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Why isn’t the Tory power vacuum more exciting?

27 January 2018

8:30 AM

27 January 2018

8:30 AM

As I walked across Horse Guards one day last week, everything seemed eerily quiet. No one was about, and the only object I could see was a sleek limousine parked where one is not allowed to park, facing Downing Street. As I approached, I could read its number-plate, which said ‘1 VEN’. Was this the beginning of the long-awaited Corbyn coup, backed by fraternal aid from Nicolás Maduro? I cannot yet answer my own question for certain, because although Theresa May is still referred to as the ‘Prime Minister’ and even holds ‘cabinet meetings’, no one seriously suggests that she — or they — transact the business of government. Supporters of Boris Johnson announce what he will say at these meetings (‘£100 million extra a week for the Health Service, please’). Supporters of Philip Hammond (a select group) announce that he told Boris that he (Boris) is not allowed to say that sort of thing because he is only Foreign Secretary and Mr Hammond is Chancellor of the Exchequer. This power vacuum ought to be exciting. Strangely, though, it is not. Nicholas Boles, quoting Orwell, speaks of a government of ‘boiled rabbits’. Sir Nicholas Soames, who has embarked on a brilliant second career as an upper-class Tweet, calls it ‘dulldulldull’. At least the phenomenon is not new. ‘Lost was the Nation’s sense, nor could be found,’ lamented Pope nearly 300 years ago. His ‘Dunciad’ is an entire poem about the reign of the goddess Dulness: ‘ The Vapour mild o’er each Committee crept/ Unfinished Treaties in each Office slept;/ And Chiefless Armies doz’d out the Campaign;/ And Navies yawned for Orders on the Main.’ The funny thing is that it suits the chief players for the goddess to retain her throne for the time being, at least until the date of Brexit. The even funnier thing is that they might be right to keep her in place. What’s the alternative? (In fairness to politicians, I ought to point out that the ‘Dunciad’ is actually about journalists. As such, it remains highly apposite as we in the mainstream media wrestle with the effects of technological change.)

This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, found in this week’s magazine


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