So I went out for a run yesterday, over the Heath to the opticians to get my glasses tightened. Only en route it is my chest that is tightening – asthma bad this time of year – and I end up walking part of the way.
Up by the tube station, a woman stops me and says proudly ‘I have just joined your Party.’ She is a pensioner. She has had her DLA cut despite worsening eyesight. She says that is not the reason for her decision late in life to join a party for which she has always voted but never thought to support more actively. ‘I cannot stand the way they are attacking everyone all the time’ she said.
I ran down towards Belsize Park but was walking again by the time I got to Pond St. There I was stopped by a man in his 30s, jobless, and in a rage about William Hague’s Tebbitesque suggestion that we don’t work hard enough. ‘I would love to work,’ he said. ‘But I cant find a job.’
I see that a senior civil servant, Ian Watmore, has resigned and reports suggest this was in part because of constant ministerial attack on the civil service. You may remember that last week they were briefing about getting rid of 90percent of them.
But this goes right across the public service. It is not just about the cuts. It is about the fact that ministers spend so much time attacking those who work for them. So Michael Gove has it in for teachers (unless he is singing the praises of those in private schools.) Andrew Lansley appears to see NHS staff as part of the problem not the solution. And as the Home Secretary found yesterday, the police feel undervalued and beleaguered.
Meanwhile Iain Duncan Smith carries on as though anyone on benefit is a scrounger and George Osborne thinks anyone who gives large sums to charity is a tex dodger. As Cameron lashed around in all directions yesterday I realised it is not just that they blame anyone but themselves. They don’t like anyone but themselves.
There is one big exception to all this in the public service arena. Step forward Bank of England Governor Mervyn King. I remember back in those crazy five days after the last election when in his calls with Gordon Brown King seemed to be itching to get him out of the door. Since when Osborne must have run out of fingers to count the times that King has come to his political aid.
Among the most scandalous and least commented upon was his expression of support for Osborne’s strategy on the eve of the local elections. My God can you imagine the outcry if Eddie George had done the reverse?And then yesterday as Cameron sets out to blame the eurozone for the double dip recession they said would never happen, up pops Merv to echo the PM.
They must love him. Of course the eurozone crisis is real. But perhaps Cameron, 0sborne and King can explain why Germany and France, despite the crisis, have avoided another recession and why the US is performing better than we are. Answer – because plan A is not working and they are too arrogant (copyright Nadine Dorries) to admit it. So all they can do is blame. Blame Labour. Blame Europe. Blame public sector workers. Blame welfare recipients. Blame business. And now Merv is blaming the Queen, warning that the extra bank holiday for the Jubilee will hit growth. Talk about getting excuses in early Perhaps she can raise this with him the next time they’re in the Royal Box at Wimbledon together. Merv is a regular.
One of the best things we did was make the Bank of England independent. One of the worst things Mervyn King is doing is undermining that sense of independence by comments that in their echoing of a political strategy are either naive, inept or politically motivated. Not qualities you want in a Bank Governor at times like this.