Oh dear. I see Michael Gove now gives a toss about experts. And I see Steve Baker now gives a toss about economic impact statements.
The Cabinet Office minister spent Tuesday blitzing the airwaves to explain why the government’s imminent tier system is done for your own good, for reasons you’re too dim to be given the data to understand. Meanwhile, Baker, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s former robot sidekick, is leading the rebellion against the tier system, on the basis that it will cause huge economic damage. Presumably Brexit ironies are cheaper by the dozen.
For the past four years, political analysis has been honed, refined and reduced to a single immutable truth. And that is that all these guys should be made to fight each other in a Wetherspoon’s car park. If you had to design a watchable punishment for this generation of political snake-oil salesmen, it would involve darkness, banks of seating, flaming torches, foam fingers, bets furiously changing hands and a strong sense of what Gladiator would have looked like if shot on an illegal cockfight budget. But look, ultimately I leave the production design to ITV.
This week, as the Covid tiers system kicks in, it would clearly be Gove v Baker. At the weigh-in, you’d have Baker screaming “People are going to lose their jobs, Michael!” and Gove screaming “that’s just Project Fear, Steve!”
Incidentally, Steve Baker could enjoy the fight. In two odd videos still on his own website, Steve once arranged for some local ex-squaddies to attack him round the back of what looks like some industrial estate. Why? He doesn’t say. I suppose it’s conceivable they’re a local business, but on the whole the stunt – in which Steve giggles while the floor is wiped with him – does indicate rather “specialist” tastes. But if Baker disagrees with me on that, he should of course publish detailed impact assessments from his sex therapist.
In the red corner, meanwhile, Michael Gove doesn’t simply now have a lot of time for experts. He believes he is the foremost one. At last week’s crucial Downing Street meeting to decide the tier system, Gove pushed for the whole of London to be put into tier 3, despite being warned it would cost 550,000 jobs. But of course he did. Michael Gove is now just another ivory tower public sector senior manager with access to a grace and favour house. Michael Gove is the sort of elitist who doesn’t think the ordinary people deserve to have the information in front of them. Michael Gove is the sort of metropolitan wanker who this morning decreed that two scotch eggs, “with pickle on the side” and a side salad, is “a pub starter”. Michael Gove doesn’t care that only people like him will be able to go to pubs for people like him.
I am not being entirely serious. But you’d think the short-termist folly of the divisive way leading Brexiteers used to talk would be hitting home, now that they’re on the wrong end of so much of it themselves. Less than a month from final Brexit, they’ve switched sides on so many arguments about freedom and prices worth paying.
Alas, they will never admit their contradictions, which is why the Wetherspoon’s car park is the only realistic justice. Without it, there is no absurdity or hypocrisy they are not shameless enough to attempt to own. Consider this line from Steve Baker’s website biography on the firm at which he worked until – significant date, this – the year 2008. “My work at Lehman Brothers informs my present work on reforming the financial system.” To which the only possible reply is: lol I bet it does. My work in arson particularly informs my present work in the fire service.
Speaking of which, here’s Michael Gove explaining why he entered the Tory leadership contest in 2016. “I compare it to a group of people standing outside a collapsing building, wondering who is going to rescue a child inside. I thought: well, I don’t think I’ve got either the strength or the speed for this, but as I looked around, I thought, God, I’m at least as strong and at least as fast as the others. I’ve got to try to save the child.” Yup. Except YOU SET THE FIRE, YOU NUTTER.
Much of the spectacle of the past few days has been politicians of incredibly small stature preoccupying themselves with nonsense because the scale of their real task is so wildly beyond them. Some journalists keep asking questions that enable this, perhaps because asking about inadequate support for businesses about to go under is less fun. Michael Gove clearly relished being asked about Scotch eggs today. On Monday, Downing Street was happy to take the time to clarify that this year in the grotto, children can’t sit on Santa’s knee .
The day before it had been the turn of the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, who explained he would be writing to the producers of TV drama The Crown to insist they explain it’s a TV drama, presumably because he judges ordinary people too stupid to understand this. What can you say? Other than: Jesus Christ, Oliver. Have you saved the arts? Have you? Because I need to know that every single theatre, comedy venue, concert hall, museum and gallery has been rescued from extinction before I can countenance you spending ONE minute or ONE sheet of DCMS writing paper farting out letters about The fricking Crown. Honestly – grow up, secretary of state.
Consequently, Dowden now fights the winner of Baker v Gove. Or the loser; I’m not desperately bothered. Until then, the country is condemned to live their real lives under a government entirely based on fictions. Maybe they should make it clear they’re just a TV drama, in case we thickos get the wrong idea.