What's Wrong with Politics?
Speech to the Conservative Political Centre Meeting in Connection with the Party Conference at Blackpool, October 10, 1968
Criticism of politics is no new thing. Literature abounds with it. In Shakespeare we find the comment of King Lear:
Get thee glass eyes;
And, like a scurvy politician, seem
To see the things thou dost not.
Richard Sheridan, reputed to have made one of the greatest speeches the House of Commons has ever heard (it lasted five hours and forty minutes), commented that "conscience has no more to do with gallantry than it has with politics." Anatole France was perhaps the most scathing: "I am not so devoid of all talents as to occupy myself with politics."
Nor have political leaders escaped criticism:
Disraeli unites the maximum of Parliamentary cleverness with the minimum of statesmanlike capacity. No one ever dreams to have him lead. He belongs not to the bees but to the wasps and the butterflies of public life. He can sting and sparkle but he cannot work. His place in the arena is marked and ticketed for ever.
This from the Controller of the Stationery Office, in 1853, quoted in the Statesman by Henry Taylor. There is no need to remind you how utterly wrong that judgment was.
There are even some things that have improved over the years. Bribery and corruption, which have now gone, used to be rampant. The votes of electors were purchased at a high price. The famous Lord Shaftesbury, when he was Lord Ashley, spent £15,600 on successfully winning Dorset in 1831. It is interesting to note that £12,000 of this went to public houses and