Daily Archives: October 14, 2011

Bad dose of the MRDAs

That’s as in “Mandy Rice-Davies Applies“.

Fox has gone. We all knew he would.

After the parade comes the man with a broom-and-shovel.

None other than Tim Montgomerie.

His post has three points:

  1. Cameron has handled the saga well.
  2. The importance of ideological balance in the Cabinet.
  3. Fox’s record and future.

Let’s consider those MRDAs further.

The weakest PM since …

… well, the last one.

Since this is a value judgement, Malcolm would suggest “since the dying days of the Callaghan administration”. Yet, even then, Jim Callaghan — a class act — knew that, as Cassius had it:

So every bondman in his own hand bears
The power to cancel his captivity.

In the end, Callaghan condoned his own end, by refusing to drag in a dying MP to level the vote.

Cameron, though, has contrived to tie himself to the dying corpse of LibDemmery for a five-year term, and blocked his knock-off by perverting the rules on an early dissolution.

Furthermore, by the intricacies of the coalition agreement, he not only has umpteen policy restraints but he also has the composition of his Cabinet dictated to him. Who, except in extremis, would see Danny “Ginger Rodent” Alexander worthy of promoting from third-tier PR work to the Cabinet?

In the case of the Fox business, Montgomerie has it:

Some say that the Prime Minister has protected Dr Fox because he doesn’t want to look like he treats an embattled politician of the Right any differently from an embattled Liberal Democrat. That probably has been part of Cameron’s calculation but I also understand there’s been real warmth from the PM to his Defence Secretary behind-the-scenes. Nobody on the Right can legitimately say that Dr Fox hasn’t been treated fairly.

Others say, with a shrewder eye to the realities, that Cameron can be none too upset over the demise of a past, and possibly future rival. His shuffling back from full-blown support has been much more:

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

What Fox was up to amounted to gross insubordination. It now seems he was the centre of a parallel foreign policy cabal, financed by overseas Rightists, dedicated to a neo-Con agenda, with a particular focus on pro-Israeli policies. Werrity was his cut-out, his channel to some very, very suspect characters. The Guardian has a briefing graph to accompany Michael White’s article:

Once upon a time over-ambitious politicos went to the block for less.

Cameron must have known his Defence Secretary was undermining his Foreign Office. Allowing that to persist for the last eighteen months is no sign of strength.

Balancing the Cabinet

Yeah, yeah. All government are, to some extent, coalitions of factions.

The Tory Right is well represented in the present one: at least half-a-dozen names spring to mind. Ben Duckworth did a boilerplate, but workman-like attempt to define the Tory Right for Total Politics. It is of some interest that Duckworeth, writing six months or more ago, had this as his peroration:

Iain Duncan Smith is seeing through vast welfare reforms and Owen Paterson is finding his energies wholly taken up by his Northern Ireland brief. At the lower ministerial level, even the unreconstructed Thatcherites must spend their energies implementing set policies from the coalition agreement. This leaves Liam Fox. The defence secretary “remains a serious player”, says one admirer. Others have their doubts about the lack of a long-term strategy as a leader of the right.

The Tory right may not be a cohesive force. It is split along generational lines, specific issues and personality clashes. It is not really the ‘hang-em and flog-em’ social stereotype either. It is a movable strength in the Conservative Party but one thing David Cameron cannot afford to do, as prime minister of a coalition, is combine it against him. The right will continue to have their say.

No, what Montgomerie is crying out for is not the Tory Right — they are there in force — but more neo-Cons. And they, despite Montgomerie’s hopes and the views of the window-lickers in his comments columns, are rare birds in real UK politics.

That leaves us with Fox’s future

That, in itself, is a test of the other two Montgomerie theses.

If Cameron has played this correctly, and he certainly has played the long game, Fox will have neutralised himself — as David Davis did before.

Fox on the back bec=nches could be a rallying point for the few dissidents (which means disappointed-by-lack-of-promotion) who hang out in those parts.

On the other hand, had he resigned on some matter of principle some while back, he would have been in a far stronger position.

The massed middle-ranks of Tory MPs, now looking towards the second half of this Parliament, have two far bigger thoughts:

  • the failure of the current economic strategies;
  • the prospects of individual and party re-election.
Their edginess will have been made worse by the discipline shown by the Labour side. It is worth noting that nobody on the Labour Front Bench went ballistic, and demanded Fox’s resignation. When Fox was making his statement, earlier this week, Jim Murphy went nit-picking over the ministerial code. Some thought that inadequate. It actually left Fox twisting in the wind, and Cameron chewing finger-nails. Similarly Ed Miliband left it to back-benchers to taunt at PMQs, thus ensuring that the unemployment figures were not squeezed out of the news-cycle, but also leaving Fox a sitting target, knowing that the Press gang, with the complicity of the faceless military, would get their prey.
And Fox would dominate the news-cycles for at least a week.
Meantime,  here’s to the original Mandy, who is forever just eighteen in all English political history. 
“Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

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Filed under ConHome, Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, Military, sleaze., Tim Montgomerie, Tories.

Unambiguous filth (heh! heh!)

The divine Ms Hadley Freeman (now there’s a name to play upon), usually resident at the Guardian, tweets ecommendations of “poems” by John Wilmot (whom she casually refers to as “Rochester”, as indeed he was).

The problem of “Rochester”

One of the lesser delights of wikipedia is the “disambiguation” stuff, where one is invited to choose between a gallimaufry of similar terms. So, for “Rochester” we are offered:

  • some two dozen places;
  • a dozen personages;
  • half a dozen “modes of transport”
  • a car components manufacturer;
  • nine further connections.

Some of these even have sub-menus (four ships of the Royal Navy).

Even when we resort to the Dictionary of National Biography we have a similar problem: the DNB recognises a full score of Wilmots and just one fewer “Rochester” connection.

Fortunately, as Tybalt had it [III.i.54]:

Well, peace be with you, sir: here comes my man.

As above: a detail, but a telling one from what is still often ascribed to Jacob Husmans, but which the NPG — who own the beast — say is by an unknown artist), we have Wilmot, John, second earl of Rochester (1647–1680). To the DNB, a courtier and poet; to others, poet and libertine. Indeed, The Libertine was the title of Stephen Jeffreys play on Wilmot’s life (and death) and for which Laurence Dunmore’s movie thereof assembled a quite stellar cast.

His work

The genteel Ms Hadley Freeman would point us to two of Wilmot-Rochester’s works:


  • Señor Dildo (here she instantly gains Malcolm’s admiration, if only because she seems to have managed the tilde over the Spanish Ñ — and that, it would seem, on a smartphone.)

Sadly, the on-line version to which Ms Freeman directs is full of typos. Better try the version at the University of Toronto. As for Señor Dildo, the Rutgers University (sometime, ahem!, “Queen’s College”, and founded to train Dutch Reformed church ministers) site houses a fair copy. It comes with helpful notes, as one might need in the Garden State of New Jersey.

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Filed under Guardian, Hayley Freeman, History, Literature