Monday, 16 February 2009

Pork with Style

Our unbeloved Home Secretary is certainly not the first or only British politician to be caught with her snout in the trough. It's just been revealed, for instance, that our Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has benefited similarly, doing up his expensive Scottish residence whilst living in a London flat with a political pal who turned out to be one of those sleazy influence peddling Labour Lords.

What is it that makes these people not only sanctimonious self-righteous scolds, but corrupt in such a dreary, grey, bureaucratic box-ticking, petty minded style? Things, including 'troughing' and corruption, used to be done with flair and grandeur. At least some of the money was spent on magnificent architecture and the best art money could buy, as well as providing patronage to scholars and artists and employment for the numerous servants required to run a palatial aristocratic house and estate. These stately homes are now an important part of the tourist industry, and the 'heritage' of the nation!

People with access to such opportunities were expected to have some culture, even if it was not bred but bought rather hastily after the acquisition of the wealth and status it was to embellish. Renaissance lords were expected, not only to pay for the art and architecture, but to have sufficient taste, discrimination and knowledge to keep their artists up to the mark. What a contrast with the modern manner, where prizes for modern art have been won by apes, where Caliban rules over Prospero and Ariel, where discrimination, taste and knowledge are swearwords, and high offices are usurped by those who would have been petty rogues and rough servants in a more civilised era. The world is indeed turned upside down.

There's also a contrast in sheer ability. It is rumoured that the Home Secretary is regarded, by her senior civil servants, as a lightweight ignoramus quite unfitted to her responsibilities. Our Foreign Secretary, bestrides the world not as a colossus, but more like a gibbering banana waving monkey! Our derided and deluded leader, far from appearing as the Saviour of the World that he imagines himself to be, is disliked and mocked by the leaders of other countries. By contrast, Walpole, although notoriously corrupt, was a very shrewd and successful Prime Minister.

We can't overlook the example of the most famously corrupt and flamboyant first minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who also rose from humble origins. To be fair, there were no pettifogging rules in those days to limit what an office holder could make from his office, and it was expected that even the most honest would profit substantially. Outdoing the king himself in pride and magnificence of display, however, turned out to be a 'career limiting move'. Despite his acknowledged great administrative and political ability, it was his inability to lose the king his wife which caused the minister to lose first his 'London' house and then his head.

Hampton Court Palace is certainly an extreme contrast with the poky suburban dwelling of the Home Secretary's sister, and an entourage of only two men at arms would not have impressed anyone in Wolsey's world. In our world it may seem excessive, an exercise in egotism, since if one mediocre politician was killed a dozen similar could replace her immediately. Sensible terrorists, wishing Britain harm, would not attack such people, seeing the politicians are doing far more damage to the country than any terrorists could hope to achieve.

In our world, the Home Secretary is said to have been a cookery teacher at a junior school. This is a modest job, potentially useful, probably within her ability. Had she stuck to it, the world would be a better place. In Wolsey's world she might also have had a useful place, not among the great of the land, but as a junior cook, at Hampton Court, contributing to the diners enjoyment of magnificent feasts.

In a different world she could still contribute usefully to a magnificent feast. The cannibals of the South Seas used to call their victims Long Pigs, as the flavour of human flesh was said to be akin to pork. Now there's a use for our porcine politicians. The Ravens would like a share.

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