The Cult of Stupid
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The Cult of Stupid

Rolling Partridge

“Alexa, show me a tweet that will have aged REALLY REALLY well by around two hours from now.”

I think this one wins, don’t you?

Mason’s condescending dig at local radio presentation has come back to bite him pretty hard for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t really recall him being a trenchant voice from the barricades while he was engaged cosily as a BBC national correspondent. Second, the local stations played a blinder. In fairness, there are lots of people with a national radio profile who’ve taken Mason to task about this, and showered praise on the local stations doing their job very, very well. Quite right.

Admittedly, scoring direct hits on Liz Truss right now is a bit like firing a cruise missile at a heavily sedated capybara, sitting at the centre of a target the size of a football pitch with the words “hit me” underneath, but the arrows still need to be fired to find the target.

And fired those arrows were. Whoever thought that letting the notoriously wooden and glassy-eyed Truss do what some inside No 10 clearly thought was going to be a cheery bit of regional speed dating, batting aside soft, forelock-tugging questions from provincial journeymen, clearly hadn’t read the room at all.

Around eight minutes per station doesn’t sound much but it allows every single one of those stations to select at least one really awkward question that is difficult for a politician to bat aside. In national interviews, there’s a fairly clear sense of what the big picture issues will be, and a politician will be going up to bat against an interviewer they already know, and who is not likely to want to antagonise them too much if they want to keep getting access. But in many cases, the local presenters will probably never get 8 minutes with this Prime Minister again, so you may as well, to use the vernacular, go for shit or bust.

So there were localised questions about fracking; there were questions about serious damage to marine habitats and sewage discharge policies. But everywhere there was anger about the cost of living, energy bills, housing costs, and economic policy. The anger was palpable.

The locals have played a blinder, and told those of us who still have some measure of respect for the BBC (even if the national news and current affairs ops are hugely compromised by political interference), that their role is more important than ever in holding governments to account. The local stations are staffed by people who live and work in those communities. They aren’t some far off, distant figures: they are part of each community they serve, and it’s difficult for the centre to interfere and try to control every single branch of the media tree. It saddens me to think just how chronically under-resourced those operations are: every time the squeeze has been put on by the government in the last decade, the regions have always suffered first, because the prevailing wisdom is that the centre must be preserved at all costs. Looking at parts of the BBC News operation, you have to wonder sometimes. But it also highlights something else, namely that BBC News in London is not the entirety of the BBC. Perhaps some of the very shoutiest defunder fruit-loops should consider that before honking out their latest half-formed “war against woke” farts of disgust. They won’t though.

But this morning showed us only what we already knew about Truss from her previous record in government: she’s dangerously out of her depth. Portraits from her Oxford days onwards paint a picture of someone who likes to think of herself as a free-thinking pioneer, though it’s suggested that her ongoing inability to engage with evidence or sense is possibly not the greatest strength for someone who now has to engage with the serious, and very real, consequences of decisions she makes. The last month has seen seismic, and rapid changes in the nation’s affairs, but already the woman chosen by less than half of her own party’s membership¹, is very clearly demonstrating she is not up to the job. But here she is, facing down the IMF, most of the developed world’s central banks and economic analysts, and HER OWN CENTRAL BANK, telling them they’re all wrong, and she and her Chancellor alone are right. You need a very special kind of delusional, glassy-eyed self-confidence to try. She may not have any actual ability, but boy does she ever have that.

I have noted elsewhere that the shortest tenure for a Prime Minister in living memory was that of Alec Douglas-Home, who succeeded Macmillan on 19 October 1963, and lasted until his party’s defeat by Wilson’s Labour government on 16 October 1964, total of 362 days. At this point, one can only think think that the 23 days of Truss’ tenure so far make you wonder just how close she can get even to that marker, given that the rumblings have started from a Parliamentary party for whom she wasn’t even the preferred candidate. Winter is coming. It’s going to be rough.

¹ There are roughly 50m people over the age of 18 in the UK who are eligible to vote in elections. The membership of the Conservative party is around 160000. This is around 0.3% of the electorate. There’s a reason why the leadership debates weren’t gripping the nation: 99.7% of us didn’t get a vote.

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