Class in politics
Question Time last night was a cracking programme. With one of the best line-ups for a long time - Michael Heseltine, Hazel Blears (Labour Party Chairman), Ming Campbell and Piers Moron - the political climate of today and, I'd suggest, the next few years was mapped out brilliantly.
Blears blathered and was really under the cosh. It was most surprising that Campbell made an appearance since there is something of a convention that party leaders are not expected to take part; perhaps he realises things are going so badly for him he needs to do drastic surgery on his own leadership. If so his situation really is dire. He rambled but made some telling points in what must have been a fairly disappointing appearance for him. I'm at home in the Midlands on business at the moment and I almost felt sorry for the old guy when he sent my Dad to sleep during one answer before his neck began twitching uncontrollably after an audience member had declared his party had no chance of Government. Piers Morgan (whose new "First" publication I had thrust into my hand at Paddington is truly dire trash) was typically reactionary but a solid, entertaining commentator.
But Michael Heseltine, despite a start which could have thrown him as he appeared unsure of his facts was... sublime. It dawned on me last night just how lightweight many of today's politicians really are. They don't seem to have the charm, subtlety, class or even, dare I say it, intelligence of the titans of yesteryear. From his forensic attack on Blears as to where blame lay for lack of resources for counter-terrorism in the Home Office, through to his defence of Cameron and his assessment of how to tackle fears over immigration without harming the economy the man oozed class. I haven't warmed to him much before - last night I saw what had made him great.
Which leads me on to a discussion I had in the pub last week with a friend who works as a researcher in the House of Commons. We mused how politics was no longer a pursuit for Great Men and mourned the passing of a time when we had real leaders of stature. The release of the Priority List just reinforces this perception. As a society we seem to want people who will make sympathetic noises which we want to hear; notwithstanding that we then gripe that politicians only say what they think we want to hear. We punish those who will stand up for what they believe is right and work to bring us with them. This will never be enough to allow us to respond to real challenge or adversity. Let us hope privilege, conviction and class become popular once more. This, though, requires us to take a brave stand.