A former SpAd to Michael Gove in the Department of Education gave some scathing remarks to the Sunday Times, later picked up by the Daily Telegraph, about Nick Clegg yesterday. “He won’t do the hard work to get policy right – all he cares about is his image. He is a revolting character. And I say that after spending 15 years in Westminster.” Now Mr Cummings is entitled to his opinion about the leader of the Liberal Democrats and also entitled to pass those opinions onto any publication he wishes. The line, however, that interests me is the following: “We thwarted Clegg as much as we could.” This is a whole different kettle of proverbial fish.
Mr Cummings appears to be saying throughout his remarks to the Times that Clegg was duplicitous and conniving during the period in which Mr Cummings worked for Michael Gove. “He is self-obsessed, sanctimonious and so dishonest he finds the words truth and lies have ceased to have any objective meaning,” is a choice quote. So what cheek does it require to claim that your coalition partners were acting in bad faith and then turn around and say, word for word: “We thwarted Clegg as much as we could”?
What really amazes me is that a former Tory SpAd could say this in public without even noticing the paradox. It’s like someone saying out loud, “He always cheated at cards. He was a low down, thieving scoundrel. The only person who cheated more at cards was me.” The hypocrisy of it all is astounding.
The interesting question that arises from all of this is just how ubiquitous is Mr Cummings viewpoint of coalition and how it operates within the ranks of the Tories? Because if even a notable minority of Conservatives who work in government think and then correspondingly operate in the same way, it is remarkable that the government has ever been able to get anything done at all. What’s worse is, it’s not even as if the Lib Dems have put forward a train of hardened socialists for the likes of Michael Gove and his minions to cope with. They have mostly had people like David Laws to contend with, a person who is in favour of Free Schools. So surely working with the situation put in front of you and engaging with the people who are not unsympathetic to a lot of your ideas is a lot better than “thwarting” everything as much as possible?
A socialist tweeter tells me on a regular basis, “Never Trust a Tory”. I usual bat him away with something about how we all need to be more grown up about politics. After reading Mr Cummings words this weekend, perhaps my socialist friend has a point.
David Smith says
Realistically, the only one of the smaller parties Labour or Conservatives can work with is the Lib Dems. The sooner they realise it, and the fact that their declining popularity won’t deliver a majority even under FPTP, the better.
Whilst I’m not at all sure Clegg actually is “revolting character”, the phrase: “He won’t do the hard work to get policy right – all he cares about is his image” will sadly ring true with at least some LibDem supporters/members.
So what cheek does it require to claim that your coalition partners were acting in bad faith and then turn around and say, word for word: “We thwarted Clegg as much as we could”?
Surely that would only be hypocritical if the methods they used to thwart Clegg involved the same things he alleges Clegg was doing.
Politics is about thwarting other parties while trying to get your party’s policies enacted: that’s the whole point of it. To use your card games analogy, ‘thwarting’ is not cheating: it is the very point of the game.
But this only proves my point: if politics is about thwarting the enemy, as you put it, why single out Clegg for special opprobrium?
Also, my over riding point was that the two parties are meant to be running the country together, which should override petty things such as personal dislike. It’s not as simple as the opposition calling out the government for tactical advantage; this shows, as I said, the Tories never really got the idea of coalition government.