Magazine article The Spectator

Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

Charles Moore: The Spectator's Notes

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This must be the worst reshuffle since Mrs Thatcher demoted Geoffrey Howe in 1989. Unlike that one, its errors are unforced. This year, David Cameron had established a surprisingly strong position as the leader whose unpopular but necessary policies were starting to work. He and his team seemed steadier and more able than their opponents. Now he has thrown that away with changes so large that he looks as if he disrespects what he has achieved. He has singled out for punishment those ministers who were brave and active -- most notably Michael Gove and Owen Paterson, demoting the first and sacking the second. Thus he emboldens all those pressure groups who hate the Tories and sends out a message that no one who wants a ministerial career should have a serious interest in his or her subject. He has also target-bombed his party's natural supporters -- rural voters, Eurosceptics, non-greens and people who are out of sympathy with his metropolitan preoccupations. He has dismissed the only two cabinet ministers (Paterson and the Welsh Secretary, David Jones) who voted against single-sex marriage. By getting rid of Paterson, in particular, he has turned his strongest cabinet bulwark against Ukip into a powerful enemy. Even his promotion of women, itself a welcome trend, is hypocritical, because no women have got nearer the beating heart (if one can apply that metaphor to such cynics) of this government. The dreary frivolity of it all has really surprised me.

It is one of the strangest things about human nature that if something really disgusts us, we lose our sense of justice. We so want to punish the wrong that we don't care whom we punish. A friend of mine was once on a jury, and met a juror from another case having coffee in the Old Bailey. A horrible child sex abuse case was going on somewhere else in the building. The juror said to my friend: 'If I were on that jury, when that defence counsel came on, I'd be deaf as a beetle.' And at the same time as we shut our ears to the need to prove guilt, we open them much too uncritically to those who love hurling accusations. There are now two new inquiries, and the resignation of the chairman of one of them before it has even started, but I am still waiting to hear any piece of actual evidence of a conspiracy to cover up paedophilia in the 1980s. People who usually despise MPs have decided to take very seriously the late, not-at-all serious Geoffrey Dickens MP, who made accusations about which no one seems to know much. In 1918, an MP called Noel Pemberton-Billing 'revealed' that the 'Unseen Hand' of German power in Britain had collected a Black Book of 47,000 British sexual perverts, including child abusers, many of them in powerful positions. They were being blackmailed, he said, by the German secret service. (The Unseen Hand fantasy, by the way, was supported by the Times , the Daily Mail , the Daily Express and the famous fraudster Horatio Bottomley. …

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