Today’s storms in the UK’s political tea-cups were from Vince Cable and Tim Loughton. Both share something in common; they are relentlessly disloyal to the government. OK, more than one thing; they both come across as embittered, losing the argument, toys-from-pram types.
Cable is in government, sort of. He has no control and no influence. Nobody in parliament takes him seriously. On the Tory benches he was despised, not because he was anti-Tory but because he refused to resign from a government whose policies he professed to loathe. Cable famously hates Osborne, and tried to make it a condition of coalition that Osborne not be Chancellor (ha ha, hilarious). Having been shut out of the Treasury, “Dr.” Cable (how we all chuckled when the Speaker calls him by this name, as he insists) spent the whole of the rest of Parliament sulking and trying to get his name in the papers by criticising government policy but not resigning. It’s been a series of disappointments for Vince, after his glorious “Gordon Brown/Mr Bean” moment – he thought he was going to lead the LibDems, and then the TV debates happened and Clegg rose from utter obscurity to a nice result.
So close Vince, so close.
But no cigar. And things got worse for the Sulker in Chief after two young Telegraph reporters got him to say he was “declaring war on Rupert Murdoch” and “he could destroy the coalition with his nuclear weapon”. His already-pointless department was decimated with key functions heading to DCMS.
Surprisingly, Vince hasn’t cheered up since. The recent Times article on his sulk over the economics resolution revealed this key snippet: LibDem MPs voted against Cable, and with Clegg, 55 to 2. You see it’s not only the Tories who despise Dr. Cable. Imagine having the lack of self awareness to think that your MP colleagues would back you over the leader. Whining and undermining in public is just not that attractive.
Tim Loughton did not criticise Sarah Teather over not having a family, it’s clear he meant “family policy” (I listened to the tape). He said “she didn’t produce one” and meant “policy” not “family” by the pronoun. But he has been vociferous in attacking Michael Gove, the PM, and the Dept of Education where he used to be a minister. Other ex-ministers have done the same. Today Loughton added to his sloe-like bitterness by having a go at “Harriet Harperson” (use of this phrase instantly identifies you as a pillock) and “feminism”. I don’t know any of the 100 new Tory MPs who are not feminists, in the sense of supporting equal rights and opportunities for women. Cheryl Gillan has also attacked the government, as have various other ex-ministers.
It always annoys and saddens me when this happens. Why does it matter? Sacked employees having a go is part and parcel of life, surely? Maybe; but not, I think, in politics. In Cable’s case it speaks to immense hypocrisy – he knows where the door is, if he doesn’t like his own government’s agenda. In Loughton’s, and Gillans, it says something more pernicious.
It says: I never believed in any of that stuff in the first place. I only toed the line to get a promotion. Suckers!
This is one reason people lose respect for politicians. They don’t think you believe the message you are giving out. They think you’re lying.
When I left Parliament I continued to tweet, post, and write articles in the same vein that I did in Parliament. This is because I believed in what Cameron and Osborne are doing then, and I believe in it now. I wasn’t on-message – I believed in it. Socially liberal, economically conservative is the future for the conservative movement globally.
If you are not a believer, that is OK too. Just do not accept office in a department or a government you fundamentally disagree on. Sarah Wollaston MP is a free thinking Conservative – a true Conservative – but she has profound disagreements and votes and speaks her conscience. She has disdained to accept office that would prevent her from speaking out. Hence she (like Jacob Rees-Mogg) is one of the most respected MPs in Parliament. Tracey Crouch, Priti Patel, I can think of many others; they take their jobs as backbench MPs seriously, to hold the government to account. The much-maligned A list has produced a great many of these free thinking, intelligent MPs with integrity.
Those who join the government and support it also have integrity. Matt Hancock MP for example, the Skills Minister, and Claire Perry MP, advisor to the PM; the talented minister Helen Grant MP – I know these and many others well and I know their minds. They are true believers.
Of course collective responsibility means we all go along with the odd policy we don’t agree with. I wanted to vote for Stella Creasy MPs bill against loan-sharking, but did not as it was a three-line whip and not a conscience issue for me; Stella was and is right. I would not routinely vote against the government, or the party under whose colours I stood.
But with Loughton’s ceaseless anti-Gove campaign, David Davis MPs embarrassing critcism of Theresa May over the data mule David Miranda (before the facts were known), Gillan’s tweets of disappointment in the govt, and Cable’s endless snippy barbs from the sidelines … all of that just says to voters “I never believed in the first place, and now, from the backbenches, I am free to say THE TRUTH!”
Have integrity; do not join a government you do not back. And if you do back them, you will also back them after you are fired. Because either it’s about policy, or it’s about office, a title, and your personal perks. And no Ministerial car is worth that much.
Photo by Andrew Parsons for the Conservative Party