I don’t know if David Cameron was trying to tell us something about Michael Gove’s prospects as chief whip by comparing him to the Hand of the King in Game of Thrones. Things don’t really turn out very well for the hands, generally; Jon Arryn was poisoned, Ned Stark was beheaded, Tyrion ended up in prison and Tywin, well, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for people still catching up.
Neither can we know if the prime minister is really a fan of the show or referencing it was simply another focus group-led thing, like moving Michael Gove out of education and bringing in lots of women. Most heavyweight commentators have been scathing about the reshuffle, among them Max Hastings, Peter Oborne and our own Charles Moore, spiritual leader of Britain’s 15m conservatives, who has called it the worst in 25 years.
I don’t have a fixed opinion of Gove; he seemed to be making the necessary reforms but some very sane and even fairly conservative teachers I know couldn’t stand him. But the message this sends, that if the Conservatives’ natural enemies make enough of a fuss they will get their way, is an awful one.
It also proves the point that the Tories are always unsuccessful when they try to court the Twitterati, the urban, liberal, Nice Left who take the Bridget Jones view of Conservatives. Gay marriage, for example, which won the party precisely four converts and lost them about 800,000, made no sense politically; likewise trying to win over gender feminists who think there need to be more women at the top. This is only something that excites and angers people who will never vote Tory.
So as soon as loads of women were appointed, most attention focused on the fact that Nicky Morgan, the new equalities minister, voted against gay marriage. The monster! (Why do we have an equalities minister? Did we lose the Cold War or something?)
I suppose it could be clever politics from Cameron if it ends up winning him the election, but it makes him look weak; he’s certainly not the sort of man you want ruling the Seven Kingdoms. Cameron conservatism has far more in common with Borgen, the brilliant but drippingly wet centre-Left Danish drama in which a succession of good-thinking Scandis compromise around safe, secular, uncontroversial social democrat politics. Cameron wouldn’t be Birgitte, obviously, she’s too cool; more like Lars Hesselboe, the self-satisfied Liberal Party leader.
I suspect that come next May 7, which should coincide with Series 5 of Thrones, the big winner from this week’s events will be Renly Miliband.
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