Tuesday, 7 June 2016

"A Knight of the Garter who ought to know how to behave better" - Jacob Rees-Mogg horsewhips John Major

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP - "Take that, you cad!"
I can't imagine anyone actually wanting to read me banging on about what a blister John Major is, so if you promise to listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg's magnificently intemperate assault on "the bitter ramblings of a vengeful man" here, you're excused from having to wade through my considerably less eloquent guff.  (The only disappointing thing about the Honourable Member for the 18th Century's splendid onslaught is that he doesn't actually call Major a "frightful oik" - or challenge him to a duel.) If you're feeling masochistic, here's my take:

I rather liked John Major in the days when Mrs. Thatcher kept promoting him to plug embarrassing gaps in her cabinet. It seemed that every time one blinked, he'd been elevated - as much to his surprise as everyone else's...

...No sooner had we got used to him as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (a relatively junior cabinet post) than he was appointed Foreign Secretary to take the place of arch-europhile Geoffrey Howe. Then, just three months later,  he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer to replace Nigel Lawson, who'd been bickering with Margaret Thatcher and her economic advisor Professor Sir Alan Walters about joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (they were both right, Lawson was wrong). Major (a secret europhile) finally persuaded Mrs. T to cave in and agree to let Britain join the ERM - she no longer had Walters around to stiffen her resolve, as he'd resigned at the same time as Lawson. Then Heseltine challenged Thatcher for the leadership, John Major somehow ended up as PM (Crikey!), and Britain's disastrous membership of the ERM led to the national humiliation of Black Wednesday. John Major spent the whole of the next Parliament fending off attacks from the Eurosceptic "bastards" in his own party.  Now, the sad old bugger wants his revenge.

Sorry for the mini-history lesson, which you won't have needed, but, when dotard Tory Europhiles appear on the BBC to slag off younger, more virile Eurosceptic politicians in their own party, it's good to remember that these bitter old men have never got over the fact that the whole, horrible ERM fiasco proved them totally, completely, and utterly wrong about the delights of European integration. It must be particularly galling for Major, who not only got us embroiled in the ERM, but then had to experience the not inconsiderable frustration which tends to accompany coitus interruptus. He and Heseltine and Ken Clarke have spent nearly a quarter of a century ignobly failing to face up to the simple fact they were mistaken, and have instead done what vain men do when events prove them to have been in error - i.e. blame the prescient people who warned them that their proposed course of action would result in disaster. But, then, they're only human (well, apart from Heseltine, obviously).

The depth of Major's bitterness at his own stupidity and incompetence was evident in his weekend bout of childish, scurrilous name-calling. To describe the Conservative politician who secured two Tory victories in mayoral elections in a heavily pro-Labour city as a "court jester" seems a bit rich coming from the man whose incompetent stewardship resulted in thirteen painful years of Labour misrule. And it's especially rich coming from a man who (we later learned) was busy boffing Edwina Currie while lecturing the nation on the importance of family values. As for Boris not enjoying the loyalty of MPs were he to become Prime Minister because of the "squalid" Brexit campaign - that sounds distinctly pots and kettles coming from a former prime minister who himself struggled to command loyalty, and who is an active member of a Leave campaign almost entirely consisting of outrageous, insulting lies. (And I really wish Major hadn't complained about too much "blue on blue action" - it reminded one of Mrs. Currie's revelation that her paramour sported "big blue underpants" during their trysts: the mind boggles and the stomach revolts.)

As for Major's remark that the NHS would be as safe in the hands of Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson as a "pet hamster would be with a hungry python" - has he actually lost his marbles? That's like issuing the Labour Party with a shedload of Kalashnikovs and a stack of Tory-seeking missiles. Has a man who owes his eminence entirely to the Tory Party decided to destroy it in the event that the British people refuse to vote the way he wants on a non-party issue? Bizarre! No wonder the Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott described Major as looking "slightly mad".

While I'm at it, I  might as well address the accusation that Boris Johnson is backing Brexit because he wants to be the next Tory leader. Oh, grow up! So, he stands accused of being a politician seeking to further his career - well, blow me down! As he's also a politician who managed to win two elections against impossible demographic odds, good luck to him. While we're on the subject, are we expected to believe that confirmed eurosceptic Tory ministers like Theresa May and Sajid Javid were thinking of the good of their party - or their country - when they decided to ditch their principles by switching sides? Given what's happening in the polls, I wonder if they're beginning to question whether they made the right choice.

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