In a moment of glorious irony, the Iron Lady once praised a certain William Whitelaw, faithful Deputy and Leader of the House of Lords, with the phrase “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.” But in recent days and weeks, it seems this gem of Parliamentary wit may have more relevance than ever before. And certainly not in the way Mrs Thatcher would have expected – the British People’s biggest beef with their premier appears to be a small matter of pork.
This unsubstantiated rumour must be music to Bernard Cribbins’ ears, but, in keeping with the honest, sincere style of leadership now infiltrating Westminster, his somewhat discordant Labour Party hasn’t made capital out of it. To do so would dig an even larger hole for himself, and to avoid the jaws of farce is at least slightly commendable. But the media have delighted in tales of Bullington Club antics of late, and it’s coming perilously close to the sort of received wisdom which shrouds Tony Blair’s largely noble premiership and Mother Teresa’s rather suspicious rise to international fame.
It’s all the more sickening when the source of this cheap gossip and cheaper satire is considered. In fact, he’s the exact sort of exorbitant donor despised by Corbynites across the land: one who pours money into the Conservative coffers, sulks for a while about the supposed insignificance of his reward, then publishes an unauthorised biography to claw a bit of cash back from the indiscriminate cesspool outside his realm and embarrass the top of the party he’d given so much to. Apparently, PigGate found its way in as “it would make people smile.” Yes, the great British public who’ll believe anything they’re told are yet again the target of good old-fashioned backstabbing. It’s pathetic.
And yet the sort of people who call for transparency and decency in affairs of state, the new wave of radicals and free-thinkers, the deeply moral individuals who yearn for a political culture in which opponents are treated with honour and respect – it seems that those who would apply such labels to themselves are also the main propagators of profoundly unpleasant fairytales, ones which will leave a generation of schoolchildren unable to look at William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ in quite the same way again. All this with a blissful, self-imposed air of absolute ignorance which dispels any hint alluding to self-centred distortions of the few self-evident particulars.
In truth, this whole business is a fantastically trivial one. However, the wider issue which it illustrates is considerably more substantial: an unprincipled, hypocritical and frankly dangerous form of double-edged criticism pervading British politics like mayonnaise in a shop-bought sandwich. It isn’t even justifiable in the face of perhaps the most nauseating claim Ashcroft’s made in his new pot-boiler, even more disgusting than that which has received the greatest amount of tabloid attention. The prospect of our Prime Minister exposing the homeless to Thatcher’s monetarist crusade head-on is one with truly serious ramifications, but there’s absolutely no reason to believe it’s anything less of a porky-pie than his brief encounter with a pig, no doubt set to a tuneful blast of Rachmaninoff on the gramophone.
Essentially, there’s a decision to be made here. Either ‘Call me Dave’ is innocent of all charges, or the word of a controversial Tory politician is to be taken at face value. The choice is yours.