It’s hard to find a minister who hasn’t messed up

1 May 2012

7:17 AM

1 May 2012

7:17 AM

Over the weekend I had some interesting responses to my rather flippant
tweet asking if there was a government minister not under pressure at the moment. The consensus seemed to be that William Hague was still looking pretty good, with Michael Gove a close second. No
one mentioned Eric Pickles, but it was interesting to see the substantial figure of the Communities Secretary sitting at the Prime Minister’s side during his appearance in parliament
yesterday. It would probably be too chippy, even for me, to point to the class origins of the government’s best performers. But the posh boys are certainly not at peak performance at the

One by one, members of the Cabinet have walked into disasters of their own making, usually through a mixture of hubris and right-wing idealism. The one lesson the Cameroons didn’t learn from
the Blair era was management of expectation. Remember Stephen Byers selling a modest hour of maths and an hour of literacy teaching as a revolution?


The full-scale overhaul of health, schools, university funding, benefits and welfare to work would have been difficult even for a government that knew what it was doing. Now we risk entering a
world where the reforms are half-completed, public confidence has been lost and no one wants to own up to having the ideas in the first place.

I first suggested that Ed Miliband should be concentrating on the competence argument on this blog last November.
Now it is a struggle to identify a Secretary of State who is running a genuinely tight ship. At the moment government policy risks looking like one of those deserted Irish housing estates —
something that seemed such a good idea during the boom years but now acts as a very public monument to bad management.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good view.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    All gone quiet over there?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    That’s definition not efinition, which ought to be a word but is not.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    And then there’s the idea of Labour using the competence argument. Most of the half-reformed things were left that way by Blair. We have not yet forgotten what a useless crew they were. Only a tribalist idiot would put them up as any sort of example.

    But still, right-wing. Can you give us a efinition of what you think right-wing is? Try to avoid the usual lefty bollocks which amounts to ‘anything I don’t like’.

  • normanc

    Don’t be too hard on Martin.

    He knows deep down all Tories are right wing, bigoted, racist, homophobes, and probably misogynist. And even if we deny it and say the right deep down we really do think like that, just a matter of time before the mask slips, innit?

    Even if political correctness stops him saying these things out loud we all know deep down he thinks it. Oh, maybe not some he knows personally, like the racist who works with decent people not his / her colour, but generally speaking.

    See how easy it is to stereotype? Any chance of a commission Fraser, I can churn out cliched crap like my first couple of paragraphs by the bucket load.

  • rosie

    Well said Archibald. And next time you might tackle the obstructions to ministerial ambitions that arise as a result of the civil service and red tape.

  • Anne Wotana Kaye 1

    Lookung at the poor calibre of British politicians from all parties,I believe we could do worse than have a man such as Murdoch in charge. Tenacity, cunning and intelligence, all the qualities missing in contemporary ‘snout in the trough’ politicians.

  • Archibald

    I would also love examples of this right wing idealism please Martin, just when you’re ready. I would suggest to you that you wrote that without really thinking or without any evidence or examples.

    I would also suggest that, while so-called experts in the Westminster bubble pontificate on public apathy, politics in the UK continues to be driven by PR and mud-slinging and very little truth.

    Labour, as the current opposition, are the ones tasked with the most amount of abusing right now, and their arguments are not about facts, they are about public perception.

    Take Balls lying about the reasons for the current economic conditions being the government cutting too hard and fast – a line he continues with despite being exposed by Andrew Neil as reported on here by Fraser. Take the spin on the budget which independent groups saw as reasonable but Osborne’s intentions are painted as not for the UK’s benefit but the benefit of a few (lets not mention those taken out of tax). Or take Ed’s continual attempts to make mountains out of mole hills which makes me less likely to believe one word that comes out of his mouth every passing day, while the exact same words drip from all opposition spokespeople.

    The cabinet could be doing amazing things and it wouldn’t really matter – Labour (with the ample help of the BBC) are driving the news agenda, and fact has little to do with it.

    It’s good to see that rather than you take an intelligent critical view, you’ve jumped on the spin bandwagon with some truly depressing advice which seems to be ‘aim low in government, and criticize more outside it’. Jesus, is that what you go interested in politics for?

    I guess it’s just so much easier to be flippant instead of thought-provoking.

  • TimC

    So all those who are not ‘right wing idealists’ should be doing OK then? Well, that means Kenneth Clarke should be the highest flyer at the moment.

  • Johnnydub

    Seconded Rhoda…

    The manifest reason this government is failing is that it is continuing with Labour and the EU’s policies without a magic money tree…

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Please list all the right-wing idealists for me.