There's more to rhetoric than words

stevemcdowell's picture

During the Second World War, when the stock of British politicians was at its height, there was an exquisite exchange in some forgotten House of Commons corridor between the legendary orator and then PM, Winston Churchill, and the robust, old school West Country left winger Ernest Bevin.

Even though Churchill had invited Bevin to be his Minister of Labour there was no love lost between the two diametrically socially-opposed mandarins.

"Ay Winston," drawled Bevin poking Churchill's famous tum, "What are you gonna call it when it's born?"

"Bah," slurred the great man without hesitation, "If it is a girl, I shall call it Samantha... b'and if it is boy, I shall call him Winston... mmm.. but if it is, as I suspect.. all p*ss and wind... I shall call it Ernest."

And so, by way of juxtaposition, in the Commons today, when the stock of British politicians is at its terminal nadir, we are treated to an exchange of witless flatulence across the ballot boxes.

The Chancellor, stuck between a sack of rocks and a very prickly hard place, borrows a shed load more cash and hands out a little something for everyone, a snip off fuel, a nudge on the state pension, a few sops for the SME sector.

So largely we are left with vote winners in the (practically Toryless) north east and north west in the form of accelerated infrastructure projects, a pay-rise of 5.8% for the unemployed, which is extremely high in the (practically Toryless) inner cities. Up to £1.2bn for dilapidated school buildings (I bet none of them are in Godalming) and childcare places for the most deprived two-year olds (laudable again, but I bet no-one in St Albans claims). A bit of help for first-time and right-to buyers (yep, both Tory policies).

Some help, though not much, for oppressed commuters and legislation-yoked employers and a carrot "six month work placement" and stick "in exchange for your benefits" Youth Contract for beleaguered young unemployed.

For 15 minutes the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls shouted at the recently-seated Chancellor a series of witless ripostes without a single constructive critique. He may as well have thumbed his nose and gone "Nyyahhhh!" at the same time, and that with 48 hours notice of the most widely-leaked financial statement in history.

Both sets of politicians – then and now - faced a long war against a seemingly unstoppable force of evil threatening to destroy little old Blighty and had to borrow mightily to endure it. One had the talent and the good fortune to defeat it. Whether the other does remains to
be seen.

Mind you at least this Chancellor had the sense of history to stick two fingers up at Europe, even if it was just at the 'Tobin Tax'.

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