Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Three disasters in a day but still May walks on water

What a terrible day that was for the Government. The Foreign Secretary announced that the UK would join an attack on Syria if asked to by Donald Trump, without consulting Parliament - and then the Prime Minister refused to support him.
A judge ridiculed the attempt to avoid implementing anti-pollution laws by citing purdah before an election. And Angela Merkel could not have been blunter when spelling out the problems that will be faced by the UK's Brexit negotiators, even going as far as saying "some in Britain still have illusions" - and we know who they are.
This would be bad for any government at any time but coming at the start of a general election campaign it should be devastating. That it isn't is due to the weakness of the opposition, the fantasy picture of Theresa May many voters have and the failure of the media to properly bring together the stories which show the utter incompetence of today's Tories.
A YouGov poll in The Times yesterday showed that more people now think it is wrong to leave the EU than to stay - though this, you will recall, is supposed to be the nation which is now united behind Brexit according to the Prime Minister. No wonder the same poll also reveals a significant drop in support for the Conservatives, though they are still way ahead of Labour.
Voters are under no illusion about Jeremy Corbyn but they are about Theresa May. They have little confidence in Labour's shadow cabinet - if they know who any of them are - but still have faith in the Government, despite the buffoon Johnson and the other idiotic and incompetent Brexit fantasists.
Being in power is hard and complicated work, as even Trump now admits (as if the realisation has come as a surprise to him).  The least we can expect is that those who seek to rule us should apply themselves with intelligence and diligence.
People don't trust Corbyn and his motley crew to do that and understandably so. But the fact that so many continue to believe in Theresa May and her gang, despite so much evidence to the contrary, is very frightening.

Footnote: The report finding that the £1.2 billion spent on the special cancer fund was a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money is another triumph for David Cameron, who introduced it, and the Daily Mail, which demanded it.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Who is the real mugwump?

When Michael Foot was leader of the Labour Party, Private Eye used to call him Worzel Gummidge after the scruffy scarecrow on children's television. But none of the Thatcher Cabinet would have dreamt of calling him that.
In today's dysfunctional political landscape, the Foreign Secretary thinks nothing of calling the leader of the opposition "a mutton-headed old mugwump". John Healey, Labour's housing spokesman and one of the current party's few class acts, dealt well with this pathetic and shabby smear on the Today programme, dismissing it as the sort of thing Eton boys said.
This isn't enough to explain why Boris Johnson should think he could say it and get away with it, though. The Tory Party has always had more than its share of Eton and other public-school boys but what they brought to political life was dignity.
Their upbringing had been privileged, they may have behaved at school and university like the upper-class louts seen in the recent TV series Decline and Fall, but maturity and a sense of responsibility took over when they went into public life.
So what has happened to this country? Is a side effect of the death of deference - which is a good thing - the acceptance of nastiness and abuse? We don't just see it on social media but in parts of the media and now in politics.
Eton and other leading public schools didn't just provide the nation's rulers but much of the rest of the establishments. Now a "good" education is no barrier to some of those who go into politics behaving as crudely and mindlessly as the worst segments of the soccer terraces. Including to the rest of the establishment, such as judges.
Far from the vile ones being isolated and rejected, they are elevated to media sainthood - witness how hard it is to turn on the TV or radio without having Nigel Farage forced on you.
It isn't only in the UK, of course. Donald Trump didn't go to Eton (or any school, you might think) but he is as crude as they come, demeaning the long line of dignified US presidents. Even George W. Bush tried to look distinguished.
Where this takes politics in the future is impossible to forecast and too worrying to contemplate. What starts as a nasty smear or a rejection of treasured national structures and organisations is going to end badly. And remember, it was the sainted Theresa May who appointed Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Truth and lies

How was your weekend? Pretty bad for most of us, I suspect. The presumed eventual victory of Emmanuel Macron is a bright point but that shouldn't obscure the success of a neo-fascist candidate in running second, which means she still has a chance of becoming France's president, with all the horrific consequences that would bring.
As for the state of the so-called general election... Was there ever a more fatuous and irrelevant "policy" than Labour promising four new bank holidays to mark the saint days of the four UK nations?
However, as I don't want this blog to be an unremitting whinge, let me tell you about what cheered my weekend. I listened to the 1990 broadcast of Pravda, the play by David Hare and Howard Brenton, which is currently on iPlayer. It is a wonderfully funny but frightening tale of the takeover of a great British newspaper by a boorish, menacing South African, played magnificently by Anthony Hopkins on radio as he was when I saw the play on stage in the mid-1980s.
His character is clearly based on Rupert Murdoch, who had bought The Sun in 1969 and begun the process of dragging journalism downhill. Although Hopkins on-stage gave a performance which chillingly mirrored the voice and looming physical presence of Robert Maxwell, for whom `I then worked.
I don't suppose any of us at the time when Pravda was first performed (scooping up the Play of the Year award) would have thought what the next 30 years of `Murdoch's domination of the `British press would mean or bring. We are now about to suffer the ultimate effect - the withdrawal of this country from the European Union with the consequent catastrophic impact on our economy.
When Murdoch was giving evidence to the `Leveson inquiry he denied that he interfered in the editorial policy of his newspapers - a laughable claim (Pravda accurately portrays the behaviour of Murdoch, particularly in his early years in the UK).
There were two exceptions to his non-interference, though, he told Leveson. One was the decision on which party The Sun would support at general elections. The other was Europe.
So much of Fleet Street has been virulently anti-EU in recent years that it has been forgotten that for a long time it was The Sun which carried the banner to get us out, remorselessly and unremittingly, even when membership of the European Union was widely accepted and opposition the preserve of a lunatic fringe.
David Hare and Howard Brenton created a great piece of theatre more than 30 years ago graphically showing how Murdoch operated. Yet even they could not have foreseen what the consequences would be of leaving his power unchecked.

Footnote: If you want to know how phone hacking was encouraged and able to flourish at Murdoch titles, listen to Pravda.  It is available on iPlayer for another 22 days.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Welcome back. After a long break it is time for this blog to return. So much has happened since it took early retirement that the alternatives for it were either to doze forever in a bungalow on the south coast or to rise up and take arms against the sea of troubles which beset this country and the world.
Writing a blog may not be much in the great scheme of things but this is no time to stay silent. The seismic events of the last few years will be recorded in history by bemused academics who won't be able to understand how such absurdities could have been inflicted on themselves by the most educated, knowledgeable generations the planet has seen. Cave men would have had more sense.
Now the British people are embarking on a general election which will inevitably lead to a government which will dismantle many of the gains of the past 70 years.
In the coming days and weeks, Follow My Leaders will have an abundance of riches to comment on. For today, let us start with something which goes to the core of why so much is going wrong. The quality of politicians, not just in this country, is so abysmally low that it is hardly surprising that we are governed so badly. Of course there are noble exceptions. Barack Obama, for one. But, without even considering the man who is trying to fill his shoes, look at the ministers and shadow ministers here who are entrusted with guiding us through the most difficult period in peace-time.
Theresa May is out of her depth and almost all her Cabinet are unintelligent, lazy and/or mindlessly dogmatic. Jeremy Corbyn's heart may be in the right place much of the time but his head is on another planet. He is so bad it is embarrassing and a delight to ruthless Tories who want to rule unchallenged forever.
I should here offer an apology to Sam Coates, the deputy political editor of The Times. Much as I respect his judgment, I was dismissive last year when he said there would be a snap general election. It couldn't happen, I insisted. At least, it could only happen under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act if Labour MPs voted to destroy their party. And they couldn't possible be that stupid, could they?
Well, they could, because their leader is a bear of little brain and huge ego. So now, even though I think Theresa May won't achieve the enormous majority she thinks she will, Labour is done for. Which means there will be no opposition as our treasured institutions are undermined and sold off to rapacious, mainly foreign, companies and the UK is driven off the proverbial cliff to slow destruction.
Of course, that is only if World War III doesn't break out first.