I’m a great admirer of the British political campaign group Led by Donkeys. For a start, they use wit very effectively to expose the hypocrisy of the current British government. That must be a good thing. Second, they have the best name of any campaign group ever. It comes from the expression Lions led by donkeys – describing the belief that British soldiers in the First world war (the heroic lions) were sent to their deaths in the thousands by Generals (the donkeys) who were incompetent and indifferent to the slaughter that resulted from their decision. The analogy with our current political leaders seems excellent. I have never had such a strong sense that the people in power in Britain are disconnected to and uninterested in ordinary people.
When I was at University, there were a number of notorious drinking and dining societies, largely populated by the privileged few. Prominent among them was the Bullingdon Club, whose members would famously go out for an evening to the best restaurants in Oxford, get riotously drunk and trash the place, leaving a large pile of cash to pay for the damage. Depending on how you feel about these things, it’s good harmless fun or the unacceptable face of the class system – or even something in between. One thing really never occurred to me – that, thirty years later these would be the people running the country.
Perhaps Lions led by jackasses would be more apt.
But it’s not just the government that has disappointed me. The sentiment expressed in Led by Donkeys could describe a great deal of my experience of growing up.
When I was growing up, I learned in school how institutions worked, how economics worked and broadly how society was organized. It was presented as a world that was ordered, sensible. It was run by competent and knowledgeable people who were trained and experienced and who had the greater good foremost among their goals. They learned from experience and things improved over time, as our knowledge and understanding progressed.
Then I went to University, travelled a bit, had a career and so on. The world I experienced was very little like this. Some of it was a bit like I had imagined – there were clever people in high positions in big businesses. I had always imagined you had to be smart and also at least reasonably well intentioned to succeed. But an alarming number of the businesses I worked with were led by charlatans and bullshitters. And they seemed no less successful than the good guys. Maybe I was impossibly naive to imagine any different.
I worked in Government for a time and was staggered at what a dirty, backstabbing business it was. I’m sure people go into politics with good intentions, but what I saw was just cynical and grasping. We talked a good game about ‘evidence-based government’, but this was the opposite of what actually happened. It would more accurately be described as getting-back-into-power-at-any-cost-and-shafting-the-other-bugger-based-government.
How else could we have had something as patently wrong as Brexit?
So, over the years, my faith in the people influencing our lives diminished.
And this week it reached a new low. Or should that be a new high?
This is the crowning glory of stupidity in high places.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is a former client of mine. We worked together on renewable energy policy when it was called the DTI (Department for Trade and Industry). It was a sensible, grown-up thing. There were adults who worked there. They wore suits and everything.
At least I thought they were adults.
BEIS has recently announced its plan to bring back the use of imperial measurements. For those of you who live in the post 1980s world, I should explain, that means pounds and ounces, stones etc.
I checked. Nope, it’s not April 1st.
Business Minister, Paul Scully said “While we think of fruit and veg by the pound, the legacy of EU rules means we legally have to sell them by the kilo”. “Our consultation today will help shops to serve customers in the way their customers want.”
I’d love to know who these customers are. To have been taught about pounds and ounces in school, you’d certainly need to be over the UK state retirement age.
During the 2019 election campaign Boris Johnson (ex-Bullingdon Club) pledged to bring back imperial units, claiming this was restoring an “ancient liberty”
I am still awaiting the imminent announcements on reinstating longbow practise on the village greens of England and removing votes for women and those who do not own property.
Back on Planet Earth, Tory peer and boss of supermarket chain Asda, Lord Rose, talking to Times Radio, said “returning to imperial weights and measures was “complete and utter nonsense”. “I’ve never heard such nonsense in my life. I mean we have got serious problems in the world and we’re saying ‘let’s go backwards'”. “Does anybody in the country under the age of 40 even know how many ounces there are in a pound?”
I do think he’s being unreasonably generous.
Lions led by twats?