By John Charles Dyer, UK Correspondent
23 Sep 2012
Blindsided by Hunt
Prime Minister Cameron blindsided me in his Fall reshuffle. He appointed Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to be his new Health Secretary. I wasn’t alone, but the question why the appointment caught me by surprise has troubled me ever since.
I had correctly seen that public revulsion to radical reforms, sleaze and economic malaise would force Cameron to change faces and tweak economic strategy (all the while denying a change). I correctly identified Grant Shapps as the key behind the scenes strategist who would be put in charge of changing the tune. I had even correctly identified that Jeremy Hunt would be removed from Culture.
What I didn’t see is Cameron putting a man whose reputation had been so badly tarnished and, more relevantly, had written a book advocating the dismantling of the NHS, in charge of the NHS. Cameron had pledged the NHS would be “safe in our hands.” The very appointment belied his repeated assurances Lansley’s team had miscommunicated his reforms. Cameron & Clegg say their reforms are not about privatizing the NHS.They are about choice. But they are about privatizing and no choice is being given. The appointment merely underscores the point.
Today Shapps and Mitchell dominate the news. So what, Jeremy Hunt's in charge of the NHS.
Grant Shapps, it seems, posed as web guru, Michael Green, even while running for Parliament. He has previously denied he infringed copyrights in his private family business, pointing out “there’s no proof” a Grant Shapps was involved. But there may be proof a Michael Green was, perchance? Perchance he failed to disclose Michael Green in his legally required disclosures?
Andrew Mitchell dressed down a police officer, reportedly calling “her” a “f**g moron” and a “f**g Pleb” who didn’t know her place. The Officer insisted Mitchell walk his bicycle through the pedestrian exit/entrance to the 10 Downing Street compound. He had wanted to ride it through the vehicle access. His liberal use of the “F” word is not in of itself especially distinctive. It is standard issue for a politico. Even if true the officer was female, as reported, it may be bad manners but it is common bad manners. The issue of “place” is much more damaging.“Pleb” is a derogatory, classist insult to ordinary Britons.
The papers suggest Mitchell’s job is on the line. But the papers also suggested Hunt’s was. Look where Hunt landed.
No one has yet suggested Tory Party Chairman and strategist Grant Shapps faces the ax. Some have wondered aloud what it is in the Tory vetting process that doesn’t see these things coming.
Perhaps it is as simple as, it doesn’t matter, Pleb. They're "in The Club".
Uncertainty? What Uncertainty. Don't look now, BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky, Obama surges.
It seems to me I was blindsided for much the same underlying reasons the British Press appear to be by President Obama’s apparent success thus far during the US Presidential election. The British media is wont to put Obama’s Presidency on the rocks.
But it has been clear to me that the progress and trajectory of the 2012 campaign is fairly similar to the progress and trajectory of the 2008 campaign, except varied in detail by the timing of the conventions and in degree by Romney’s tendency to "foot in mouth” gaffs. This can be seen vividly in the 3.9 point lead in the average of poll results as of 22 Sep 2012 compared to the average of the poll results for the same day in 2008. The US Presidential Race thus far has not blindsided me. There is always the potential for disaster and reversal, but thus far the race progresses pretty much as foreseen.
What is it about British politics that caused me to be blindsided about Jeremy Hunt’s appointment and the British media to be blindsided by President Obama’s success to date?
I have concluded the keys may be differing cultural nuances, specifically the role of "The Club."
In the US, the ultimate court of appeal is the court of public opinion. As fictional Josiah Bartlett said, the US already has term limits. They’re called elections. As the very real life Lyndon Baines Johnson reputedly told his successor, Richard Nixon, the American people have long patience, but never lose their trust. It is a standard perhaps set in mythology by George Washington’s decision to stand down after two terms in office. It isn’t just idealistic blah blah. The people do count.
In the current UK it is once again The Club who count. They are synonymous with the academically prepared political and economic “elite” and “the markets.”
Nightly, BBC appeals to their judgements as the ultimate arbiters of reality, despite their spectacular failures at their own affairs as reflected in the 2007 crash and the moribund European and British economies. Despite their failures, The Club makes sure much of Britain considers “aspirational” good (meaning driven by a black hole for competitive success, wealth and status that can never be filled). They have the corner on such aspiration.
In the UK the gold standard for public opinion tends to be “fairness.” But fairness can mean “natural justice,” which is how many Conservatives see it. In the US, Americans may use the term, “fair,” but they mean “common good.” Despite poverty statistics, those who say, “if you can’t feed them, don’t breed them” remain the minority. A public policy focus on getting ordinary Americans back into quality jobs, real equal opportunity, and giving the poor “the means to life” may not be “fair” or “natural justice” in the eyes of “The Club,” but it is " providing for the common good."
Romney’s campaign, simply put, is seen as “of, by, and for” the so-called “wealth creators.” The Club. It isn’t his taste for shoe leather. It is his identity that's his problem.
In the UK this identity has a name- David Cameron. Government “of, by, and for” the The Club has a track record in Britain. It is the record of this Coalition.
The majority of ordinary Americans thus far instinctively distrust that such a government would mean anything good for them. They reject the self-interested “wisdom” of Forbes, Romney, and the other “wealth creators” of The Club. The common good remains what is important, the people its arbiter.
Shouldn't the common good be the universal standard?
Good on you, America. Stick to this instinct. You do not want for you and your children the world of David Cameron and “the posh boys.”
For Britain, I hope you soon smell the compost the self-interested elite shovel under the heading “what do the markets want.” This they interpret to you from out of that great black hole they call aspiration. They need medication, not power.