Monday, March 20, 2006

 

Top Ten Most Boring Politicians

After the relative seriousness of my last post, I feel like something more ephemeral and light so have chosen another of those 'lists of' posts: my top ten most boring politicians. I admit from the start a shed load of prejudice: it's skewed towards the Conservatives' cohort of Cabinet ministers 1979-97 but New Labour does get more than a look-in. I'd also like to say I'm not impugning the ability or probity of any of those named below, merely-with great prejudice not to say mean-spiritedness- their ability to inspire, amuse and entertain. Finally I admit that a number- including IDS, Liam Fox ,Jack Straw and yes, John Major- just missed the cut. So here they are, in descending order of boringness:

10 Nick Brown
The MP for Newcastle and Wallsend has been a Labour Chief Whip and a Cabinet Minister for Agriculture. He came unstuck over the BSE and Foot and Mouth crises when he became, perhaps unfairly, associated with the misery created by the slaughter of all those animals. My belief, however, is that he was sacked for being so boring the whole nation fell asleep as soon as he opened his mouth on the telly.

9 Alan Beith
Liberal MP for Berwick on Tweed who has held a number of portfolios for his once mini-party but never made it beyond being a mere candidate for leadership on account of his unnerving ability- though his appearance, his hair and his voice- to bore everyone sideways.

8 John Gummer
Used to have a 'Selwyn' knocking around his name somewhere once upon a time when he was part of that cabal of cronies from Cambridge(which college? Selwyn of course). MP for a Suffolk constuency for many a year, he bored his way into the Cabinet where, he force-fed his daughter a hamburger to prove 'mad cow' British beef was safe. His membership of the General Synod of the Church of England merely put the icing on the cake of his acute and terminal tedium.

7 Virginia Bottomley
Yes, the one who always looked prim and cool, was much prettier than Thatcher and everyone rumoured was sweet on John Major- when he only, in reality, had eyes for Edwina (it later transpired). I always wanted her to prove she could not be as boring as being married to her fellow Tory minister MP husband Peter suggested she was but she never even came close.

6 Margaret Beckett
Once flirted with the hard left until Kinnock and Blair hoisted the party into the electable centre ground when she swiftly became a moderate. Amazing ability to make every statement anodyne and two dimensional but she still remains as a supposedly able Cabinet minister.

5 Lord Irvine of Lairg
Climbed his way up from very poor beginnings and displayed some of the hubris which often accompanies self-made men. Compared himself to Cardinal Wolsey and manged every sentence he uttered to sound so self regarding and pompous, Tony just had to get shot of him in the end.

4 John Moore- now Lord Moore of Long Marsh
Ten years in the Cabinet during which he emerged as one of Maggie's favourites and hence tipped as a future leader. Inevitably, like the Earls of Leicester and Essex in an earlier age, he did not. Some people say he lost favour through ill health or lack of competence but I was always convinced he was too tedious for words.

3 Tony Newton- Baron Newton of Braintree
Once again, here is a person who served in several jobs- all of them Social Security, it now seems- and yet never seemed to cause the surface of politics to ripple in the sligtest. Who was that man? Did he ever exist?

2 Norman-now Baron Fowler
Almost a clone of Newton, these two seemed interchangeable and, once again served in that ghetto for the crashers, Social Security. He also did some time as Chairman of his party, being seen as so boring he was less likely to mess things up. His memoirs are reliably rated as the most boring ever written.

1 Geoffrey Howe now Lord Aberavon
It had to be did it not? The 'dead sheep' of a Welsh lawyer who, his memoirs reveal, was quite sure he could become Prime Minister. This despite the fact he never even gave much evidence of being alive and sentient in Cabinet and so infuriated the Leaderene that she could not cease from humiliating him. But he got his own back in that magnificent valedictory and fatal speech in November 1990. So, my most boring politician but one to whom I feel an everlasting debt of gratitude.

Comments:
A good idea Skip, but some unjustified inclusions in my view and, if I may say so, a ridiculous final choice! How(e) on earth can someone who made one of the most electrifying speeches in 20th century British politics possibly be rated as boring?! The whole point about Sir Geoffrey - and that speech - is that lots of people (including Mrs T) may have thought he was boring - but there turned out to be a bit more to him than that!

I think your description of Margaret Beckett - "an amazing ability to make every statement anodyne" - is as good a definition of "boring" in a political context as you are likely to get, and in my view she probably merits top choice on account of it. It is also why Blair rates her so highly incidentally. Tony Newton and John Moore are also good nominations and so, sadly, is Alan Beith, who though a good man (and a good friend to me when I was in the Lobby) did have a remarkable ability to cause people to switch-off.

I would have added Lord Young to the list solely on account of having produced the dullest of the many ministerial accounts of the Thatcher Years, and what about George Younger and Nicholas Edwards, who between them chalked up 18 years in Thatcher Cabinets without ever once troubling the headline-writers.

As ot some of your other nominations, Lord Irvine was certainly not boring by any stretch of the imagination and his rampant pomposity and multiple peccadilloes provided much hilarity for Westminster-watchers during his stint as Lord Chancellor. Likewise Gummer provided so much entertainment by feeding his daughter Cordelia a hamburger as to automatically disqualify himself from such a list.

I also contest the inclusion of Nick Brown. Granted he completely lacks media presentational skills, but if you ever met him for a gossipy lunch you would probably conclude he is one of the least boring politicians in Britain. As Gordon Brown's right-hand-man he is also a pivotal figure in the Labour Party and his briefing of friendly journos on Gordon's behalf has been a moreorless constant fount of controversy (and thorn in Blair's side) throughout the lifetime of the current Government.
 
Thanks for your insider view Paul. Quite appreciate 'boring' is a very personal quality. Nick Brown and Irvine I've never met but Howe I have and while he was electric giving that speech he was like mud in every other context. And Gummer? Well, we'll just have to agree to differ. With Irvine, maybe I was confusing 'boring' with 'pompous'; they often go together but not necessarily I agree. These are important questions though: politicians should try to be interesting for the sake of us politics watchers at the very least.
 
What about Geoff Hoon (who I understand has been nick-named "Buff" Hoon) - dear God the man is an Olympic class bore.
 
It's going back a bit, but I'd always find a placed for Bonar Law. What ws the line - unknown politician buried near unknown soldier? Have you got a technocrati listing yet, Bill? Check this out - http://technorati.com/about/
 
Bill - can we have top ten political films soon? Please?

Steve
 
It was Asquith who said of Bonar-Law that it was "fitting" that "the Unknown Prime Minister" should be buried "by the side of the Unknown Soldier"; and of course Robert Blake choose "The Unknown Prime Minister" as the title of his biography of Bonar-Law. But I can't agree, Steve, that he was boring. It was Bonar-Law who, in his Blenheim Palace speech, said he could imagine "no length of resistance" to which "Ulster" would not go to prevent Irish Home Rule. This was at a time when Conservatives consorted with a foreign power and colluded in gun-running in order to thwart an Act of Parliament. As Eoin MacNeill wrote at the time (about the organisation of para-militaries): "The North Began". I know my prejudice is probably showing, but I find this contemptable rather than boring...
 
Alan Whitehead MP for Southampton Test should also be included. It could be argued he's so boring no-one's heard of him!
 
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