Tuesday, 8 April 2008

What's in your cabinet?

It struck me after Des Browne's ramblings that it probably isn't his fault because he, after all, isn't the sharpest tool in the box, not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, not even approaching the hottest chilli in the packet, and quite a distance from aspiring to be the grooviest dancer in the disco.

Which is a wee bit worrying.

He is, as The Secretary pointed out to me between attempts to obtain a visa for Uzbekistan (don't ask, the answer would take too long), in the cabinet, holding down two fairly important jobs, responsible for prosecuting two conflicts and several peacekeeping operations as well as keeping an eye on the constitutional operations of Scotland. Surely we should be expecting someone with something approaching half a clue to be occupying that position?

Well, that got me to thinking - if someone with the soaring intellect of Desmond has made it to what used to be regarded as one of the great offices of state in London, how does Gordon Brown's cabinet compare to previous cabinets?
Tempting as it was to compare this bunch with Attlee's cabinet or even with some of Thatcher's cabinets, I think it's only fair to compare Gordon Brown's cabinet to the first cabinet of his immediate predecessor, Anthony Blair.

Let's have a look:

Prime Minister

Say what you like about the bold boy, but Tony Blair was an excellent ring-master. He believed the show to be entirely his in spite of all the other people who had to work devilishly hard to keep it running. He never feared the lions because he had a lion tamer looking after them; he wasn't worried about the acrobats falling because, to be honest, you can always get new acrobats; and the clowns were always there to deflect attention from anything that was truly horrific. Gordon Brown? He dropped his top hat shortly after he entered the ring and spends his time looking over his shoulder to see what's going on behind him. He's so worried about what's sneaking up on him he hasn't seen that the human cannonball is pointed straight at his head and is ready to fire.


In the 97 cabinet - one Gordon Brown, the straight man in the double act who never really appreciated that the straight man is supposed to be the butt of the jokes, not try his own 'non-endogenous growth theory' puns. He rode the wave of economic good times fairly well, and he managed to claim quite a bit of the credit for his surfing, so he will probably be judged as a competent chancellor - except for that becoming Prime Minister bit, that's the reputation knackered. I've never believed in the hype about Brown as Chancellor (maybe I'm biased), but he certainly outshone his successor - the problem being that he appointed his successor.

Alastair "what? No, I prefer Northern Soul" Darling ran straight into a faecal typhoon which, to be fair (oh, just this once), wasn't entirely of his making. He was part of a Government which encouraged thoughtless consumption which turned into a consumptive problem, so he was part of it, but it wasn't entirely his fault. What was spectacularly bad was his handling of what came his way his dithering and his over-ruling of a Bank of England decision on Northern Rock meant that the public purse ended up with a bill which some estimates put at over £100 billion (or four times what the Scottish Government gets to run Scotland) and a worthless former private company into the bargain.

Deputy Prime Minister

There isn't one in the Cabinet now, so Prescott takes the Oscar. As the great man himself might say "What? No, wasn't me - help!" and you thought I would criticise his command of the English language - shame on you!

Foreign Secretary

Robin Cook, wee ginger, garden-gnome type philanderer with an unfortunate twitch and a high-pitched voice or David Miliband. I still can't believe Miliband is Foreign Secretary, every time he appears on TV with that subtitle I'm baffled anew. I won't pretend to be a Robin Cook fan, there was plenty to dislike about the wee nyaff, but at least you could argue that he had talent - some people argued that he had loads of talent. Miliband has nothing to offer, nothing that I can detect at all. I watched him in front of the European Scrutiny Committee recently and he was torn apart - by Michael Connarty! Michael Connarty is a fairly talentless individual, wooden and struggling to make sense of the world, but he made mince of Miliband.
By my count that's 4-0 to Blair


What do you call a judge with no thumbs? Justice Fingers. Anyway, the posts in 97 were Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor, now they're not. Jack Straw was Home Sec in 97 and Derry 'home decorating a speciality' Irvine was Lord Chan. Now the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (following the Scottish model except for the Lord Chancellor bit) is Jack Straw (not much imagination there, Gordon) and the Secretary of State for the Home Department is Jacqui Smith. Well the old Straw man is hanging in there like a terrier who won't let go but has forgotten why it attacked in the first place, busy proposing to abolish recourse to the law and other woolly liberal ideas he used to support (of which hopefully more later), so that might be a score draw, but is Jacqui Smith really enough to compensate for the demise of Derry Irvine? Yes, Irvine was a tube and a blawhard, but he was actually quite bright - if it hadn't been for the wallpaper...


George Robertson or Des Browne? Hmmm ....

I'm sure you get the picture - Donald Dewar, Mo Mowlam, Chris Smith, even David 'well hello' Blunkett up against Johnson, Benn and Hutton? Dougie Alexander against Clare Short, even Gavin Strang against Ruth Kelly.

Blair, let's be honest, had people around him he disagreed with and their pedigree was far higher than Brown's cabinet (that's not saying much, right enough) - this could be because Blair didn't care about politics much, but it might be that Brown is simply not very good - I suspect the latter.

I think we're seeing a tired government, having tried renewal, now facing the end of its days - following the MacDougall model perfectly.
The question remaining is - who does Cameron appoint as the Conservative Scottish Secretary? Fluffy Mundell simply isn't up to it. Forsyth from the Lords? He wouldn't - would he?


Anonymous said...

Sorry Calum have to ask as I have a great interest in Post Soviet Central Asia, why Uzbekistan?

ccfc Dundee said...

the present yUK Cabinet is a collection of non-entities and nutters. A load of Balls

Calum Cashley said...

I can't possibly reveal what our secret agent is doing in Uzbekistan - mainly because I don't know all the details.

I understand it's a good thing that's being done, though.