Tucked away in the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary are words almost without number that exist in peaceful obscurity until beckoned forth once in a while for a cameo appearance by some Call My Bluff researcher.
‘Tergiversation’ is one such word that deserves to be called out of retirement and put into daily use. The OED traces the word back to the late 16th century, which just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun, though things have gone a bit quiet with it since the late 19th. Until today. ‘Tergiversation’ is the action of turning one’s back, the desertion or abandonment of a cause or party and the tergiversator par excellence is David Cameron. The word could have been coined for him.
Those genial souls who thought that the last five years of Cameron were years in which the prime minister in a spirit of conciliation and compromise kow-towed to the Liberal Democrats need to look at the early signs from the new administration.
George Freeman is the Life Sciences Minister whose own website has amusingly taken on a life independent of the minister. He is threatening food companies with penalties if they ‘continue’ to produce food that could lead to poor lifestyles and ill-health.
There is no food that cannot be made to fit this definition.
But that is largely beside the point: the food industry has been badgered by politicians and the health ‘experts’ that lobby them to reduce, in turn, salt, fat and sugar as well as those delicious E-numbers, so processors have nowhere left to turn to make their products attractive and palatable. But that’s also a bit beside the point because first principles of a Conservative Party should inform David Cameron that what people put into their mouths (and elsewhere, for that matter) is not the business of government.
Would anyone feel the loss if there were no life sciences minister and if George Freeman were allowed to leave us in peace and get on with fixing his website?
Matt Hancock is the new Cabinet Office Minister and one paragraph or two should be enough to demonstrate that neither the post nor the incumbent are necessary adornments to public life. In a burst of radiant, effulgent stupidity, Mr Hancock believes that Britain needs more working class civil servants. Why? To govern modern Britain, the civil service must become more like modern Britain, says Matt Hancock.
If we are to have quotas along class lines, how about race, religion and sexual orientation? How about representation for some of the less attractive elements of Britain? How about establishing a knife-crime unit in the Home Office that, yes, engages in knife crime Fridays or a paedophile section film club at the Department of Education?
Acceptance into a job or profession should largely rest on the training the candidate has received and a call for more working class surgeons would be self-evidently daft because whatever the surgeon’s background, the very fact of being a surgeon defines him. If Matt Hancock’s suggestion is for the admissions criteria to be skewed in favour of working class applicants then he needs to have it dinned into him that the way academically talented, working class children made their way into the professions is specifically the route that his party has turned its back on.
One can only hope that he hires a builder whose sole qualification is a doctorate in Renaissance architecture or that he takes his car to a quantum mechanic.
If craziness abounds on the home front, at least on the international stage everything is tickety-boo. Mr Putin shows no sign of that old Soviet mindset, which held that the only good border was one with Soviet control on both sides; China shows no expansionist ambitions in the South China Sea; there are no failed states in north Africa or the Middle East (despite that bird of ill-omen, Tony Blair, relinquishing his barely credible and lucrative sinecure); and the threat of our own, home-grown but foreign-sponsored terrorists is obviously exaggerated.
In short, it’s a good time for David Cameron’s progressive Conservative Party to maintain Britain’s 0.7 per cent of GDP commitment to international development but to abandon the 2 per cent commitment on defence spending.
That aside, US interventionism under President Obama has all the substance of a vol-au-vent case struck by an RPG, so if trouble brews up unexpectedly in some quarter or other, the West will presumably have to rely on François Hollande riding to the rescue on his scooter.
The alternative analysis would probably find that the world is more dangerous today than at any time since 1989 and that if the US has lost the appetite for military engagement beyond tokenism, the least that Britain should be doing is to beef up its ability to act in defending its interests and those of its allies.
The Conservatives used to understand that Britain was a country of responsible and self-reliant individuals who wished to remain secure within their own frontiers and with minimal interference from the State.
David Cameron has left all that behind him.