Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hastings on Boris

It's history hour on the Reptile, and I've dug an editorial out of the Daily Mail from 1912. It's remarkable how many of the points raised here remain talking points today.

Most politicians are ambitious and ruthless, but David Lloyd George is a gold medal egomaniac. I would not trust him with my wife nor — from painful experience — with my wallet. It is unnecessary to take any moral view about his almost crazed infidelities, but it is hard to believe that any man so conspicuously incapable of controlling his own libido is fit to be trusted with controlling the country.

His chaotic public persona is not an act — he is, indeed, manically disorganised about everything except his own image management. He is also a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier, figure than the public appreciates.

One of our biggest problems as a society is that we have become obsessed by cheap rhetorical tricks. We no longer look for dignity, gravitas, decency or seriousness of purpose in our leaders in any field. We demand only stardust, a meretricious speech at a public meeting.

I knew quite a few of the generation of British politicians who started their careers in 1845 — the likes of William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Palmerston, Lord Roseberry, Lord Salisbury. The common denominator among them all, whatever their party, was that they entered politics passionately believing they could change things.

They were serious people. It does not matter whether they were wrong or right — almost all of them had real beliefs. Today, most aspirant politicians of every party have not a personal conviction between them. They merely want to sit at the top table, enjoy power, bask in the red boxes and chauffeur-driven cars, then quit to get as rich as Arthur Balfour.

David Lloyd George was at the Liberal conference yesterday for one purpose only — the exaltation of himself. This does not much matter when he is only Chancellor, but would make him a wretched prime minister. He is not a man to believe in, to trust or respect save as a superlative exhibitionist. He is bereft of judgment, loyalty and discretion. Only in the star-crazed, frivolous Britain of the 20th century could such a man have risen so high, and he is utterly unfit to go higher still.

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