Magazine article The Spectator

Boring Politicians Are a Threat to Democracy. That Means You, Rachel Reeves

Magazine article The Spectator

Boring Politicians Are a Threat to Democracy. That Means You, Rachel Reeves

Article excerpt

I've never met the woman that the Newsnight editor Ian Katz this week accidentally described as 'boring, snoring Rachel Reeves', so for all I know, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury might be an absolute riot. Although actually, writing that, it occurs to me that maybe I have and she was just too boring for me to remember. Perhaps we sat next to each other at some sort of function, and had a fun chat about, ooh, fiscal prudence in a post-OBR paradigm, which involved her talking and me going 'Mmmm', and left her thinking, 'He seems nice, I wonder if we'll be friends?' as she walked dreamily to the Tube, only for me never to call because the whole experience had immediately slipped from my mind like water slips from a raincoat, ultimately leading to her reading this, now, and being struck with righteous, albeit boring, fury.

In which case, sorry. But 'Wow! Who is THAT?' is something which nobody watching Newsnight will have said. Asked whether this woman could one day be prime minister, a focus group would have replied, 'Dunno, sorry, I wasn't actually listening.' Katz didn't mean to broadcast his criticism (it was a private message on Twitter, which went wrong like they always do), but his criticism was nonetheless quite fair. This wasn't a shy victim doing her best. This was conscious boringness, designed to make the watching public give up and go away.

Lots of politicians do it. Gordon Brown only did it, except for on the rare occasions that he tried smiling and looked like a serial killer. And I don't think they realise the harm they do. In the Times last week, m'colleague Tim Montgomerie hailed the election of Tony Abbott in Australia as a triumph of the BoreCons - solid, dull, centrerightists, quietly getting on and governing.

See also Angela Merkel, he wrote, and a slew of other people I've barely heard of from places such as New Zealand and Canada. His point was about boring policies as much as boring personalities, but this was all still very much the Reeves approach to ruling the world. People don't want to be Boring politicians are a threat to democracy.

That mean s you , Rachel Reeve s thrilled, is the idea. They want solidity and competence. They don't want Berlusconi, but the next guy, whoever he is. Slip under the radar. Get stuff done.

The problem with this, though, is that it divorces governance from debate. Writing in this space a few years ago, at about this time of year, I noted that something had gone awry with the unspoken order of precedence at party conferences. Aside from at the very top, I'd realised - the Prime Minister and party leaders - all the superstars were journalists. …

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