Thursday, November 15, 2007


'Supreme Leader' Satire Becomes Worryingly Accurate

Private Eye used its 'Dear Bill' column to have a humorous go at Thatcher and then The Vicar of Albion to do the same for Blair; I was not the only one wondering how they would react to premier Gordon. Well, they invented the cult of The Supreme Leader, taking their cue from Lord Turnbull who described Brown as 'Stalinist' in his approach to politics.

I was unimpressed initially but the writers on the mag are resourceful and have raised their game. Evidence of their success appeared yesterday in The Guardian when Michael White used the term in an article. The piece by Sue Cameron in yesterday's FT did little to dissuade us that this is an appropriate satirical soubriquet. She reports, after lunch with a 'Whitehall knight', that Gordon has reverted to type according to the Tom Bower biography which, depressingly for Labour supporters, holds the centre ground for analysing the PM's character. We learn that Brown:

has been in Number 10 less than six months but, to the horror of civil servants, he has already hunkered down and cut most communication with the rest of government. Insiders say that no papers, no ideas and no decisions are getting through the barbed wire - only announcements from the leader that have been discussed with no one outside Mr Brown's inner circle.

Cabinet ministers has been denied consultation and information on issues like: the date of the Budget, troop withdrawals from Iraq and the cancelling of the General Election. Such behaviour was commonplace when Blair was in Number 10, but there had been hope 'nasty' Gordon would give way to 'nice' Gordon once he got the thing he had always hankered after. Civil servants too are angry at being left 'out of the loop' and have begun to see Gus O'Donnell as too close to the PM, something which badly damaged the reputation of Sir William Armstrong when he held the office under Edward Heath. Oh dear, it seems as if 'nice' Dr Jekyll Gordon is to be merely a fleeting memory and that 'nasty' Mr Hyde Gordon has moved back in to take control. Do hope I'm wrong.

I've little time for Private Eye or for its present and former editors. They’re both pompous high-Tory snobs. Dr Jothanan Miller, who found fame in 'Beyond the Fringe' together with Peter Cook, the magazine's founder, put it rather nicely: "What they were, that Ingrams crowd, was minor public-school Christian bullies, for whom I was the smart-arse Jewboy... They had that sort of public school prefect's world of rancid jockstraps, canes and roughing up the swots..."

That said, their analysis of Gordon Brown is probably correct but you don't need to be a Hercule Poirot to reach similar conclusions.

A tendency to 'hunker down' with a close circle, whose opinions, if not motives, you trust, is common amongst leaders. You'll find the same thing in industry, commerce, public services and, I'm sure, academia. It's ok as long as the circle contains a variety of opinions and ideas and doesn't become entirely unwilling to criticise. That clearly happened to Margaret Thatcher and to the CEO of a company I once worked for. Both of them eventually were got rid of.

It's frustrating for minions but everyone wants access to the (wo)man at the top and they have to do something to drown out the noise. And, whatever else he is, our Prime Minister is not what an HR person might call a 'people-person'...
I think you're right about Ingrams but I reckon Hislop is not in that category. I agree with what you say about coteries- probglem is, Gordon's is not exactly chockablock with talent- he likes 'yes' men and women.
We'll have to differ over Hislop. I regard him as a bumptious little twerp who’s done nothing positive in his life but makes a living out of denigrating the achievements of others.

As to Mr B., I fret that the qualities which served him (and us) so well when he was Chancellor may not be optimal for a PM. Time may tell...
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