Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Vituperation is an art

Katherine Bayford treats us to a good, solid dose of vituperation in The Critic. It isn't necessary to agree with all of it because vituperation, when done well, is an art all may admire.

Why are British politicians such utter bores?
Mediocre people for mediocre times

One of Boris Johnson’s final, whimpering acts of power in his premiership was to appoint a new cabinet. Fatally wounded by a team of ministers made up of those with little charm, intelligence or experience, who was actually left for Boris to replace them with?..

It’s not a matter of our politicians not being able to write anymore. Compared to the recent past they can barely speak. Political debates have succumbed to an entropic, deadening mediocrity. Recent discourse between a patronising, bland Sunak and a po-faced, blank Truss was not a nadir: it was standard fare.

The whole piece is well worth reading. It isn't long, first class vituperation rarely is and there may be interesting reasons for that.

Mediocrity requires mediocrity in order to survive. When judged against excellence — or even simple competence — the insufficiencies of today’s politician become intolerable. It is this which leads the public to distrust politicians more than their policy choices.

Every so often we simply have to stop making limp excuses for the mediocrities who would rule over us. There is a place for limp excuses, but vituperation does clear the air.


dearieme said...

We used to know some politicians, even up to PM - or, rather, we had known them when we were young. Nowadays all we know is the mother of a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

I agree they are a dismal bunch. The only one I've heard speak live who's really impressed me was Enoch Powell. (It was before he was cast out as irredeemably evil.) He handled questions from a roomful of cocky undergraduates with high intelligence and great skill. He also had the rarely glimpsed "charisma" that I've seen attributed absurdly to slime bags like Toni Blair or Bill Clinton.

I never heard Thatcher live. I did hear Keith Joseph: pretty good but rather a nervous disposition - lacked the sheer masculinity of Powell.

Sam Vega said...

The vituperation was indeed invigorating, but the truth at the heart of the article made me feel rather depressed. The main question for me is how did we get into this situation? Is it merely that the public (including us, of course!) are now better informed and more educated, so that the old smoke-and-mirrors of political authority no longer works? Hardly, as those politicians from earlier times were impressive individuals. Looking at their books and speeches, we can tell they were objectively better than this lot.

But the rise of the semi-educated commentariat does, I think, have something to do with it. Most politicians seem paralysed with fear, and their poor performances are the result of a terror of saying the wrong thing and being destroyed by the media and the public. Perhaps we have, as an electorate, become so scary that only the mediocre middle-managers can deal with us.

Tammly said...

I think a serious strand of the many possible causes of 'how we have come to this situation' is attributable to the destruction of our education system in the 70s. What we see now, is the final social delivery of the Comprehensive Education System.

James Higham said...

"vituperation, when done well, is an art all may admire"

Shakespeare's ghost might agree.

A K Haart said...

dearieme - I've never known any politicians apart from a few councillors. They were just ordinary chaps doing what they could, although I knew a Labour councillor who was a real oaf.

Sam - that's the question - how did we get into this situation? Partly a semi-educated commentariat, partly semi-educated voters and partly semi-educated wannabe politicians. As if we've lost sight of what it is to be capable and well-educated.

Tammly - I agree. From what I see, comprehensive education can be dire and there will not necessarily be a local standard of educational excellence to highlight just how dire it is.

James - I certainly hope so.