08 Sep

There but for the grace…

Do we now live in an autocracy? Is the prime minister the only public servant in the country who is actually doing something? Is Mrs May the Queen’s first minister, or only the general factotum?

We see her here, we hear her  there: this wonder woman is everywhere.

“May slams Southern Trains shambles…May backs grammar schools…May to lead trade talks…”

And, when she has a minute, perhaps she’ll go out and choose my Christmas cards for me.

If there is a minister responsible for the efficient running of the trains, surely that should be the minister of transport. Grammar schools: that’s the secretary of state for educashon innit? And perhaps trade talks have nothing to do with ministers of the Crown and should be left to businessmen who know what they’re talking about?

Churchill was known as something of an autocrat, a man who liked to get his own way. But he knew he couldn’t do everything. He delegated.

Quite apart from the fact that no one person can have day-to-day knowledge of all the nation’s affairs and exercise control over the whole sphere, it is not the job of the prime minister to manage the minutiae of public life: her job is to guarantee the integrity of her administration. She is not there to poke her nose – however considerable – in at every verse end. She appointed her ministers. She should trust them to get on with the job; and when they fall short, it’s her privilege to sack them. She is certainly not there to provide headlines for the press.

There are many ills for which Theresa May is to blame, but this isn’t one of them. I think the rot started with the appalling Tony Blair.

Now there was an autocrat. When I think of Blair, I recall Winston Churchill on Sir Stafford Cripps: “There but for the grace of God goes God.”