The incompetence question
I try to shy away from the easy trap of saying that Tory ministers are just incompetent. If they are so ineffective, how come they are succeeding in dismantling our public services even faster than Thatcher did?
But sometimes, they just go out of their way. And in recent weeks Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley have really been exceptional. Of course, in Lansley’s case, it isn’t incompetent to want to end the NHS: Tories didn’t even vote for it in the first place. No, it’s his failures along the way that mark him out as a real tit. The kind of tit who may well lose his job this summer as Cameron lets him take the flack.
And Gove, good old Gove, always relied upon to entertain us. Since Ed Balls has moved from the shadow education job, Michael Gove has disappeared somewhat from our newspaper pages. Or so it seems. But it turns out he has been bumbling along, messing things up just as before. The Indy have a piece today showing that the free school saga continues – 9 out of 10 of the applications have been turned down. Only 40 applications are now being considered. Turns out this wasn’t such a revolution in schooling after all. Rather than an all out assault on public education, he has just kicked some shins and then run away, giggling.
But the problem is, of course, that it doesn’t matter that they are incompetent. Because they are just the puppets. Some would argue that the puppet masters are banks, and corporate power. Of course, ultimately, there is a truth to that. But you don’t even go that far. Because it has to be said, George Osborne has played his cards very well. While we all thought he was an idiot, it turns out he’s an evil genius. Well, OK, maybe that’s hyperbole. But he’s pretty bad, and he’s pretty sharp. And that’s pretty impressive. He’s stayed out of the media, and so is not getting personal blame for the cuts, yet, despite being the driving force behind them. I understand from civil servant friends that he does, unlike the others in cabinet, have a genuine deep understanding of the bizarre doctrines of radical Friedmanite ideology on which his program is based. I mean, completely wrong, mis-guided, dangerous, but brainy nonetheless, with a good grasp of policy (if of the wrong policies).
And I think it is important to remember this. That however much fun it is to laugh at Tories as they flail around in the pigsty they are turning our country into, this quagmire was and is Osborne’s plan. Unlike some of his colleagues, he is no fool. He wants us to have an American style economy, where the rich are mega-rich, and everyone else pays for it. And he thinks he knows how to get there. It is not true that the Tories don’t have a clue what it is they are doing when they dismantle the welfare state. And it is all too easy to dismiss them as the village idiots some in the cabinet are. But at core, this is not what they are. The people in charge – Osborne and, to a certain extent, Cameron, are the ingenious and smooth salesmen auctioning off our country. They know exactly what they are doing, and so far, they have executed their plan excellently.
Every time we joke about the latest cock up, and there have been plenty, we let the government off the hook. Because we imply that they are politicians who basically want the same things as everyone else, but who are not quite skilled enough yet to deliver. The truth is that they want different things. And they are succeeding in securing them. And it is crucial that we point this out to people.
So, yes, let’s keep taking the piss out of Gove. But let’s also remember that the puppet master knows what it is that he’s doing. And let’s not let anyone believe for a second that these attacks on the poor, the old, the young, women, disabled people, and ordinary people all over the country – let’s not let anyone believe that they are all some big accident.