top of page

Wind of change? Or a wind up ?!?

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Millions of British teenagers are whooping or weeping, sometimes both. The Education Secretary is hiding behind the bike sheds. And the Prime Minister contemplated the carnage from a safe distance. But as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, he may be in deeper water than he realises. During a discussion about how much control Whitehall should exercise on people’s everyday lives, the health department’s top civil servant in the TV series Yes Prime Minister came out with a belter of a line. ‘It would be different if the government were a team, but in fact they are a loose confederation of warring tribes.’ Those words, penned over thirty years ago, have an eerie resonance today. Particularly in relation to the punters who put Bojo in charge. Traditional Tory supporters from the shires are poles apart, to a man and blue-rinsed woman, from the so-called Red Wall voters oop north, who only lent the party their backing to get Brexit done. The A-level results razzmatazz was actually a spectacular achievement. By being extra nice to middle-class kids, then bending over backwards to help those from humbler backgrounds, it managed to get just about everyone reaching for the cane. After the computer algorithm gave the green light to the posh folk, then the government decided the others should be given a break instead, loads of uni applications went in – leaving the institutions hopelessly oversubscribed. There’s even the suggestion that that little problem, combined with a similar muddle over GCSE results, might complicate the process of reopening schools in the near future. On top of that, there are claims that Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, was actually warned months ago he was headed for a multiple pile-up. Little wonder he’s suffered the modern equivalent of being put in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit. ‘Are you a moron who couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery? Have you caused untold worry to a generation of school kids with your utter incompetence?’ Just two of the rhetorical questions posed by the normally more prurient than political Daily Star. More worryingly for the government, the less than Trotskyite Daily Mail described what happened as ‘Another Fine Mess’. But the Daily Telegraph, not for nothing nicknamed the Torygraph, ran the rune really worth reading. ‘The worst charge that can be levelled at a ruling party is one of incompetence. Voters will forgive many things, but not that. Moreover, if it becomes apparent that the country has lost faith in an administration’s ability to govern effectively, the Prime Minister’s own position is in jeopardy, whatever his majority in parliament.’ Then there’s the left-leaning Guardian’s take. ‘This summer of U-turns has exposed the Tories’ lack of direction. It has ditched the NHS contact-tracing app, agreed to extend free school meals into the summer holidays, scrapped the migrant surcharge for health and care workers, extended the bereavement scheme, agreed to remote voting in the House of Commons,’ etc … The Torygraph and the Grauniad on the same page? Be afraid, Bojo. Be very afraid. One-time Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made an oft-quoted speech in 1960, warning South Africans that apartheid’s days were numbered: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.’ Daresay it’s fairly draughty on the coast of Scotland, where, in spite of all the hoo-ha south of the border Boris opted to carry on camping. Certainly a fair bit cooler, in one sense or another, than Mustique, where he holed up last summer. One wag helpfully posted on Twitter: ‘Rare sighting of Boris Johnson in Scotland gives hope to Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts.’ At least the break will have given him – Boris, that is, not the monster – a rare first-hand glimpse of the growth of national consciousness in that neck of the woods. Maybe well worth a gander, given the latest survey conducted by the pollster Panelbase, suggesting the lead in favour of Scottish independence from UK has now risen to ten points. A record high. Worth pointing out Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is having a particularly good pandemic. Though she’s not alone there. According to a snapshot provided by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum, countries run by women have been having ‘systematically and significantly better’ Covid-19 outcomes. The difference, apparently, is real. And ‘May be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses’ adopted by female leaders. Who knows? Maybe the wind of change might start blowing over the sea to the New World as well. Kamala Harris, running mate to US Democratic hopeful Joe Biden, is more than two decades his junior. Given that he’s pushing eighty she’s widely seen as the future. And might the present become the past, come the election in November? If so, Donald Trump could find himself in an even worse predicament than simply being yesterday’s man, as his legal fight to keep his tax returns under wraps has just suffered a setback. A US district judge ruled that allowing him to defy the decades-old convention of openness would be an ‘undue expansion’ of presidential immunity. The legal fight, that began with a New York district attorney’s probe into ‘alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organisation and its officers,’ goes on. Of course everyone’s innocent till proved guilty. But it took a tax evasion rap to put that other well-known American public figure Al Capone behind bars. Just saying … At the same time Steve Bannon, the brains behind The Donald’s election strategy four years ago, has been arrested and charged with nicking money from good people campaigning to build that beautiful wall to keep Mexicans out. Of the twenty-five million dollars raised, one million got slipped into Steve’s sticky fingers. So the allegation goes. Sad to say, the two men aren’t getting on so well these days. What with Bannon questioning the president’s mental stability, and Trump suggesting their association was oh such a long time ago. Four years? Whatevs. Still, four hours can feel like a lifetime these days. One minute Brits have gone on their hols to Covid-lite countries, like Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago, the next they’ve suddenly got to shut themselves away when they get home. Not necessarily the government’s fault. But a total wind-up all the same. Head east, meanwhile, and poor President Putin has found the prominent anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny a total wind-up too. He’ll get a bit of peace and quiet for a while now, though, as doctors are fighting to save this annoying man’s life. There’s more than a whiff of suspicion that he was poisoned. Perhaps even on the orders of the Kremlin, though Mr Putin’s spokesman insists all that’s ‘Mere conjecture’. What’s more, he adds, ‘We wish him the soonest possible recovery, just like any other citizen of our country’. There. That’s all right then. There is, however, openness and opacity. Sometimes both at the same time. New loos in a couple of parks in Tokyo, that have the unprecedented quality of transparency, light up like lanterns when someone’s in them. That means no one can see inside. But the really disconcerting thing is that from the inside the glass is still clear. Meaning people feel in plain view while they’re having a pee in the pod. A little, ahem, light relief? Rather not, thank you very much. Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


bottom of page