This has been a fairly dull, lacklustre election campaign, and that hasn’t left much room for histrionics and purple passages. I’ve been nonplussed by the repeated accusations – from John Major, William Hague and George Osborne, amongst others – that the Scottish National Party is ‘dangerous’. Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have been compared to King Herod, William Wallace and Godzilla (the last two in the Daily Mail). It set me to wondering what a dangerous politician might look like. Here, in the spirit of similar inspirational potboilers, are Seven Habits that people who want to be dangerous might aspire to cultivate. Dangerous politicians:
- put themselves above the law
- disregard human rights
- plough ahead regardless
- scapegoat the vulnerable
- fabricate statistics
- justify damage because “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”, and
- are reckless about whether people die, if it discourages the others.
Who, in a democratic society, would do such things? Well, there are some examples that spring to mind …
- Putting themselves above the law
” ‘Last year the supreme court told Iain Duncan Smith [the work and pensions secretary] and the coalition government that the scheme was unlawful. In this case the high court has now told the government that the attempt to introduce retrospective legislation, after the DWP had lost in the court of appeal, is unlawful and a breach of the Human Rights Act and is a further disgraceful example of how far this government is prepared to go to flout our constitution and the rule of law. …’ A DWP spokesman said the government would appeal. … ‘we disagree with the judgment on the legislation and are disappointed. It was discussed, voted on and passed by parliament.’ ” (Guardian report)
- Disregarding human rights
” It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison.” (David Cameron)
- Ploughing ahead regardless
“Civil servants are just obstructive. … We need to get on with things now.” (Governments source, cited in Telegraph report) “You don’t pilot a revolution” (Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary)
- Scapegoating the vulnerable
“Why has it become acceptable for many people to choose a life on benefits? … From the couple told they’ll get more benefits if they live apart, to those who knew they could earn more by signing on than by going out to work. Time and again people were not just allowed to do the wrong thing, but were actively encouraged to do so.” (David Cameron)
- Fabricating statistics
DWP claims about the benefit cap were described by the UK Statistics Authority as “unsupported by the official statistics published by the department”. (Guardian report)
- Justifying damage because “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”
the words of Maximilian Robespierre, Vladimir Lenin (by repute) and Philip Hammond, currently the UK Foreign Secretary
- Being reckless about whether people die, if it discourages the others.
“We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean … [which create] an unintended ‘pull factor’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing”. (Baroness Anelay, UK Foreign Minister)
This still isn’t comparable with Godzilla or the massacre of the innocents, but it’s enough to sound a warning – as some of the wiser heads in the Conservative party (Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve) have done. There are reasons to be careful.