Saturday, 25 April 2009

Government is not a Private Affair

A damning use of language is displayed in the Times interview with Peter Mandelson. He 'speaks of his similarity to Mr Brown. Asked why Mr Brown wanted to lay the past to rest he said:

“Because I know him. I have known him for a very long time . . . there is an emotion, a sentiment which you don’t see, a gift for friendship and warmth he doesn’t always bother to put on public view. He is a private man. You know from the way he has been brought up. It is a bit like me in a way. You don’t show emotions in public. I think we may come from similar backgrounds, similar maternal influences.”'

These are not the proper bases for a work relationship. Every word shows that judgment and decision-taking is in danger of being improperly influenced, overwhelmed, by feeling and expression appropriate to the favour and forgiveness we use in circumstances of private commitment. Private commitment is inimical to public openness and equality of treatment of working colleagues engaged in the undertakings and democratic trust involved in public life.

Mandelson goes on to underline this himself. 'He says that his role in the Blair premiership was,
“draining and invigorating, being part of a transformative experience in which I felt I was a key part and yet, because of the difficult circumstances between the three of us, I was also put at a distance from. I was part of it and yet apart.” No excuse can be offered for permitting the intervention of private feeling to damage work accepted, particularly when it has been given after a very different public presentation of the self, and a very different presentation of others enmeshed in this self-avowedly intensely personal construct.

Furthermore, no effective walls or barriers were set up to exclude the impropriety of expressing these feelings. Mandelson 'agrees that his relationship with Mr Blair was “clandestine”. He was there for Mr Blair “any time, any day” to talk about anything. “But somehow it was as if we were having to operate behind some thin veil.”

Having to operate? It was a duty to act openly and according to long-established work practices. Not to do so admits failure on the very first count of work behaviour, and to personal guilty feelings that should have been rigorously set apart, but were not, and coloured all kinds of actions in much that was done.

'Was that to avoid upsetting Mr Brown?

“Yes. Or others would get jealous or the press would stir things up." Jealous? Stir things up? We are reading of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a senior politician incapable of conducting themselves in office other than in terms of their private troika.

" Everyone was divided, the Government was divided, the party was divided, MPs were divided, the media was divided, into camps.”' Precisely so. And to the damage of the country, the body politic, the political system, the work lives not just of immediate colleagues, but to millions.

When we find ourselves with Mandelson parachuted into the Upper House of the Legislature and made Minister for Industry during the worst depression since 1945 because last July he agreed to an invitation to see the Prime Minister after a lunch with the No 10 permanent secretary and then spoke to him for two hours, the distasteful sensation of some kind of 'date' being set up between a long-estranged couple in fraught and destructive emotional pain is reinforced. 'And then ', the language of improper relationship gushes on, 'they talked every day over last summer.'

This is utter corruption. Power ceded in trust by the electorate has been, and in the case of two of them still is, in the hands of self-absorbed feeders on private emotion incapable of disinterested and proper conduct in office.


Raedwald said...

Absolutely spot on HG. Utterly unprofessional conduct. Taking office as a Minister of the Crown is not about personal fulfilment, relationships or touchy-feely warmness but about service. There's not one word there about duty, responsibility, trust, probity, diligence or obligation. The man and his colleagues are no more than narcissistic fools, imagining that the world turns on their moods. Fatuous.

dearieme said...

The triangle Blair-Brown-Mandelson was hardly a secret. People voted for it. Fools.

hatfield girl said...

You must have been far more politically aware and perceptive than I was, Dearieme, because while I left in 1997 to set up an alternative to life in England just in case, because the New Labour propaganda smacked so uncomfortably of the German Democratic Republic's public face, I certainly didn't pick up on such a meaning for 'the personal is political'.

My perception, for what it's worth, is that people were voting for an updated, up-technologied, French-planning style, statist, Wilson administration with the trade unions holding no special role any longer after OMOV, and the trotskyoid entryists defeated by Kinnock. Actually that's a perception not worth much, I can see that now with 20 20 hindsight.

What I can't understand is people like Charles Clarke being involved. Kingsmen aren't usually uptight and authoritarian. Anyway, I certainly didn't see this kind of triangle and abandonment of Raedwald's admirable parameters of conduct.

Raven, I can't put your comment up as you wrote it. Could you rephrase it more mmmm neutrally?

Odin's Raven said...

This government is like a reversion to a royal court style of government, where personal relations and favouritism were all powerful.
In fact, it's rather like the court of that other very queer ruler from Scotland, JamesI.