Archive for September, 2012

It’s the swearing that will get Mitchell, not just the plebs!

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on September 25, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

One of the great joys of the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, which I visited on my honeymoon (my wife’s a lucky girl!) is how the Watergate scandal is presented to visitors.

After a tour through Nixon’s triumphs, the Kitchen Debate; the Silent Majority Speech; détente with Russia, rapprochement with China, you finally come to a long, dark tunnel which houses the Watergate exhibits.

Here, you can listen to the tapes, secretly recorded in the Oval Office.  Interestingly, many of these specially selected titbits have also had to be redacted to blot out Nixon’s swearing.

Watergate is complex but there is one thing most historians agree on, namely that the extent of Nixon’s swearing did for him just as much as any cover-up.  It was Nixon who introduced the term “expletive deleted” into the English language which, crucially, was at odds with his public persona of a god-fearing Quaker.

Which brings us neatly to Andrew Mitchell, chief whip of the Conservative Party, who has been accused of calling a policeman a “pleb” for refusing let him ride his bike out of the gates of 10 Downing Street.

Today’s revelations in the Telegraph from a police log of the incident are not good reading for Mr Mitchell.  Not only did he call the policeman a pleb, but the police also allege he included the phrase as part of a Gordon Ramsey-esque rant.

According to the police log, Mr Mitchell said the following (I have used Watergate-style deletions to protect the faint of heart):

“Best you learn your [expletive deleted] place … you don’t run this [expletive deleted] government … You’re [expletive deleted] plebs.”

Now I don’t take the view that the police are infallible, not after Hillsborough, phone hacking and Ian Tomlinson, but I’m not sure that a policeman doing his best to protect 10 Downing Street deserves this sort of rant.

I also suspect that Middle England, where elections are won and lost, still respects the rule of law and won’t take kindly to this either.  What’s more, I suspect it is female voters, who Mr Cameron is already struggling to connect with, who will be most repulsed.

Forget the viral, Clegg’s problem is Number 11 Downing Street

Posted in Politics with tags , , on September 24, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

You know it’s bad for a politician when they became an object of ridicule.  Nick Clegg’s “I’m sorry” viral puts him right up there with George W Bush’s “I call upon all nations to stop these terrorist killers.  Now watch this drive (golf shot)” or Mitt Romney’s recent “47% of Americans don’t pay income taxes” in the political faux pas calamity stakes.

However, it would be wrong to think that Clegg’s problems are purely down to people taking the mickey out of him.  The LibDems hover perilously close to the abyss according to the opinion polls with many putting only a chink of light between them and UKIP.  In fact, Nigel Farage reckons his party is polling much better than the polls show because many do not even give respondents the option of voting for UKIP.

In response, Clegg’s ‘spin-meisters’ have been hard at work for this week’s LibDem conference with the slogan “Fairer tax in tough times” which on the face of it is not bad.  Similarly, the mansion tax idea is not bad (in fact it’s so good that even Labour are looking at it!).  What’s more, the idea of using parental pension pots to get people onto the housing ladder is certainly innovative.

The central problem though is that these policies have next to no chance of getting through the Treasury and a certain Mr Osborne.  In much the same way, Vince Cable has been talking of an infrastructure bank since before the last election, but has been unable to get it through Number 11.  Clegg can float these ideas all he wants, but I suspect many voters know that there is no chance of them actually happening.

Not with his current coalition partner anyway!