We Are Stuck With A Useless Government In A World At Risk

The two most senior politicians in the land, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, are both grievously ill-equipped to do the jobs we pay them to do. Not comedians, not fascists, just rubbish, writes journalist Robin Lustig
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Imagine a world in which no one can remember who Gavin Williamson was, all cars are electric, and gas-fired central heating is but a distant memory.

A fifth of our farmland is being used for growing trees or crops for the production of biofuels, and out in the North Sea, we’re not pumping up oil but pumping down CO2.

Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Thursday was one of those days when the sheer inadequacy of our politics was on display in all its tawdry splendour.

Westminster was agog with chatter about who leaked what to whom, whose skeletons will be next to come tumbling out of a cupboard, and whether a former chief whip and defence secretary of whom few people had heard was about to turn the drama series House of Cards into reality TV. And whatever else you do, don’t forget Cronus the tarantula. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky.)

Meanwhile, in another part of Crazytown, the grown-ups were discussing a report by the government’s committee on climate change, described by the business and energy secretary Greg Clark as a “seminal work [whose] impact will be felt for decades to come… one of the most important publications not just that we’ve had on climate in this country but around the world.”

In other words, nothing of importance. The future of the planet, or the future of Gavin Williamson? You choose… My point is to highlight the yawning gap that separates the capacity of our leading politicians from the scale of the task that faces them.

It is often said, for example, that a government has no more important duty than to protect its citizens from harm. You might have thought, therefore, that the job of secretary of state for defence should be held by someone with some experience of high office and a modicum of brain power. In other words, not someone like Gavin Williamson, whose considered response to the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury last year was to tell Russia to “go away and shut up”.

You might also have thought that the job of foreign secretary, at a time when the UK was facing its most complex and sensitive foreign policy challenge of recent times – how to extricate itself from an international organisation of which it had been a member for more than forty years – should go to someone with at least a minimum degree of diplomatic skill. In other words, not someone like Boris Johnson.

It would be funny if it weren’t so serious. (And don’t even get me started on Chris Grayling, whose continued presence in government provides incontrovertible proof of the accuracy of the so-called Peter Principle: that in any organisation, an individual will be promoted until they reach their level of incompetence.)

Why is it serious? Because useless government breeds contempt for government – and contempt can too easily translate into votes for someone like Nigel Farage. (The overnight results from Thursday’s local elections suggest that both the Tories and Labour have been hammered – and that’s even without Mr Farage putting up any candidates.)

Barring some political miracle which would see Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn hugging each other deliriously in an orgy of Brexit-induced passion, cheered to the rafters by their adoring backbenchers, we shall soon be asked to vote in the European parliament elections for MEPs who may well be out of jobs again before they’ve even had time to book their next trip to Brussels.

The likelihood is that Mr Farage and his unlovely bunch of acolytes – not to be confused with Ukip 2.0, which regards the Farageist Brexit Party as little better than apostates – could emerge with the most votes. It would be an appalling indictment of a broken politics, in which too many voters have seen the government for what it is – a dysfunctional, incompetent administration that has proved beyond doubt that it is not fit to govern – and drawn the logical conclusion: kick them where it hurts and let good old pint-swilling, straight-talking Nige have a go.

That’s what the Italians thought when they first discovered Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Bunga Bunga, in the 1990s. It didn’t turn out too well, alas, so now they’ve decided instead to try Matteo Salvini of the proto-fascist League party. (He’s the charmer who said yesterday that he wants lots of votes for ‘nationalist’ parties because ‘to leave behind an Islamic caliphate with sharia law in our cities is not something I want to do and I’m going to do everything in my power to avert this sad ending for Europe.’)

The Ukrainians, on the other hand, have gone for a TV comedian who made his name pretending to be a president, so is clearly qualified to be president. But given that the UK is a country whose Cabinet has included Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling and Gavin Williamson, I would suggest that we really are in no position to mock. Why be satisfied with just one comedian when you could have three for the same price?

It’s not as if we don’t have several competent politicians: there are plenty of them, both in parliament and elsewhere. Some have been striving mightily to extricate us from the Brexit quagmire. The inescapable tragedy, however, is that the two most senior politicians in the land, the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, are both grievously ill-equipped to do the jobs we pay them to do. Not comedians, not Fascists, just rubbish.

The risk the country faces is that their all-too-evident shortcomings will encourage too many voters to turn in desperation to the clowns, conmen and charlatans. So if the European elections do go ahead in three weeks’ time, our duty is clear: to resist the temptation to sit on our hands and refuse to vote for any of them, and to cast our votes instead in a way that will show Westminster and the world beyond that the UK has not yet entirely succumbed to insanity.

Given what I have said above, you may have little difficulty guessing how I intend to vote, but I will spell it out in more detail nearer the time. For now, I’ll just say that I’m looking for a party whose slogan could be boiled down to something along the lines of ‘For a fairer Britain, in a better Europe, in a greener world.’

Meanwhile, if you still haven’t registered to vote, you have until next Tuesday to do so. You can do it online by clicking here.