There is an eerie void behind the politicians behind the Dome

Share
Related Topics
I don't suppose many now people remember the name of Bernard Hollowood, who was editor of Punch after Malcolm Muggeridge. Well, I don't suppose many people were aware of him then, and I wouldn't have been aware of him either if he had not been editor of Punch at the time I joined the staff, and as he was my boss, it seemed only tactful to be aware of him.

This was somewhere about the time that Alec Douglas-Home was leaving office and Harold Wilson was entering No 10. I remember that particularly, because Bernard Hollowood was a convinced socialist and was cockahoop that at last a left-wing government was coming in. It seems hard to imagine now, but Harold Wilson was seen then as bringing the same kind of fresh air into Downing Street as Tony Blair is now. I am not sure if he was seen as young and fresh-faced - after all, he had been kicking around Westminster since the 1940s - but he was certainly seen as a new broom and all that kind of thing. Goodbye, fuddy duddy old establishment Tories! Hello, white-hot technological revolution! Goodbye inertia, hello progress!

It didn't quite work out like that, and now we remember Wilson's government as just as fallible and floundering as all the others, and twice as dreary. But Bernard Hollowood would have known why. He would have said - because I remember him saying it - that when a left-wing government got into power it always made the same mistake: it tried to make friends.

"They always try and play themselves in, try to kid everyone that they are a nice cuddly bunch who wouldn't do anyone any harm. This isn't the way to do it at all! What a socialist government has got to do is do as much damage as possible in the first few months while they can get away with it! Nationalise everything while they can, take things away from the capitalists while they can! It'll make them unpopular, but all governments become unpopular after a while, so it's no use trying to avoid it. Ignore it and do your damndest while you've got your chance ..."

Well, how would Hollowood have judged Tony Blair's government after the first nine months ?

He would have been puzzled, I feel. New Labour has shown no appetite for nationalisation, no urge to get the railways back, for instance. The only big sign of change has been Blair's commitment to the idea of reforming the welfare system, which is radical in its own way. But that is not what has marked out Blair's first near-year in office, and given it its character. What stands out is the way it has gradually lost popularity through a series of petty measures designed to stop people doing things. The outstanding example is "Dr" Jack Cunningham's decision to ban the sale of beef on the bone, simply because he was advised that there was a one-in-a-billion chance of catching CJD from it. But it has been followed by a series of proposals to ban the use of raw milk in cheese-making, to help ban fox- hunting, to refuse to consider unbanning cannabis, to ban almost every kind of gun imaginable, to increase the severity of the drink 'n' drive limit ...

This isn't a series of political safety measures. This is a wave of puritanism sweeping over the Government and thus over the country. It doesn't attack any big problems - drugs problems, CAP problems, bureaucracy problems, arts funding problems, Northern Ireland - but it makes it look as if the Government is doing something.

(If you examine any of the measures closely, each one seems ill-judged. Personally, if I were told that the chances of catching CJD through beef on the bone were one in a billion, I would enact a law forcing people to eat beef on the bone, on the grounds that it actually reduced the chances of infection to one in a billion ...)

I am not sure, though, that the Government is doing anything. Take away all the high-minded ordinances which try to stop us from doing things, and I wonder if anyone can name something positive the Government has done, something constructive and forward-looking. Anyone ...? Yes, at the back ?

The Dome.

The Government has been positive about the Dome.

The Government has poured millions and millions of pounds into the Dome.

Thank you.

Anything else ?

No, I thought not. It has merely issued a series of bans and prohibitions. It has acquired a Puritan, prohibitive flavour. Tony Blair may have marched into Downing Street looking like a young Cavalier, but he has been acting in an increasingly Cromwellian fashion ever since.

This article was written entirely without the use of the phrase `nanny state'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?