Regular readers will know I am no fan of Boris Johnson (currently Mayor of London), but I must have to thank him for giving me the seed for this particular poisoned tree. I have no hesitation in re-publishing the following link to Johnson being interview by Jeremy Paxman at the Conservative Party conference in 2011. I watch it regularly. The relevant bit starts at 10:22 but I recommend watching the whole thing if you want a good laugh.
It is interesting to look at the Wikipedia entries for some of our current ruling class. The “PPE” that Johnson so derides stands for “philosophy, politics, & economics”. It’s one of those combined degrees for students who are not really up to majoring in any one subject. Basically, it’s General Studies for career politicians. However, despite Johnson’s derision of David Cameron’s (current Prime Minister) full marks at university, a quick look at Wikipedia reveals his own supposedly superior major 2:1 subject being “Classics”, a sort of Greek Game of Thrones.
George Osborne (currently Chancellor of the Exchequer) is not exactly a high-achiever either, and economics was not his major subject. It makes you wonder how he gained such a pivotal role in the government. That is until you read that he is the heir apparent to the baronetcy of Osborne. Ah, a toff. That’s okay then.
It’s a bit of a shame that some of these unremarkable talents didn’t spend less of their time at school with their heads up the arse of Plato and more in basic maths and ICT (Information & Computing Technology), then they might have had a better grasp on the use of statistics and spreadsheets.
Osborne’s austerity policies are based upon a discredited economic model using a miscalculated spreadsheet (Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff), recently revealed as being flawed by two professors and a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts.
Such a fundamental error in a spreadsheet formula (a program that actually adds up all the numbers for you, obviating even basic arithmetic) would fail you in the most elementary of ICT qualifications, but I guess that sort of rigor is not required for a 2:1 in Modern History.
Shame Osborne didn’t give it to one of his own researchers to double-check. Even an intern could probably have found such a fundamental error if only he had thought that it was important enough to bother. But why? It only affects poor people.
I know it’s a very old stuck record to be banging on about privilege and old boys’ networks but things have not changed. The Bullingdon Boys are still trashing the restaurant, only this time we are footing the bill.
William Hague (currently First Secretary of State) also has a first in PPE, cherry-topped with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Despite Cameron and Osborne’s smooth-faced sliminess, Hague is by far the most admirable example of a Master of Bullshit Application whose question avoidance could even teach James Murdoch a thing or two.
However, the most spookily fascistic statement is this unimpeachably non-committal but threatening quotation taken from an interview on BBC TV about the, then recent, Edward Snowden leaks:
“The net effect is that if you are a law-abiding citizen of this country going about your business and personal life, you have nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies listening to the content of your phone calls or anything like that.”
Most telling about the above MPs’ CVs is their lack of work experience, I mean real work, not “researcher” ,“advisor” or “speechwriter” which, in British politics, are all pseudonyms for “professional liar”.
I’ll leave my more in-depth observations on the techniques of professional lying to a future post, but this leads me to one of the most glaring examples of paid public servants who have less than a complete grasp of the truth, Grant Shapps.
Shapps is a rather surprising choice for Conservative Party Chairman after his less-than-savoury previous career in get-rich-quick schemes operating under more than one alias. I suppose in the UK Conservative party he doesn’t seem all that bad compared with the swivel-eyed fascists languishing on the back-benches, especially given the neo-Nazi “Aternative Queen’s Speech” recently published. Even the lizards-in-human-clothing on the front benches find those bloodless vampires unpalatable. This headline say it all, even the Daily Torygraph thinks they’re loons:
A very telling quotation from David Cameron, our Prime Minister and champion of the laughably patronising Big Society initiative, referred to comedian Jimmy Carr’s tax arrangements as being “morally wrong”.
It’s a shame the philosophy part of his honours degree in PPE did not cover a little more ground. Taxation is not a moral issue, it is an ethical issue, but it seems Cameron does not know the difference and this is one of the most damning indictments of the people who affect our livelihoods in the UK. They do not know the difference between morality and ethics because they are neither moral nor ethical. These are just concepts they learned about in the dreaming spires of Oxford but have never applied in their brief careers leaping directly from studying to influence with only the occasional summer working in an uncle’s factory.
Shapps is certainly an exception, but his experience in the world of commerce is not something most of us would want on our own CVs. In fact, he was found out to have altered his own Wikipedia entry, no doubt to “correct” it, and also posted a comment on a YouTube video pretending to be a Lib Dem supporter, whilst being logged in from his own account. No ICT qualification for him either, and he’d best leave any espionage to Hague’s impenetrable dome of silence.
Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) (currently Secretary of State for Work & Pensions) also has a less than exemplary academic career, although he did try to “enhance” it before his claim to have studied at the Italian University of Perugia was found to be inaccurate (aka a lie).
Both IDS and Shapps have at least some real world experience which you would have though would have taught them the futility of lying. You always get found out, and even more so these days with the unblinking eye of Wikipedia collating inconvenient facts in spite of one’s own “corrections”. Which leads me conveniently to the matter of (ahem) statistics. Both of these fantasists have been criticised for willful misuse of statistics by the UK Statistics Authority.
Proud as they might be of their actual or imagined education, a little more time at the University of Life might have taught them why they are so widely hated by the British public outside the steaming spires of Whitehall. In any other profession misrepresentation, gross negligence or gross incompetence would be seen as causes for disciplinary action and possibly dismissal, but in British politics we are so used to this abuse of power by unqualified bigots that we hardly notice it.
But all of that is just playground stuff, even Clement Attlee (beloved of the those old-fashioned lefties who bang on about the NHS all the time) only got a second class degree, also in Modern History. However, his political view was fundamentally changed by working with poverty-stricken children. It seems he saw something in the eyes of the poor that could not be communicated at preparatory school.
Hague and Cameron are no doubt proud of their achievements but a First Class Honours in Busybodying and a Master’s in Bookkeeping does not make you a statesman. And this is the fundamental folly of what we see in British politics. It has become a career choice, not a vocation. These nobodies are either straight out of university, failed businessmen or disgraced journalists with not a single backbone between them (strictly speaking lizards are vertebrates, but you get the point, Ed). The British Conservative Party is a resting place for people who have no actual value in society apart from the skills of not answering questions and passing the blame onto other people such as teachers, nurses, the unemployed and of course, that scourge of society, single mothers.
However, this post is not about bashing people for their educational achievements, not even Conservative politicians. Mine could hardly be compared favourably but at least I don’t lie about it. That would be both unethical and immoral (just in case you were wondering, Dave). However, I have had 30 years experience our in the real world working and that give you a very different perspective on life and a keen nose for bullshit.
I suggest a new qualification for anyone wanting to claim they represent the people of Britain in Parliament. The curriculum would require reading the entire saga of Harry Potter novels, watching all six seasons of “Lost” and being required to work as waiting staff for the Bullingdon Club. The examinations would involve writing an episode of “Hollyoaks”, filling in a self-assessment tax return and a multiple-choice quiz on the difference between morality and ethics. None of the questions would actually have a correct answer with electric shocks administered for wrong answers.
This would give wannabe politicians a taste of what it is to be a frustrated and powerless witness to the lies, incompetence and insanity embodied by British politics. Tally ho!