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Oh God, is that what we are reduced to?!

Matt Trevallion, Sub Editor – World Affairs
 

   

We are fast approaching that time of year when - at some point and despite protests of “oh no, not again” by all present - I shall want to see the afternoon movie with either Kenneth Branagh or Larry Olivier hamming it up deliciously in one version or another of Henry V. 

As I succumb to the sofa (not DFS – not for my Mother) replete with goose and wine I shall experience that strange mixture of pride and sadness that always asserts itself at that speech:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Wow! That’s the man for me!  Forget my normal cynicism and my love of Siegfried Sassoon and disillusionment with war as a means to anything. Where do I sign up? 

 

To make sure we are ready for this we will probably have to endure a speech by Her Majesty delivered with her customary flowing rhetoric and the ringing tones that so inspire us to something akin to torpor. (At least my Mother no longer insists on our standing for the national anthem but she will look sadly in my direction shaking her head at my “lack of respect”, complaining – “I don’t know where we found you, you are really weird” - that’s the pride bit.)

 

Then, there will be no escaping a similar assault from our political masters – those that are and those that would be. That is where the sadness comes in. I was never entirely convinced by Francis Fukuyama's “The End of History” but I am pretty well converted to the view that we are fast approaching the end of politics – as least as we know it – as the internet brings a transparency and accessibility to those things that thrived previously in ‘the darkness’ prior to broadband. 

 

I have this horrible feeling that electing a government is gradually coming down to competence.  Damn Margaret Thatcher and her certainties and the effectiveness with which she transformed this country just when we had got used to aspiring to mediocrity!  Because of ‘that woman’ our reality now seems to be that the political arguments that occupied Stalin, Mao, Roosevelt, Hirohito, Attlee, Churchill and Foot (Who he? Ed.) have been reduced to a single answer and one approach (words and music by Milton Freidman). 

 

We no longer have real arguments about real politics anymore than we have real poverty. We now choose between a party that would spend 42% of GDP and one that believes that 38% of GDP is quite enough to tax and spend, thank you. With such a difference hardly amounting to any real difference at all, the argument becomes: who would provide best value from the proposed spending - and that ultimately reduces to which party would bring the most competence to government.

 

Worse, suppose in the search for believable competence all parties conclude that all we need is a Chairman and CEO of UK Plc (probably listed on the AIM market) backed by 300 lawyers, 600 procurement specialists and 2000 IT Project Managers (if, of course we have not outsourced all of it to the Philippines … where is a Rodney Bickerstaff when you need one?) 

 

 

So, had dear Henry V had the benefit of modern government his speech might have been –

“Lets talk nicely to those people opposite 
And then go home and have an Independent Review 
To examine the circumstances that led to us being on one side of a river 
Facing a lot of people who seem a bit cross that we are here at all!”

I have to say that were this particular gentlemen abed in England when that that rallying call rang out I, for one, would be likely to remain there! In those circumstances were you to light the beacons I would draw the curtains and roll over as did a fair proportion of the electorate the last several times. 

The trouble is there is no real prospect of change now that Dave Camera-on (I did like that Mr Randall) has done an MBO on the Tory party prior to shifting onto the Lib Dem ground. Its bad enough poor George “Gideon” Osborne (perhaps 18th Baronet to be?) puts on a suit and tie on a Sunday morning and, produces carbon emissions to appear on telly with Andy Marr, purely in order to tell us that he has nothing to say about, even, his most basic principles or beliefs. (How long will they be invited to have air time in order to tell us nothing? Zilch?) But to have the lad twittering on about competence and the management skills they would bring to implement their non-existent policies would be just too much. Were this St Crispians’ day I would probably bugger off to France and join the other side. 

Imagine, 500 hundred years later I, a Republican, am reduced to hurling abuse at the English King I most admire by someone whose family fortune comes from making wallpaper! 

I know, I know - in France the economy doesn’t work, that politicians have mistresses which no-one mentions, that sticky fingers are suspected in every pie worth a secret euro fund but, at least, they are honest about their dishonesty. There is absolutely no question about supporting ones friends or sticking to the line! It can only be the French who had the presidential biro out for an alternative contract selling a second-rate aircraft to our friends who apparently want our Attorney General to block a legal look at the way loads of dosh has moved about. With great respect M. Le President I would have thought that you, of all people, would understand the need to, shall we say, be cautious in taking a firm view about things that might seem to others to be possibly corrupt.

But, the joy is that the rest of France happily gets on with life, bilking the common agricultural programme, burning our lamb in transit, blocking the ports, stopping the work of air traffic controllers the moment someone says ‘holiday’ whilst smoking themselves, and us, to death in cafés. 

Every one knows that I hold no truck with prejudice or racial stereo types of any kind, but I do recall a Vice Admiral, The Hon Treasurer no less of a distinguished yatch club, albeit a comfortable 18.45 with the sun several minutes past the yard arm, shocking us all by asserting that he had a predilection for travelling on Greek boats. “What?!” we all said incredulously! “Oh yes”, he asserted with a frankness that might sometimes be better protected, “in the event of trouble there’s none of that women and children first nonsense with those Johnnies!”

You see!  In half of the EU nobody takes anything about the rules too seriously!  They say, “Yes, absolutely, we agree” - and then go on to do exactly what they were always going to do. But here whilst we refuse to take life itself seriously we do have this strange notion that agreements are meant to be honoured and that promises should be delivered and that is serious. Very bloody serious in the circumstances. 

So, the question is, if I am right, how the heck are we going to elect a government on the basis of competence by choosing from a group of people who have spent years imbibing the ability to say nothing loudly and using as many words as they can? People who like to answer questions by recasting the question to something that they, either, want to answer or know the answer to?

Moreover, imagine for a moment that, by accident or via the expenditure on advertising and marketing (of monies from secret loans and the sale of honours which most certainly has not happened in my lifetime. Ed) designed to demonstrate that black is white, we were to elect a government of competence. Would that government not, by definition, be clever enough also to take to new heights the obfuscation of facts and statistics so that it will be absolutely impossible to know where the hell we are with anything – even when the next election was due?

I think I must lie down. Please don’t wake me!

Your Views > MattT@thecafe.gg 

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