Forgive my father, for I have sinned
Welcome to the 350th At the End of the Day.
Time was when a politician could rely upon the wife to be his saving grace when things were going wrong. Nixon used his entire family including the dog during the 1950s, but all that was in a gentler age. Today the politician’s chief job is to apologise for his Dad. I wasn’t surprised this morning when I saw that, the Daily Mail having slurred the hard-left Communist father of Ed Miliband last week, the Guardian took a poke at Cameron’s tax-evading stockbroker father. This is all jolly fine if you believe the Bible to have recommended that ‘the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the sons a thousand times’, but the Good Book did nothing of the kind: it merely recorded that this sort of revenge is commonplace. The Old Testament’s rule on all this is the diametric opposite: ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.’ (Deuteronomy 24:16).
As with most things media these days, the idea is nevertheless to chuck some mud, and then hurl some back because two wrongs make a right and this isn’t how wars happen, certainly not. I do such things from time to time myself, but never with serious intent. I call the Chancellor Draper Osborne because his Dad was a cloth retailer, and George himself makes lots of cuts. Satire, see: brirrant innit? And I also refer frequently to Harriet Harman having inherited her potty uncle Lord Longford’s genes, but I don’t believe that at all: when it comes to Hattie, I’m all for each dying for her own sin.
However, if this practice is going to become The Next Big Thing, I could see bloggers and hacks having some fun with it.
Jeremy Hunt’s Dad for example was a senior naval officer. He was in the navy. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, it’s lovely in the navy Mr ‘orne. Now this is of course a scurrilous suggestion almost certainly without foundation, but so too was Hunt’s assertion that after he retired from naval service, his dad went to work in NHS hospitals. He did no such thing, he became the chairman of the SW Surrey health quango. As it’s Sunday and we’re being a bit Biblical, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”.
Hunt was thus using his dad to what he thought was his advantage. Ed Balls’s pater offers the same opportunity to our Shadow Health Secretary: Michael Balls CBE is one of the most eminent academic protectors of laboratory animals in history, and I do not doubt that (like his stammer trauma) at some point Ed will mention Papa in order to promote his soft side underneath that tough exterior – which is really only wafer-thin, of course. But on the other hand, I’d also imagine Balls Senior detests cruelty to people even more; and his son is being unforgivably cruel to those old folks with the CoOperative Bank, because he remains silent about this disgraceful bailin purely to ensure his sponsorship monies keep coming in. I mean, were I to be excessively nasty about the genes involved here, perhaps the most humane thing to do with Teddie Testicles is have him put down. For he is, let’s face it, a bit of an animal.
Mind you, things could get very tricky indeed when it comes to Napper Clegg, the Jobless Recoverup. His Dad was best mates with Leon Brittan and Leon Brittan er wears nice shoes and Dad helped Nick get his first job under oops Leon Brittan and then in 2010 Nick returned the favour by getting the formerly banished person a job in the Camerlot Cabinet. I think the best advice one could give Mr Clegg re this one would be never to get involved in a slanging match about Dads.
One could argue that the best thing to be is Michael Gove, because he hasn’t a clue who his Dad was. His mum didn’t want him and so he was adopted. All we have to ask ourselves at this point is did being an unwanted child have any bearing on the myriad accusations made against him as an adult: at the May 2013 National Association of Head Teachers conference, for example, when members condemned what they said was a climate of bullying, fear and intimidation that he had created during his time as Education Secretary. In 2010 he had to apologise for lying about how much he had cut the previous Government’s school-building programme. In 2011 a judge said his actions in cutting school building projects without consultation “are in five of the cases so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power”.
Hmm. Maybe Dads are important after all. Michael Gove, for example, seems to admire Rupert Murdoch as the Dad he never had: in which case, every last one of the Education Secretary’s odd ideas about how to deal with people can be explained in full.
But I can’t post a column like this and leave out Andy Burnham. For the former Health Secretary’s father was a telephone engineer. And there is no more incorrigible liar on the planet than a telephone engineer. This might explain why, for example, Burnham bleated to a journalist during the 2010 Labour leadership contest,”I didn’t have well-connected parents. People are looking for politicians who have real life experience. My first job was not in politics. My dad was an agency worker.”
It’s a statement that explains much about Andy, because it is riddled with all the obfuscatory half-truths we’ve come to expect from telephone engineers the world over. His Dad became an agency worker much later and only briefly, and although Burnham himself was equally briefly a journalist, the idea that he has ‘broad life experience’ is complete bollocks: he is a professional, élite politician right the way down to his boots, with zero experience of commerce.
He became a Labour Party member at the age of twelve, read for an English degree at Cambridge, joined the Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1995, and after the 1997 election, became a Parliamentary Officer for the NHS. A year after that, he became a Special Adviser to the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, a position he remained in until his election to Parliament in 2001. Looks like the standard pol cv to me.
Media hacks and politicians both richly deserve and feed off each other. Of course Paul Dacre was wrong to write a pile of half-baked crap about Ed Miliband’s dad, but then Rusbridger’s reality-benders at the Guardian are no better. And of course Andy Burnham is always economical with the truth, but then so was Margaret Thatcher in calling her father a greengrocer…..when in fact he was the owner of a large supermarket, and the town Mayor to boot. Yes indeed, Westminster and Fleet Street are two wrongs, and they will never make a right. If only two wrongs cancelled each other out: but sadly, they never do. Rather, they breed the habit of doing wrong. And they are at the core of our cultural malaise.