The Uncuts: 2018 political awards (part IV)

Dunce of the Year: Karen Bradley

Easy one this, you might imagine. Throw a stick in Westminster and you’ll hit a suitable candidate. Ah, but there’s a subtlety here. There’s lots of incompetence around the place (and if that’s your thing then Chris Grayling is usually your man) but what about genuine idiocy? Proper full-fat political ignorance?

Step forward the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley.

Back in September, she told The House magazine that when she was appointed she “didn’t understand” that in Northern Ireland “people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice-versa.”

She added: “That is so incredibly different and it’s when you realise that, and you see that, that you can then start to understand some of the things that the politicians say and some of the rhetoric.”

In a tense year, she managed that rare feat of uniting the whole of Northern Ireland in a genuine ‘WTF’ moment. It begs the obvious question: What else doesn’t she know?

A close runner-up was Gavin Williamson, incongruously the Secretary of State for Defence.

Back in March, Field Marshall Chickenhawk told Russia to “go away and shut up” following the Salisbury Novichok attack. Asked if Britain and Russia were entering a new Cold War, he replied: “Relations ain’t good are they?”

The former fireplace salesman probably thinks a ‘firefight’ is when two customers lay claim on the same cut-price Aga in the January sale. Like Bradley, Williamson is a factotum of Theresa May, who likes her ministers thick and loyal.

Also taken into consideration, was the memorable contribution from Leader of the House, Andrea Ledsom, who, while referring to the new tenner, described Jane Austen as “one of our greatest living authors.” This generated some epic trolling from an unexpected quarter, with Waterstones tweeting: “We are currently moving all our Jane Austen stock from Classics into Greatest Living Authors.”

Decency that will be missed: Paddy Ashdown

What if Tony Blair had won in 1997 with a much smaller majority – or no majority at all? Would we have seen the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown in coalition with Labour?

If that scenario had played out, would it have been so bad? Back then, the Lib Dems were pretty indistinguishable from Labour. This was before The Orange Book and Clegg’s drift to the neo-liberal right on economics. Could the left and liberal tendencies in British politics have worked together to keep Conservatisim locked-out of power?

Ashdown was many things. Frequently pompous and irascible in style, (which accounted for the cat-calling and groaning he used to receive when he stood up in the Commons), he was also genuine and decent.

He single-handedly carved out a niche for the Lib Dems with his direct, energetic style and effectively became the conscience of British politics over the need to intervene in Bosnia.

Denis Healey recounts in his memoirs first encountering Ashdown when he was defence secretary inspecting the Far East Fleet back in the 1960s. A group of British commandos parachuted from an aircraft into the sea and swam to meet Healey on a submarine. ‘One of them was a young officer called Paddy Ashdown.’

In an age where the average voter would like to see their politicians pushed out of a plane and into the sea, it takes an exceptional character to actually jump first.

RIP Paddy Ashdown.

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2 Responses to “The Uncuts: 2018 political awards (part IV)”

  1. Alf says:

    “Back then, the Lib Dems were pretty indistinguishable from Labour.”

    Labour were indistinguishable from the Tories too.

  2. John P reid says:

    alf, Labours prexit policy? but the Tories under William hague were a alt right party?
    as for heroes of the year, here’s mine Paul Embery

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