Friday, January 22, 2021

The uselessness of Boris Johnson's cabinet is a feature not a bug

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Ed Davey says Gavin Williamson is the worst education secretary in living memory. He's right, of course.

But then Williamson is not alone in not deserving a place around the cabinet table.

Priti Patel resigned as secretary of state for international development when it emerged she had been holding meetings with Israeli officials without informing anyone in London. Yet somehow today she is home secretary.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is such a liability that he had to be hidden from voters during the last general election, but he is still leader of the House of Commons.

But maybe their presence should not be such a surprise.

Many Conservatives with principles - David Gauke, Rory Stewart, Nicholas Soames - were effectively sacked from the Commons by Boris Johnson in September 2019. 

They were not the sort of people he wanted to surround himself with. Better to have malleable mediocrities who will do whatever they are told.

Better still to have people no other Conservative prime minister would dream of appointing to the cabinet. They will know that they owe their careers to Johnson and that any successful rebellion against him would inevitably lead to the end of those careers.

It's probably all in Machiavelli: surround yourself with people who should never have been put in a position of power and you will be much more secure.


Unknown said...

It really is worse than a B team. Our own mediocre Sir (!) Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP looks almost average as a result. Nadine Dorries, appointed by May back in 2019 and then the standout worst minister, has plenty of competition now

Phil Beesley said...

Nine months ago, I believed that Johnson would start appointing a few weightier politicians -- as background advisors of course -- to assist. How stupid I was to believe that he would do the right thing.

When critiquing this shower, it is easy to look at the obvious -- incompetence, petty corruption, ignorance etc. We can miss that many mistakes have been caused by the ideologies of small government and centralism. Track and trace fails because central gov won't beef up local teams, gov is setting up mass vaccination points when people want and need to attend local providers, money is thrown at consultants and contractors to keep down the government payroll. We also have to understand that some things don't happen -- or don't happen easily -- because gov doesn't want them to happen. If people saw that it was possible to feed children in poor families or to find safe places for the homeless, they'd expect government to behave humanely in normal times.