On Nick Clegg’s ‘labotomoy’, Andrew Neil’s dissonance & Matthew Parris’s skewering

by Stephen Tall on July 3, 2012

To the cloisters of Westminster Abbey last night for liberal think-tank CentreForum’s summer party (which lived up to its billing as a party, even if summer didn’t appear).

Nick Clegg was guest of honour, and delivered a 10-minute tours d’horizons of current issues — not least of which was thanking those who keep governments on their toes, admitting it’s easy for the welter of governing to prevent politicians from being able either to stand back or to dig deep.

He characterised the experience as being ‘labotomised’, which prompted Andrew Neil to tweet:

I’m not sure why it’s unwise if it’s no more than the truth. I’ve heard a number of senior politicians say the same thing: that all the heavy lifting of governing is done in opposition, as that’s when you have space to think. Once you become a minister (let alone Deputy Prime Minister) your diary — and therefore that most precious commodity, time — is no longer your own. Andrew Neil’s tweet is symptomatic of a certain kind of journalistic dissonance: wishing politicians would be more open and honest, then condemning those who are.

One political commentator who does understand dissonance better than most is Matthew Parris, also at CenteForum’s party. Matthew was the first recipient of our ‘Liberal Hero of the Week’ for his call to end the charitable status of public schools. Though he’s more famous for being an ex-Conservative MP, he did (he told me last night) start out in life as a Liberal: these days I guess, he’s best described as a humanely liberal conservative.

I mention this because (via Guido Fawkes’ blog) I came across this paragraph from Matthew’s weekend column in The Times, which captures perfectly Matthew’s ability to skewer the hypocrisy we, the public, indulge in when accusing those in politics, business and the media of double-standards:

“We have been living beyond our means. We have been paying ourselves more than our efforts were earning. We sought political leaders who would assure us that the good times would never end and that the centuries of boom and bust were over; and we voted for those who offered that assurance. We sought credit for which we had no security and we gave our business to the banks that advertised it. We wanted higher exam grades for our children and were rewarded with politicians prepared to supply them by lowering exam standards. We wanted free and better health care and demanded chancellors who paid for it without putting up our taxes. We wanted salacious stories in our newspapers and bought the papers that broke the rules to provide them. And now we whimper and snarl at MPs, bankers and journalists. Fair enough, my friends, but, you know, we really are all in this together.”