Thursday, August 30, 2012

Death of a Great Man

The death at the age of 87 of Sir Rhodes Boyson reminds us that in the world of Politics today’s household name become tomorrows vaguely remembered Political eccentric.

Who now remembers Sir Gerald Nabarro, Sir Hugh Monro Lucas Tooth or Dame Irene Ward?

Instead sadly the House of Commons has too many Louise Menschs and the media treat those who do show robust spirit such as Nadine Dorries, as some sort of freak. I saw a headline on an article in the “Daily Telegraph “the other day written by Damien Green the Immigration Minister arguing that the Conservative needed to adopt the “values of Boyle”, he was referring to the Olympic Opening Ceremony Director Danny rather than the Tory Academic and Minister Edward, Lord Boyle of Handsworth.

In his time Sir Rhodes, who never achieved Cabinet rank, was one of the Nation’s best known Politicians with his distinctive “mutton chop” whiskers and solid, firm and usually sensible right wing views. The fact that these days in the modern Tory party he would probably fail to get on the Parliamentary candidates list does not diminish the fact that his views on Education and his robust defence of Grammar Schools were right then and indeed and are right now. However , I suspect Rhodes would be a strong supporter of the current Secretary of State for Education ,the inspired Michael Gove as he brings the most radical improvements to our schools in 30 years .

The career of Sir Rhodes Boyson going from Mill Town Northern Grammar School boy to Secondary Modern Headmaster, Labour Councillor and finally Thatcherite Minister and darling of the Conservative right demonstrated the radical change that Margaret Thatcher brought to the Conservative Party and the Nation. It was no surprise that Boyson,, whilst his deputy, did not get on with the Shadow Secretary of State for Education in the 1970s the Old Catholic Queen Norman St John Stevas and it is a crying shame that Mrs T usually a defender of Grammar Schools did not appoint Rhodes to the Cabinet where he might have been able to reverse the disastrous Comprehensive schools programme. He did however serve as a Junior Minister at Education, Social Services and Northern Ireland and endured the perils of that latter department. Lady Boyson could be seen in Sainsbury’s doing the grocery shopping escorted by Scotland Yard’s finest. A diligent constituency MP for Brent North he built strong links with the Asian Community and enjoyed attacking the antics of the loony left on Brent Council. Most Sundays on top of his political duties he could be heard preaching the Gospel from a North London Methodist pulpit , much to the embarrassment of many in the “Guardian “ reading Methodist Leader ship at the time who tried to portray Mrs Thatcher and her Government as the spawn of the devil . Whilst Mrs Thatcher (who is herself the daughter of a Methodist Local Preacher) and the Conservative Party prospered the Methodist Church became a sad irrelevance to the life of the Nation.

In constant demand as a Speaker he would often appear at Conservative fundraisers even after he lost his seat in the Labour Landslide of 1997. At one Finchley Conservative Dinner at the Hendon Hall Hotel he stepped in at short notice to replace an indisposed Sebastian Coe and regaled the assembled activists with a well argued denunciation of the European Union and an endorsement of the United States “even with that dreadful man Clinton as President”.

His death after a long illness and several years in a care home allow us to reflect on the contribution to our National Life of those who whilst never achieving the top rank of Political Office will probably be remembered for far longer than many who did.

Colourful Coleman is right to meddle in Olympics

After all the ballyhoo of the Olympics – much of it deserved – comes an interview with Brian Coleman in this newspaper which surprisingly reveals him as a man of many parts (see here)

A man given to the starkest and most colourful of pronouncements, he has been seen either as an attention-seeker or a conviction politician of the right likely to upset opponents.

This week, however, he makes a number of reasonable assertions about the Olympics that are either being ignored or pooh-poohed by politicians, many of his persuasion.

True to his old self, he goes overboard when he derides the impact of the extraordinarily devised opening ceremony on the nation.

But who can say he is wrong when he asks where is the promised “economic bounce” of the Olympics?  

Anyone who lives in central London or walks through the West End would agree that the streets are relatively free of traffic, and that hotels, restaurants and shops have lost a lot of business.

Anxious for the feelgood success of our sportsmen and sportswomen to rub off on them, politicians – including Mr Coleman’s old boss, Boris Johnson – are making silly sound-bites about the economic gains the Games will bring to our economy.

Government spokespeople denounce critics as talking “nonsense” when they say too much business is being lost.

Their critique isn’t nonsense. It is Whitehall ’s denial that is “nonsense”.

The £10billion cost of the Games will not be made up by sponsorships, sales of tickets, and mass tourism, either now or to come.

But Mr Coleman also finds his target when he accuses the BBC and newspapers of going over the top in their coverage.   

Tabloids and broadsheets alike, who devote several news pages as well as supplements to Olympic coverage, may well have misjudged the interest of readers.

For once Mr Coleman isn’t a stranger to commonsense.

Published in the Camden New Journal newspaper 9th August 2012