Richard Ingrams: Business and politics can be a dangerous mix

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The Independent Online

Businessmen brought into politics have never been a great success. They are not good at humbug and tend to cause trouble by saying what they think. You would have expected Lord Young of Graffham – once famously commended by Mrs Thatcher for bringing her solutions, not problems – to know better. After all, he has served in the Government before.

But no. Young has let it be known that, thanks to low mortgage rates, the majority of us have never had it so good "since this so-called recession started". Young hastily backtracked. He could hardly say what most of them say on these occasions, that he had been quoted out of context. What he has said was that he entirely understood the offence his remarks would cause. "They were both inaccurate and offensive."

Inaccurate and offensive they may be, but we all know that they represent what Lord Young thinks, and will continue to think, about the situation his fellow citizens now find themselves in. No amount of apologies or clarifications was going to change that. Unable to perform the same trick twice, Lord Young had brought his young master a problem. And the only solution has been for Cameron to give him the boot.







Don't be uncritical of our institutions



In the eyes of the Daily Mail, any soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan is a hero. No matter if he was the victim of an "improvised explosive device" or even "friendly fire", his death automatically confers heroic status on him.

This is bad luck on the real heroes, of whom there is a small but significant number. But it is all due to what General Sir Robert Fry has criticised as the "mawkish" attitude of the media towards the fighting forces, something which he considers highly undesirable. And rightly so.

From the Army's point of view, it is not only mawkish but positively dangerous. Because the more we view any of our institutions with an uncritical eye, the more likely it is that they will be going downhill. Like many of my generation, I was brought up to believe that British justice was the finest in the world, ditto the British police force. That was before we discovered that, thanks to incompetence and corruption, innocent men and women had been sent to prison and sometimes even hanged.

And for years we were told that the BBC was unrivalled in the world of broadcasting for its devotion to truth and integrity, and all the time the corporation was dumbing down to the sad, unsorry state we find it in today.

At least we have always tended to regard our politicians as a pack of hopeless deadbeats. That is perhaps why they haven't done too badly at least when compared with their foreign counterparts.

We're just delirious with happiness

We are all being told what we feel – again. Just as when Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in 1997 we were inconsolable, plunged into unimaginable grief, now we are all feeling over the moon. It's the Kate and Wills bounce, calculated to dispel all those gloomy thoughts about the financial crisis and the Government's cuts.

As if someone who has just been made redundant or had his benefits withdrawn will wake up in the morning thinking: "It isn't so bad after all. There's going to be a royal wedding in 2011."

It won't wash. And the reason is that however much the press may try, a royal wedding can no longer be sold as some kind of fairy tale. Fairy tales, you remember, end with a couple living happily ever after.

But in real life this no longer happens. Royal weddings, like so many other weddings, are nowadays followed by royal divorces or separations. Not just Charles and Diana, but Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, Prince Andrew and Fergie, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips. We may hope and pray that William and Kate will be more fortunate. But that's not the same as being overcome with euphoria.

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