said...

My war veteran grandparents never ever referred to their foes as 'Nazis'.

Bill Quango MP said...

My war veteran grandparents only ever referred to them as Nazis.
But with an R.

Our former friend Robert Peston is predicting the end for May is coming.
He is t sure. But all he has picked up suggests the leavers have had enough of half leave.
They want a proper plan. With money to carry it out. They want OUR red lines made clear. And they want a timetable that we will work too.
Which can only be altered if the EU are more generous than we suspect they will be.

In short, they want us to stop being pushed around.
To stop accepting Theresa's weakness has to be the UK's. It doesn't.

We don't have a good hand to play, for sure. But we aren't Greece. We do not have to beg.

Electro-Kevin said...

My grandparents went to war with 'The Germans' and 'The Japanese'. They warned me to never trust them.

However I do. I visited Germany many times (where I felt at home with their time keeping and neatness) and I studied and revered Japanese culture through martial arts.

They never used the word Nazi and I don't recall it in any black and white war movie either. The first I heard it used in abundance was Inglorious Bastards (the Tarantino remake - otherwise excellent though it is.) If you have a movie pre 1980 which does not refer to "ze Germanz" (much parodied in Guy Richie's Lock Stock) then do show me.

The EU museum deftly overlooks British achievements as it does German atrocities. A historical rewriting. To seek moral and cultural equivallence.

How can it be that the same people who rejoice in German reunification see British unification as an evil and wish to break it apart ?

It only works in the Eurofederalist (anything so long as it's not English) mindset.

Electro-Kevin said...

Of the leavers wanting a plan - we're fed up with Remainers handing it on a plate to the EU.

When they took part in the referendum their 'X' did not just register their preference - it was their pledge to honour the result whichever way it went.

Nick Drew said...

Hey, Carl Edman - many thanks, that's the one!

If you'd care to join us at our next C@W Xmas drinks, I shall buy you a beer or two

however, if (to judge from your profile) that's geographically a little unlikely, please accept the traditional free lifetime subscription to C@W

(we like the sound of "A Simple Swedish-Australian-German-American Physicist-Economist-Lawyer", all the more so as you've just contributed splendidly to History Corner for us)

Carl Edman said...

Nick Drew, excellent! Should my travels bring me to London around Christmas time, I'd love to take you up on that free beer. We could talk about our shared interest in Energy & Climate (I mostly keep spirit and flesh together by helping the design of electrical and natural gas markets over here in the US). In the meantime, I'll take the free subscription!

By the way, Lord Melbourne always was much on my mind for at least two reasons: (1) I was born in a city named for him (no, not in Florida) and (2) he delivered one of the all-time great put-downs on his cabinet colleague (and my hero) Macaulay: "I wish I was as sure of anything as Tom is of everything."

DJK said...

John Miller says: " Had FDR not entered the war - had Japan not been unbelievably foolhardy - then Hitler would have had The Bomb and ICBMs in 1947"

It was the US that ultimately defeated Japan, but it was the Soviet Union that was most responsible for defeating Germany. Hitler would not have had The Bomb in 1947 because the Red Army would have been in Berlin in 1945 with or without the contribution from the Western powers.

Nick Drew said...

the Red Army would have been in Berlin in 1945 with or without

could easily disagree, DJK: the Reds relied heavily on US trucks & no end of other stuff to back up their T-34s. Can fairly argue they'd have got there in the end: but the Western Front meant something tangible to them - recall how long & loudly Stalin (and his UK sychophants) demanded a Second Front be opened

the Germans expended quite a lot of resources defending Italy & France, even by Eastern Front standards

also, recall that Op Barbarossa was fatefully delayed because the Germans felt the need to sort out the feeble Italian efforts in the Balkans: if it had gone ahead earlier and at even greater strength ...

Anonymous said...

Re delays to Barbarossa the British defence of Crete was also somewhat crucial. The Luftwaffe transport fleet (JU 52's) suffered heavy losses which could not be made up. Blitzkrieg involved the use of transport planes to ferry gasoline and supplies to the advancing columns. Lack of transports probably created logistic delays and other problems.
Let's not forget Atlantic convoys etc and U.S. supplies through Iran secured by British presence.
Bletchley Park info was passed to the Russians to enable them to plan and prepare in detail for Kursk, which following Stalingrad, finished the German offensive capability in the East.

Bill Quango MP said...

Aircraft losses WW2 tell the tale too.
This 1943 day fighters only.

Luftwaffe losses
West - 5133
East - 1736

4/5 of day fighters are deployed in the west.
60% of the Luftwaffe is on the eastern front, including most bombers and transports.

In the east Luftwaffe day fighters are averaging 12% losses in 1943.

The west to east loss ratio is one German fighter lost in the east for every 6.5 lost in the west.
And that is lost to all reasons. Luftwaffe losses to spares. Accidents. Bad weather, etc, were 3 times higher in the east.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anyway. Back to the train wreck. Looking at the picture I'd say it's not the driver's fault. Quite likely a landslip in front of him, slow speed... painful to witness, the assessors coming to 'clean up' afterwards.

Carl Edman said...

Electro-Kevin, noted. I'll try to keep up the side. I've done my share on some issues in the past, though that may have been under a nom de cyber (can't find them right now).

Electro-Kevin said...

Good to hear it, Carl.

Anonymous said...

Re Barbarossa - the Serbian revolution against its pro-Axis government. Armoured divisions were being moved from the Balkans to Poland at the time, and these movements were reversed as news of the coup broke. "It is reasonable to believe that Moscow was saved thereby" said Churchill.

There's no comparison between being the Prime Minister in Victorian/Edwardian times and being PM now. What power apart from nuclear missiles does May control? Go to Portsmouth and see what's left of the Navy. All our infrastructure and much of our manufacturing is sold off overseas. Huge chunks of our major cities aren't British.

We're like a giant bankruptcy sale, where strangers pick over what's on offer.

Nick Drew said...

There's no comparison between being the Prime Minister in Victorian /Edwardian times and being PM now. What power apart from nuclear missiles does May control? Go to Portsmouth and see what's left of the Navy

Largely agreed - (and some would dispute we have control over our own nukes ...) but the point is, many of today's politico-bastards still see the job at The Top Of The Greasy Pole in the same light as ever

(and they fall so far short of the job-spec: although as someone said when Kinnock bewailed his legacy as leader of Lab - if the legacy had been any better, it wouldn't have been you that inherited)

All our infrastructure and much of our manufacturing is sold off overseas - whether that's a problem is much debated around here from time to time

Huge chunks of our major cities aren't British - that can be understood in more ways than one, but there's plenty who'll agree with you in all dimensions

We're like a giant bankruptcy sale, where strangers pick over what's on offer - vivid simile, anon! Doesn't do anything for my humour

andrew said...


..giant bankruptcy sale, where strangers pick over what's on offer..

i think that has been a fairly widespread view since the end of WW1 - and possibly before.

The underlying sentiment - that a british employer / owner would treat a british employee / citizen better than a foreign owner would is something where there is no clear steer.

Ask an ex-employee of Cadbury at keynsham and you will get a clear and deserved distrust of foreign ownership.

Ask those who worked for BL in the 70's whether they would rather have had a job under foreign ownership or no job (now) and you may get a different answer.

From experience in my time in an $outsourcing_company, there is no difference now, they all sing from the same spreadsheet.