So Alan Duncan has put his foot in it again. What to do with a politician who gets caught speaking his mind? There are several issues being vacuum-packed into one in the representations this story is receiving across various media. Duncan defenders have pounced on the argument that Heydon Prowse’s behaviour was ungentlemanly because he was invited for a drink in Westminster by Duncan and used the opportunity to secretly record him. ”What kind of person does that?”, wailed Iain Dale on Newsnight last night. Well, exactly the same kind of person who digs pound signs in the lawns of MPs who’ve had them landscaped at the taxpayer’s expense. Alan Duncan should have known better, but as usual his red-faced ebullience got the better of him and he spewed out his misguided and embarrassingly stupid views on the expenses scandal.
The second issue, aside from what anyone thinks of Heydon Prowse (had to check he wasn’t actually a place), is what Duncan actually said. For me this negates any arguments about Prowse’s behaviour. I doubt anyone outside of SW1 really cares about Alan Duncan, his garden or his career, but some of the things he said were spot on, albeit for all the wrong reasons:
“No-one who has done anything in the outside world or is capable of doing such a thing will ever come into this place ever again, the way we’re going…[because] basically it’s been nationalised, you have to live on rations and you’re treated like shit.”
In this wonderful paragraph is everything that is wrong with many politicians’ perception of the creek up which they have found themselves. I suspect he is right that very few people who would otherwise be good at the job will seek it out, because going into politics has never been such a suicidal career move. I think his point is that those ‘capable’ people will be well aware of the fact that they could earn more elsewhere with 1% of the stress. I completely agree. But why does he think that might be? He’s also right that it has effectively been nationalised, but then, what does he think it should be? Has he completely forgotten what the point of politics is? Of course it’s has been nationalised; we own it. It always should have been as such. Equally, he is right that they are treated like shit, but that’s only because they have treated the public like shit. “The world has gone quite mad”, he says. No Alan, you have, and the world is mad at you.
The third issue is about the kind of politicians we want. I understand the arguments about the need for characters in politics and the dangers of ending up with a monochrome political class, but you mostly hear that from people who earn a living covering politics. No doubt their jobs would be less exciting without people like Alan Duncan, but unfortunately things like integrity, judgement and honesty are more important than providing blog material for political bloggers, myself included.
Paul Goodman MP, who recently announced he is to stand down at the next election, half-heartedly defends Alan Duncan on ConservativeHome.com. His argument is that omnipotent and often unknown digital coverage of politicians’ every controversial burp and misguided fart means they must be permanently on guard and duty, in other words (his words), less human (?!) and less honest with the voters. So it seems he hasn’t quite got it either. You can be as honest as you want, as human as you in fact are (which in many cases is not very). “Not many MPs will survive under these hothouse conditions”, he warns. Chill out Goodman, change your pants. It’s really easy: just don’t spend public money on shit you don’t need and then sit in your taxpayer-subsidised bar and claim – whether recorded or otherwise – that you are “living on rations”, because you’re f***ing not, ok?
According to Guido Fawkes, Heydon Prowse offered Duncan the video back in Junewhen it was first recorded, the implication being that he turned it down. If so this only makes Duncan’s behaviour all the more bizarre and his judgement even more impaired. The results of a ConservativeHome.com poll – ‘What do you think of Alan Duncan?‘ – will be released at 5pm and might well foresee his fate.
Once again they are moaning about being caught rather than actually stopping to think, ‘maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking that, never mind saying it out loud’. There is nothing wrong with speaking your mind as long as what you think isn’t dangerously misguided self-pitying horseshit. I suspect another one has bitten the dust.