Thursday, 7 April 2011
A Tale Told by an Idiot
David Cameron, our Prime Minister, wanders the world with a look of bewilderment on his face, understanding nothing, changing his message to suit his audience. A mendacious Tony Blair was bad but a stupid one is so much worse. Yes, that’s what we have in this fatuous ‘heir to Blair.’ There he is, ever so 'umble like Uriah Heep, apologising and wringing his hands over past ‘errors’; apologising for the British Empire.
It’s all part of the Blairite legacy, the politics of apology, the politics of hypocrisy. Blair took it to a fine degree; yes, he was sorry over distant things, things that happened long before he was born, like the Irish Potato Famine or slavery, while sanctimoniously and self-righteously justifying his role in the death of thousands in Iraq. Cameron is shaping up, attempting to walk in those shoes, offering an apology over the partition of Kashmir, an issue over which he has not the first clue, while bombarding Libya.
The trouble with Cameron, and please forgive the crudity of the expression – a reflection of my mood – is simply this: he does not know his arse from his elbow. He understands nothing of our history, more or less telling people, telling foreigners, what he thinks will please them most, even if it means talking this country down, even if it means forgetting the very real achievements of the past.
He read PPE – Philosophy, Politics and Economics – at Oxford, a course which, as Peter Oborne wrote recently, is notorious for skimming the surface of understanding and historical knowledge. But one would think he would be better advised. This is a man who believed that Britain was a ‘junior partner’ to America in 1940, or so he told Obama, when America wasn’t even in the war. This is a man who, as I wrote recently, considers Palmerston to be one of his influences (Cameron plays Palmerston, plays Blair) clearly with no understanding at all just exactly what Palmerston represented.
Last November he visited China wearing a red poppy. Now in Britain that is a mark of respect, a token of remembrance for the dead of two world wars and all conflicts since. But in China the poppy is a symbol of something quite different – it’s a symbol of humiliation, a symbol of the Opium Wars, when the country was obliged to accept importation of a drug that was ruining the lives of so many of its citizens. It’s not the poppy of Flanders the Chinese remember; it’s the poppy of Bengal, the poppy of Palmerston. Only the most ignorant individual, ignorant of history, could fail to appreciate that. Ignorant and appallingly ill-advised by the Foreign Office, Cameron had to be asked to take it off.
The past, as L P Hartley wrote in the opening of The Go-Between, is a foreign country; they do things differently there. But we should try to understand just exactly how they are done; we should try to have the message translated. Yes, bad things happened, yes, the legacy of Empire is not spotless, evidenced by the Opium Wars, but there was so much good also, so much that is being lost by Cameron’s muddled message.
In recent debate I argued in relation to the India that the British impact was generally positive. Amongst other things this huge country was united for the first time in its history; that it acquired a consciousness of nationhood for the first time. It was the British who ended abuses like suttee and thuggism; it was the British who created an integrated transport system. Above all it was the British who in English gave the people of India their first common language, something that has enabled the country to make an impact on the world economy in the present day. Cameron does no favours in holding out the anti-imperial crutch, the very thing that the likes of Robert Mugabe leant on most heavily as he ruined Zimbabwe.
We need a grown up leader for a grown up world, a leader who will stand up for Britain, a leader who understands our past, a leader who does not wander the world like an absurd penitent, sackcloth here, ashes there, gaffs everywhere. I tried to resist the impression for so long that Cameron was playing at politics, resist the impression that he is a weak, shallow and insincere man, a man not fit for high office. I can do so no longer. He is pathetic, a risible figure, an idiot telling a tale that signifies nothing, nothing beyond his own incapacity and lack of understanding.
Posted by Anastasia F-B at 15:12
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The sad truth I have learned is that a true statesman is a great rarity, and not often recognized as such until long after their time. Mere politicians, however, are all too common.ReplyDelete
If you should ever come across someone you believe to be a real statesman, invest in him, befriend him, support him, however hopeless the cause. Such individuals have a way of showing their true worth in the worst of times.
Where is Cromwell when you need one?ReplyDelete
Calvin, we really are in the doldrums at the present, your country and mine.ReplyDelete
Anthony, yes even Cromwell would be preferable to Cameron. Cameron has all the charisma of... Calvin Coolidge!ReplyDelete
Good morning Ana,ReplyDelete
A fine post. It is entirely nugatory to follow the marxist lead by depicting all history as a tale of villains - as part of their attempt to obliterate our collective memories. Do all you can to restore the proper role of history as a subject - which is to tell the tale of the evolution of human nature ; in particular, the evolution of our consciousness.
The field of history is not the place to fight modern political battles.
I go along with Anthony. Cromwell would be a far better option. Even the original Cromwell (dead now for 350 years) would be an improvement. Shall we go and dig him up?ReplyDelete
Good morning, Jamie, and thank you. You are right: history is not the place to fight modern political battles, especially when one's understading of the subject is as weak as Cameron's.ReplyDelete
Bill, alas Cromwell's body has long gone. His head is somewhere in the grounds of Sidney Sussex College, hidden away like some ancient mummy. :-)ReplyDelete
Welcome to the darkside.ReplyDelete
I still vainly hope that somewhere, there is a masterplan, but ever I am disappointed.
RT, that's essentiaally my view; I keep waiting for things to fall into place. They don't; they just fall.ReplyDelete
Thatcher was stupidly stubborn and Blair was stubbornly stupid. Both products of Oxford University who didn't have to pay tuition fees.ReplyDelete
Cameron is the Brasenose buffoon, a typical public-school product, an educated idiot who can regurgitate facts until the cows come home while repeating the same old mistakes.
This is not restricted to Tories, as both Blair and Clegg show. If such people are the best politicians public-school-to-Oxbridge can provide us with, we need to start sourcing politicians from elsewhere.
Oh wait! Gordon Brown! Now I wonder what he is a product of?
I agree with you Ana. Unfortunately Cameron has turned out to be (yet another) plastic politician.ReplyDelete
Who would you like to see leading the country now?
Sadly I can't think of anyone from any of the parties who would be a good PM.
Apart from the mis-representation of Peter Oborne's comment on PPE (he was criticising the course and not Oxford generally as you appear to imply!), I couldn't agree more. I think a lot of Cameron's issues stem from his chequered past as a PR hack and his obsession with saying what any given audience wants to hear.ReplyDelete
He didn't apologize.ReplyDelete
"We need a grown up leader for a grown up world, a leader who will stand up for Britain"ReplyDelete
Bring back Mrs Thatcher!
I'm with Anthony. We need a new Cromwell. I see that MPs have just given themselves exemption from some of the latest tax rules they burden us with. They're getting more like despotic Europeans every day:ReplyDelete
"Why should MPs be exempt from new law to block tax avoidance?
Excellent post Ana.ReplyDelete
A "passel "of politicians outweighs a "stand" of statesmen every time.ReplyDelete
Sounds like one of our American ideological dimwits who serve (?) the people. As the great H.L. Mencken put it: "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."
Stephen, a dour Scottish Presbyterian manse…and Edinburgh University. :-)ReplyDelete
Oxbridge and the independent sector may indeed have produced some of our worst PMs but this has to be balanced against some of the best.
Glen, I honestly don't know. Perhaps we should import Sarah Palin. :-)ReplyDelete
Falaise, yes that was badly worded. I’ve made the change. Thanks.ReplyDelete
David, saying that we were responsible for so many of the world’s problems looks and sounds to me like an apology for the past. It’s certainly a wringing of hands over something he knows very little about.ReplyDelete
Michael, if only. :-)ReplyDelete
WG, I'll come and have a look at your post in a bit.ReplyDelete
Nobby, thanks. :-) I hope life continues to be good in Oman.ReplyDelete
CS, that's very good indeed. I must consign it to memory.ReplyDelete
Import Sarah Palin? Oh Ana, I wouldn't wish that particular Idaho hot potato on anyone!ReplyDelete