News, Culture & Society

PETER HITCHENS: Sometimes stale male MPs are best choice 

Does anyone really think a government is better because of the way it looks? 

Anyone who actually believes this surely deserves exactly what he or she gets. 

The Blair and Cameron governments, among the worst in living memory (and in my view longer than that), were crammed with youthful idiots who looked reasonably good on TV, and great fusses were made of the numbers of women MPs (regardless of whether they were any good). 

Yet here we go again. 

We have just had a reshuffle openly based on the fatuous idea that the way the Government looks is what matters. 

The slogans never change. 

Theresa May recently reshuffled her cabinet – Justine Greening (left) resigned as education secretary rather than taking a new role at the Department for Work and Pensions. Boris Jonhson (right) remained as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Old-fashioned organisations are called ‘male, pale and stale’, even if they are headed by women and contain far more women and ethnic minority members than at any time in history. 

Sometimes we are told that the Cabinet, or the fire brigade, or the police should ‘look like the people they serve’, or even that they should ‘look like Britain’. 

In fact, this generally means that they should look like the population of London, now one of the great multicultural and multi- ethnic city-states of the world, but completely unlike most of the rest of the country. 

Almost all media types and politicians live in London, so they don’t know this. 

But I could not care less what they look like. 

I care only whether they know what they are doing, have the necessary experience, can think, and possess competence and courage. 

Does a member of an ethnic minority really want to be saved from a fire by a member of the same minority? 

Does a woman threatened by a rapist insist on being rescued from her plight by a female officer? 

You only have to ask the question to see that the whole idea is garbage. 

The public, unlike our governing elite, are not obsessed by race and sex. 

They are rightly interested only in the contents of the person’s character. 

And so it is in politics. 

I personally see no difference between politicians whose skins are coloured differently from each other. 

I would regard it as bigotry to do so. 

I think we shall have ceased to be a racially divided society only when we stop making a fuss about colour. 

In fact, if we choose only on ability, that may sometimes mean that there are actually fewer ethnic minority politicians in the Government. 

Sometimes, equally, it will mean that there are more. 

Honesty and justice don’t always look as good as cynical window- dressing. 

As for women in politics, they aren’t necessarily good for every member of the female sex. 

Female politicos mostly represent a rather militant faction. 

These are the lucky ones, garlanded with university degrees and professional qualifications. 

For them, work outside the home is a positive pleasure. 

But for millions of other women, work is just a hard, grinding necessity. 

It takes them away from their children in their tenderest years. 

It is forced on them by the rapid decline in real pay, which means that most households need two incomes to survive, when 40 years ago they could make do with one wage. 

There’s a perfectly respectable case for saying that this pressure on young mothers to abandon their children should be reduced. 

But who will make that case?

Not ambitious young female politicians who happily leave their children with costly nannies, so they can climb to the top. 

They will be the last people interested in taking up this cause. 

A stale, male MP would be far more likely to listen. 

Then there is the stupid habit of giving politicians extra points because they went to a state ‘comprehensive’ school. 

British state education is a twisting maze, in which success can be bought or wangled, and its best schools are often just as privileged as Eton in their own way. 

And almost any successful person who went to a ‘comprehensive’ has benefited from some sort of a fiddle, involving costly houses, religious faith (feigned or real) or private tutors. 

Those who have made it to the top after attending a truly bogstandard comp, chaotic classrooms, rampant bullying and all, are much to be praised, but very rare. 

It is what we really are, not what we look like, that matters. 

The more we forget that, the worse we shall be governed.


I’m amazed that so few people have connected the disastrous fall in Army recruiting with the closure of about half of the UK’s recruiting offices, and the outsourcing of recruitment to the all-purpose company Capita, which compels applicants to fight their way through the internet, a test of patience but not necessarily a test of a good soldier. 

Capita has even claimed that recruiting drops when there isn’t a war on. 

Is that actually true? 

In any case, none of this excuses the new soppy advertising campaign which seems to be aimed at doing to the Army what years of liberal interference have done to the police. 

They’ll be great at stamping out homophobia. Not so good at defending the country. 

As Richard Kemp, a retired senior officer, says: ‘What is most important is that the Army is full of soldiers.’ Quite. 

It is the Army’s job to kill the enemy and take ground. 

It is not going to do this if it seeks out the kind of people who are not keen on such tasks. 

Soldiers can be as sensitive as anyone else when they are not fighting, but they have to be exceptionally tough while they are fighting.


Unmasked: McMafia’s real Mr Big 

I am still not sure what to make of the BBC’s expensive drama McMafia. 

So far, it strikes me as more anti-Israeli than anti-Russian, though the Czech government and police might also have grounds for complaint. 

But like all crime thrillers which draw attention to mighty evils caused by the drug trade, it ignores the real Mr Big of this very nasty business. 

For that Mr Big is actually made up of millions of heedless people in this country, in the USA, and throughout Europe. 

These are the ones who buy and use drugs in the first place, pouring in the colossal amounts of cash which the gangs then fight over. 

McMafia follows protagonist Alex Godman's descent into the world of international crime

McMafia follows protagonist Alex Godman’s descent into the world of international crime

These individual buyers are in fact criminals. 

Yet their crime is seldom if ever attacked on the BBC, either in its dramas or in its news and current affairs broadcasts. 

It is well known that nobody at the BBC takes drugs, which makes its attitude hard to explain. 

The police do not arrest users and the courts do not punish them. In fact we as a society make excuses for them. 

The latest of these is a ridiculous report claiming that critical attitudes towards drug abusers are a form of ‘discrimination’. 

The grandly-titled Global Commission on Drug Policy, a self-appointed assembly of has-beens and suckers, says that users of heroin – possession of which can in theory put you in prison for seven years – should be described as having a ‘disorder’. 

It whines: ‘Public perception is that drug use, including problematic drug use, is a choice and that individuals choose not to control it, i.e. not to stop.’ 

Well, yes, that is what sensible people think. 

Whose interests will it serve if this sort of common sense is stamped out?

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