Posts Tagged ‘‘Yes Prime Minister’’

Jim Hacker’s Interview Advice, and Michael Howard Savaged by Paxman

May 29, 2017

Tonight Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are both going to be interviewed by Paxman as part of the Beeb’s series of interviews with the party leaders in the run up to the general election. I found this video yesterday of Jim Hacker giving advice to Bernard on how to handle interviews with the media. The hero of ‘Yes, Minister’, and ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ advised

If you have nothing to say, say nothing. Better still, have something to say, and say it.

Pay no attention to the question, just make your own statement. Then if they ask the question again, you answer the question you want. If they ask you again after that, you say, ‘That’s not the question. The real question is..’, and then go on to make your statement.

Intercut with this is footage of the classic interview of Michael Howard by Paxo on Newsnight way back in the 1990s, when Michael Howard was the head of the Tory party. This was when Paxo’s interviews were something of a blood sport and hapless politicians found themselves demolished by his persistent questioning. Such as his repeated questioning of Howard whether he overruled a Tory colleague.

Paxo has said since then that he feels bad about this interview, as he went in much harder that he needed to be. The interview looked like it was going to end before the show’s time, and so the producer told him to keep Howard talking. And unable to think of anything else, Paxo savaged him for not answering the question.

Hacker’s advice to politicos and civil servants facing the media is still relevant. You can see them using it. MPs, cabinet ministers and even Theresa May herself will refuse to answer the questions put to them, and carry on making the same statements they want to make. As for May, she’ll adopt an awkward chumminess with the interview, as she did with Andrew Neil. She tried calling him by his first name, ‘Well, Andrew…’ before repeating ad nauseam her mantra of ‘strong and stable’.

Again like Hacker in one of his interviews with the Beeb in ‘Yes, Minister’, where he adopted the same fake chumminess, calling the interviewer by his first name.

‘Yes, Minister’, however, was a satire intended to mock and show up the bureaucracy of the civil service and the pretensions and incompetence of government officials and civil servants. Hacker’s interview advice was effectively the writers’ way of telling the audience how politicians try to wriggle out of answering questions they can’t handle.

In the case of Theresa May, it looks very much like she learned the technique, but hasn’t mastered it. She is not at ease with interviews, just as she does not like meeting the public. When she appears on interviews, she appears stiff and awkward, and when she uses this technique, it actually looks like something she’s been consciously taught and is trying to remember, like a school pupil trying to remember what the teacher said to him about techniques for public speaking. And, sooner or later, my bet is that she’s going to use this technique tonight.

Corbyn, by contrast, has been savaged by the media despite the fact that he does give them clear answers. They just don’t like what he tells them. All this stuff about not letting people starve, giving people decent wages and benefits and trying to create a fairer society. Which is why they’ve smeared him as a Trotskyite, just like they tried to paint Ken Livingstone as a Communist way back in the 1980s.

As for Theresa May, not only does she use Hacker’s interview technique, she’s even worse at it than Hacker, who was supposed to be a rather bumbling figure, something of an innocent, whose efforts to reform the civil service were constantly being stymied by Sir Humphrey.

The classic comedy series was so accurate in its depiction of Whitehall bureaucracy, that a friend of mine remarked that he now views it less as a comedy and more as a documentary.

Unfortunately, Theresa May and her vile policies are no laughing matter. Hundreds of people have died in misery and starvation thanks to her policies. 200,000 or so people have to use food banks, and 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ households.

That’s homes where the mother is starving herself to make sure her kids eat, or where they don’t know where the next meal is going to come from.

Let’s end this malignant farce.

Vote for Corbyn and the Labour party on June 8th.

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Boris Gets His Own Glossy Fan Mag

November 30, 2015

More proof of Boris Johnson’s vaulting political ambitions, or at least, his galloping megalomania.

Looking through the Cheltenham branch of W.H. Smith a few weeks ago, I found on the magazine racks a glossy brochure devoted to Boris. Simply titled Boris Johnson, it was very much like the type of glossy specials brought out to celebrate a royal event, like the queen’s coronation, the jubilee, or a royal wedding. It also reminded me of some of the material that came out during Thatcher’s reign. Despite its highly offensive and distasteful subject matter to anyone on the Left, and to a few genuinely caring Tories, for that matter, there was a point to it. Most of these came out when Thatcher celebrated 13 years in power. She was at that point the longest serving British prime minister, and the first woman to hold the office. In those respects she deserved to be commemorated. Or at least, she had as much right to be as every other holder of the office.

Boris, on the other hand, is still some way away from that lofty post. He’s been editor of magazine, The Spectator, though so was the fictional Jim Hacker of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister fame. And part of what made Hacker funny was that essentially he was a nondescript, junior MP, who was given a political office – the Minister for Administrative Affairs – who imagined himself as something far greater and grander. Like Winston Churchill. His voice took on the Great Warleader’s inflections and tones when he started to imagine the glorious political future stretching ahead of him, and the country under his benign leadership.

Which makes you wonder somewhat about Boris. Does he also stand in his office, posing as Churchill, trying to capture the great man’s tones and mannerisms in his office while no-one’s looking, conjuring up before his inner eye a magnificent future in which Maximus and UNUM have saved the government millions by killing off all the disabled through starvation, and the poor and proles are properly confined to their own ghettos and know their place?

The first part of that grim scenario is unlikely. Johnson has gained much of his popularity through posing as a loveable, bumbling oaf. He makes mistakes, but he means well, and it’s all a good laugh, so why not vote for him? In actual fact, while I’ve no doubt some of his accident prone persona is genuine, it strikes me as exaggerated and played up to get public sympathy. And people who know Johnson say he is a steely political operator with a vicious temper, quite different from the amiable fool that appears on Have I Got News For You.

The second part of that scenario, on the other hand, is all too plausible. It seems very clear that Johnson covets the role of PM, and would like to unseat, or at least, succeed Cameron in that role. And like the rest of the Tories, he has an absolute contempt for the poor and working and lower middle classes. It’s indicative of the contempt he feels for the people of London that he decided he couldn’t afford to pay the firemen a proper wage, but could buy three water cannons.

Cheltenham is also on the edge of the Cotswolds, and the magazines looks like it was designed to appear to the Cotswold set of very wealthy that live outside the town, reading magazines like Cotswold Life. Cheltenham itself is rather different, and has a large underclass, very like other towns such as Bath, where the very rich and the poor live practically cheek by jowl.

It also reminds me of the jokes about Adolf Hitler in Red Dwarf, when a set of photographs mutate so they can use them as a time machine. One of the photos is of Hitler, who Kryten recognises as he was featured in one of Rimmer’s specialist magazines: Fascist Dictator Monthly. The Fuehrer was Mr October. It also reminds me of the fan magazine devoted to the evil Torquemada, the genocidally racist grandmaster of Termight – Earth, thousands of years in the future – in 2000 AD’s ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip. As Torquemada was the absolute, totalitarian ruler of this nightmarish future Earth, he also had his fan magazine, with the slogan ‘Let’s talk Torquey’, and fan conventions. The last seemed partly modelled on the comics convictions that have been going since at least the ’70s. Johnson is far too clever to give in to the urge to make racist rants like Torquemada. He merely fronts TV series on the splendours of ancient Rome and appears as a genial guest on popular satirical quizzes.

But this is evidence of his megalomania, his driving ambition and his need for popular acclaim, as well as the popular votes, nonetheless. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Cameron Brings Back Ancient Greek Metic System for Migrant Workers

June 22, 2015

I caught on the news this morning that Cameron has just announced legislation limiting the length of time foreign citizens can stay in the UK to six years. Except, of course, for those earning over £35,000, who aren’t bound by such restrictions. Once again, it shows their xenophobia and their hatred of the poor. The rich can stay for as long as they like, never mind the social cleansing they bring with them as working class districts are gentrified and their original occupants pushed out, both traditional British and those of more settled migrant communities.

Worse, the legislation has been backdated to 2011, which means that hardworking migrants, who’ve been over here for four or five years already, are suddenly faced with the problem of having to prepare to leave the UK. This is even when many of them may have already effectively settled down, got married, had children and put money down for property here.

A friend of mine told me how one of his relatives organised protests against similar legislation when it was brought in under John Major. The government then wanted to do exactly what Cameron and co are trying to do now, and the effects on the NHS were exactly as feared by some of the spokespeople for the nurses now. Various representatives for the nurses were shown on the news, voicing their fears that this would devastate the number of nurses actually working in the Health Service. This is precisely what threatened to happen way back in the 1990s. A number of the nurses at the hospital, where my friend’s relative worked, were foreign nationals. These women and men had worked hard, and put down roots in the UK through marriage and purchasing their own homes. They were then faced with being forcibly uprooted from their jobs, families and homes. And so his relative took part in organising a series of protests on their behalf.

Cameron’s new regulations limiting the amount of time poor migrant workers can spend in the UK is basically just a revival of the metic system from ancient Greece. The metics were foreign citizens resident in the ancient Greek city states, usually merchants and traders. They were allowed to remain in the cities for six years. On the seventh year, they had to return to their countries of origin. And so with the modern metics Cameron has effectively created with this legislation. And as with most of the Tories’ policies, it’s very likely a product of their public school education. The education of the aristocracy has always been based solidly on the Classics, to the point where there was a joke about it in the satirical BBC comedies, Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister. At one point the new prime minister, Jim Hacker, formerly the Minister for Administrative Affairs, is faced with a severe financial crisis. Looking around to find anyone in the government or upper levels of the Civil Service, who might have the necessary expertise to solve the crisis, Hacker is aghast to find that none of them are economists. In exasperation he asks Sir Humphrey if, surely, the head of the Treasury studied economics at Uni. Certainly not, replies Sir Humphrey indignantly, he studied Classics. Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the Toffs now running the country into the ground may have studied more relevant subjects at Uni, but behind this there is the shadow of the British public school education system and its emphasis on the Classics.

Its also pretty much of a piece with the other bits of legislation Cameron and his cronies have introduced. They’ve effectively reintroduced the debt slavery that Solon attempted to legislate against, and with the massive expansion of workfare are effectively reducing the poor and the young to Helots. These were state slaves at the very bottom of Spartan society. And on one day each year, it was legal for the Spartan elite to rob, beat and kill them if they so wished, just to teach them their place. It hasn’t got that bad yet, but you have to wonder if it will, given Cameron and co’s membership of the Bullingdon Club, who I think got their kicks smashing up bars.

Of course, Cameron and his cronies admire ancient Greece as the source of western culture, and the inventors of democracy. But the democracy the ancient Greeks pioneered was very limited. Only citizens, which meant property owners, who did not have to work or run businesses, but lived off their rents, had the vote. This is the concept of democracy that Aristotle celebrates and promotes in his Politics, where he recommends that such citizens have their own, separate forum to that of the rest of the populace, so they don’t have to mix with slaves, artisans, traders and similar riff-raff. And as Cameron has followed the Americans in trying to restrict the franchise to rich property-owners under the guise of rooting out electoral fraud, we can probably look forward to that coming back as well.