In praise of journalists, or perhaps not

well_chuffed, Going Postal
“Michael Gove at Policy Exchange delivering his keynote speech ‘The Importance of Teaching'” by Policy Exchange is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I am not a journalist, the closest I have ever been to them is while I was working at News International’s fortress in Wapping during the move from Fleet Street to Docklands in 1985/6. I can assure all puffins that, in general, journalists are cunts of the first water. The only humble one I ever met was a sub-editor on the Times. The room where the hacks employed by The Sun worked sounded much like a barrack-room and the females were even louder and coarser than their male counterparts.

I felt that they all desperately wanted to be the next Woodward/Bernstein, unleashing the details of a major scandal onto the unsuspecting populace for everlasting glory and that they would have used any means to achieve this. A bit like whoever leads the SNP is consumed by the desire to be the new Braveheart and lead the sweaties to the promised land away from the English yoke but not their purse.

With my prejudices firmly planted in what passes for my mind it strikes me that such people are remarkably unsuited to the highest job in the land. By such people I mean those who have done little else than put pen to paper as a means of supporting themselves. Churchill for example did enormous amounts of writing for various publications over many years, he needed this to help pay his ginormous alcohol bill each month, but he had also been in the Army even though it was only 4 years plus a quick stint in the trenches in WW I.

One of the earliest unsuitable such leaders was Mussolini. Although he had a short lived career as a stonemason in Switzerland (he fled there to avoid military service, oh the irony) he then dabbled in work at various socialist newspapers and even wrote a book. He was quickly rewarded with the editorship of the Socialist Party newspaper Avanti. This was his job as he prepared for the March on Rome in 1922 and continued to write for the American Hearst News Service until 1935.

Musso’s story is obviously far more complex than that but suffice to say, he was a socialist, even though he fell out with orthodox socialism, and he was first and foremost a journalist. What did he achieve, not so much from my perspective. He wanted to create a new Roman Empire and to rule the Mediterranean (Mare Nostrum he called it). To do this he needed a military capable of doing it. That was something he never perfected. Italy had hundreds of thousand of men under arms but they did not add up to a credible military force. Their weapons were not the best and their morale was often rock bottom; their more senior officers were for the most part posturing peacocks.

In terms of strategy he got it wrong almost every time. He declared war and then attacked the British in Egypt, ran out of puff quickly and was very nearly kicked out of Libya completely. Only one of Churchill’s fetishes (the soft underbelly one) saved him in 1940/1. He then attacked Greece and floundered badly, once more the Germans had to step in and extract him from the mire. After that he seemed to settle down and did not take any more initiatives. One that he should have taken was to invade Malta, they even had a plan prepared, but I think the wind was out of his sails by then. He was kicked out by his own parliament in 1943, rescued by the Germans and ended up being taken by Italian partisans even while under the guard of the Germans.

Inept at strategy and ambitious far beyond his country’s capabilities, he could have played his cards right and survived but he ended up dangling from a rope at a BP petrol station near Milan next to his mistress.

In the case of Boris Johnson what can be said that hasn’t already been echoing round town for months if not years. In his favour he is probably one of the few active British politicians who actually has a personality. That is absolutely the only point I can find in his favour. The rest of his story is entirely negative. I, along with many others, was fooled for a while. We thought the blundering buffoon was an act and a serious intellect was hiding under its cover. It turns out that the blundering buffoon was no act, it was the real Boris. Using a few unusual and perhaps invented words like spaffing is no substitute for ability.

With a personal life that is nothing to be proud of, the man has led a charmed life. If we excluded men with a taste for mistresses and lovers from high office we should have been a much poorer nation. For that reason I was not at all interested in who he had been bonking and still am not. The one thing to be deplored is that there are definitely men who know what he has been up to and use it to control him. He ought to just come clean and admit what he has been up to, nobody much will give a monkey’s, except of course the revolting Piss Moron and a few others like him.

This leads us to his performance in the highest office in the land. It has been abysmal. One sound bite after another, none of which add up and mostly contradict each other. He has basically had to deal with Brexit And the Covid scam and he has been all over the place with both. I really do wonder who is pulling his strings. The assumption has to be that he is being shafted by more than one side and bounces around like the balls in one of those machines in amusement arcades of old, a latter day pinball wizard. The one thing he has been is inconsistent added to a great impression of McAvity, he goes missing in action for days at a time and when he resurfaces none of us are any the wiser. I don’t know if he is like this because he is feckless or is just absolutely bloody useless. Maybe one leads to the other.

You may feel it unfair of me to include Michael Gove in this list because he has yet to attain the highest office. There is a massive amount of speculation that Boris is going to step down sooner rather than later, he is obviously not up to the job. There is naturally an equivalent amount of speculation as to who his replacement will be and Michael Gove’s name figures ostentatiously in this list of potential next PMs.

I have to admit I was rather suspicious of the Gove when he very publicly shafted Boris during the leadership battle and as a result Saggy sadly took over. He has since explained that he thought Boris’s character flaws should exclude him from office. One has to admit that he was 100% correct in that analysis.

But to the Govester himself. He spent about 15 years in journalism. To his eternal discredit he expressed support for Charles Lynton (aka Tony Blair) for his handling of the Iraq crisis saying “As a right wing polemicist, all I can say looking at Mr Blair now is, what’s not to like”. For this lapse of judgement alone, when a good million people had demonstrated against Blair (how many more thought likewise), he ought to be disqualified from any kind of office. However he is still in the running and my opinion of him is still stuck firmly on the “devious little shit” label. Should he achieve his ambition and become PM, please remember these words though, because I am proud of what this country was and could be again, I really hope I am wrong.

And so finally to Winston Churchill. There will be many puffins who will not hear a word against him and I can see their point of view but the fact remains that he did spend a lot of time writing to earn a living. It might be more accurate to say that he needed to write because his alcohol bill was so high. One quote states that “When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast.” Another was “When I was a young subaltern in the South African War, the water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable we had to add whiskey. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.” It is no secret he was a boozer.

In mitigation he was superb at motivating people. Classic example was when he stood before a Scottish Regiment. He said “There is only one problem with scotsmen”, upon which there was some murmuring in the ranks. He then said “There’s not enough of them” after which he had them eating out of his hand. Without him the appeasers would have had the upper hand and we would have given Adolf whatever he wanted. As a motivator he had no equal. As a strategist, he can best be described as “It seemed like a good idea at the time”. From Gallipoli (and that haunted him) to moving troops from North Africa to Greece/Crete to his soft underbelly of Europe theory, he could be spectacularly wrong. They actually talked of crossing the Alps to strike Germany from the south. Sheer madness.

And so I commend this motion to all puffins that anyone with an history of little other than journalism should be excluded from the highest office in the land. Just don’t get me started on PPE graduates.

© well_chuffed 2020