Monday, 20 April 2009

Georgia on my mind

You won't need me to tell you that the Labour party is in a bad way at the moment. Perhaps they've already written off the next election. Jackie Ashley of the Graun - who has stuck by Labour as loyally as she has stuck by Andrew Marr, despite having very good reasons not to - compares the party to the crew of a doomed vessel about to go over a huge waterfall. "Ministers no longer hope their boat will survive; now it's a question of who bobs up, amid the wreckage, after the white water."

So thoughts turn, as well they might, to the long-term: not just what will happen to the People's Party after the expected drubbing at the next election (assuming there is one, of course) but after the years of Opposition that lie ahead. It is in this light, I think, that we have to regard the row over the Hon. Georgia Gould, a 22 year old New Labour princess whose campaign for a "safe" south London seat (if such a thing still exists) is now sorting the Blairs from the Browns as in those saintly days of yore.

The Honourable Georgia is very young, of course. Yet her credentials to represent the good people of Erith and Thamesmead could only be doubted by the most churlish, or politically vindictive, old sod. The daughter of Tony Blair's long-standing polling guru Lord (Philip) Gould, she also has the strong backing of Tessa Jowell and has taken the trouble to lay out her wares in a lavishly-produced brochure. Which just goes to show how seriously she's taking it. According to Alastair Campbell, she is "a wonderful young woman of deep values and convictions, and whose dedication to Labour and progressive causes matches that of anyone I know". She went to Oxford (always a positive in my book). She has a holiday job with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. And she's blonde. What's not to like?

She might even be a political megastar, a Maggie in the making whose relationship to one of Tony Blair's closest political advisers had no bearing whatever on the speed of her ascent. That would seem to be Alastair Campbell's opinion: it was reported a few weeks ago that he rang up at least one local activist to claim ("ludicrously", thinks Kevin Maguire) that she is being spoken of as a future prime minister. She is undoubtedly fortunate in her connections, but the fact that most others have not had the opportunity she has does not mean that she doesn't deserve that opportunity; merely that, as Thomas Gray so wisely said all those years ago, full many a rose is born to blush unseen. Including, no doubt, many Labour roses.

And while she may be a blushing rose, Georgia's no shrinking violet. Nor does her membership of the New Labour aristocracy imply that she will be any kind of pushover. Almost six years ago, reported the Independent on Sunday, 16 year old Georgia told then education minister Margaret Hodge - to her face - that AS levels were "confusing".


Miss Gould and [her friend] Miss Birtles are in the lower sixth of the comprehensive Camden School for Girls in north London, and live with their parents near Fiona Millar and her partner, Tony Blair's spin doctor Alastair Campbell. Camden School has been popular with Labour image-makers, who have used it to highlight new education initiatives.

Miss Gould, who will be head girl next year, told the minister: "AS-levels create this stress and pressure, meaning you cannot enjoy your subject or read around it. It's all about exam technique and about preparing for these exams."


An obvious point, perhaps, even a conventional one. But there's little to deny its truth. Who knows, with this sort of coalface experience she may, in politics, be able to do something about it. It should certainly disabuse sceptics of the idea that Gould has no knowledge of life at the grassroots, at least in the educational system. Which is, as Mr Blair used to say before he got obsessed with faith and war, what it's all about.

Miss Gould continued: "I haven't read a book that's not directly related to the topics I'll be taking my exams on for ages. I had to give up judo because of my GCSEs and now there is just no time to do anything else but work. To me, the sixth form should be about enjoying my subjects, not just about exams."


Not having read broadly didn't prevent her getting into Oxford, it would seem. Any dons reading this, take note.

But does her relative lack of experience matter? The notion that Georgia Gould is "too young" to be an MP is a strange one. At 22, she is not too young to be a barrister, or a junior doctor - the latter a far more serious and responsible job than being a backbench MP, which these days brings with it little more real power than a seat on a local council, though perhaps with a more generous expenses allowance. Was Alexander the Great "too young", at eighteen, to have embarked upon the conquest of Persia? Was Henry VIII too young, at seventeen, to have become king? (Probably). Is Georgia too young to walk into a division lobby? Too young to ask a Parliamentary question that has been written for her by the whips? True, she lacks great experience of life outside the rarefied worlds of Oxford University and Tony Blair's Faith Foundation - but so do many others, who get into Parliament after a few years of spinning, character assassination and figure-adjustment as a "special adviser" or lobbyist. It is, perhaps, an advantage not to have wasted several years of your life thus, more out of contact with the world outside politics than a constituency MP can ever be.

Ah, you think, but we need politicians with "more experience of life" so that they can adequately represent their constituents. A New Statesman article raised this issue a couple of week ago. "What we really need" wrote Nick Greenslade "is people with experience outside the London media bubble." But that, of course, is not necessarily a question of age. There are many people twice Georgia's age who have little or no experience of life outside the London media bubble. Some of them are in the cabinet.

How can you empathise with your constituents’ job insecurity if you have never had a job to lose? Similarly, no elected representative can truly understand the significance of rising fuel and food prices and the importance of interest rates if he or she is still living at home and has never had a mortgage or the responsibility of running a household budget.


A hundred years ago, such arguments might have been - were - raised against giving the vote to women, few of whom had outside jobs or were responsible for paying the mortgage.

Georgia Gould may, for all we know, be a 21st century William Pitt the Younger - who only got into public life at such a strikingly young age, needless to say, because he, too, was very well-connected (his father being, erm, Pitt the Elder). It was normal in the 18th and early 19th centuries for ambitious young men to make their Parliamentary debut not long after their 21st birthday, a precocity made possible not merely by the eternal mechanics of nepotism and string-pulling but, more specifically, because of the rotten nature of the pre-Reform Act House of Commons, in which a substantial number of seats were at the disposal of wealthy landowners or political power-brokers. These days, as the Guardian's John Harris put it, "It is one of the more convenient results of Labour's hollowing-out that to become a parliamentary candidate in even a traditional stronghold, you need only face an ever-smaller selectorate - in Erith and Thamesmead, it numbers 279 people." But, however objectionable the old system undoubtedly was to democratic sensibilities, it produced Pitt, who saved us from Napoleon.

So perhaps it is time for a novice. Indeed, given the long period of time Labour is likely to spend out of office, so cordially are they are now hated for the disasters that they have wrought upon the country, it may be a good time for a novice. Georgie has as lot of growing up to do and a lot of experience of life and politics to gain: where better to do so than in the hard, unrewarding slog of opposition politics. If Labour get back in again, as presumably they will, then she will be both more experienced and no older than most of her colleagues: in poll position to lead part 2 of the New Labour revolution. You have been warned.

22 comments:

Martin said...

A beautifully sustained piece of writing. You certainly do the young lady justice!

In case any had doubts NuLabour is not dead. Others of her generation, who have turned their back on 'The Faithful' have no right to display resentment; let them sneer with envy as the one who remained Faithful reaps her just deserts.

Edwin Moore said...

Heresiarch, I cannot believe it - you are smitten!

If this young lady were the daughter of Glenn Gould, could it be said that she had broken the Glass ceiling?

I don't think GG recorded any Glass but couldn't resist it. Sorry. . .

lost causes said...

Proof if proof were needed that there is a political class. No doubt she wouldn't last 5 minutes in the bloody battle grounds of CiF or Heresy Corner. To be political at 22 or indeed 16 requires a certain helping of self delusion. I don't know what's on Heresiarch's CV but he is 10 times the politicion she'll ever be. Frankly, at 28 even I am far more qualified than this manturian candidate, having been to state and private school, aced and flunked exams, worked in TV, new media, vineyards and chewing gum factories, selectively broken the law, travelled, mixed with some saintly and some dodgy characters, had 2 children... and yes I chose to read what I wanted to in the 6th form, exams be damned! Sorry to go off on one here, but I have to judge people of my generation particularly harshly, as I know them well, and the last people we need in power are the good-girls from Oxford.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

the next election (assuming there is one, of course)Of course the election will be held on time, this country has a long and unbroken history of holding its elections properly and meekly handing power to the winner. You demean yourself with that jibe. I'm no friend to either the Labour or the Tory party but I never let such nonsense go unchallenged when it was said of Maggie Thatcher.

It was stupid, unthinking, childish, petty and completely laughable then. It remains so today.

The Heresiarch said...

It was a joke, Woolly. I do that sometimes.

Wasp_Box said...

Nicely done. She should fit in perfectly with the New Labour ethos.

Ian said...

Let's see...

Connection to Tony Blair guru and Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Check.

Recommendation of Alistair Campbell. Check.

Oxbridge in-joke. Check.

Maggie Thatcher / Henry VIII / Alexander the Great / Pitt the Younger comparisons. Check.

Dodgy roses / violets cliche. Check.

I think my irony meter just exploded. 'Fess up H, the whole thing's a joke, isn't it?

Edwin Moore said...

No she is real Ian, well at least Boris believes in her -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/5183689/Come-on-comrades-stop-beating-up-on-Georgia-Gould---you-created-her.html

Ian said...

FSM save us...

I still think Heresiarch's tongue is so buried in his cheek, it's only good fortune he retains access to a keyboard.

Richard T said...

You were doing pretty well until you mentioned her job with the Tony Blair faith foundation. I was nearly convinced. Now tongue out of cheek please - unless of course you do believe that working with the late Dear Leader's bit of money making by hawking his conscience round does add to what actually seems to be a quite creditable basis for being considered for selection.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

The Heresiarch said...

It was a joke, Woolly. I do that sometimes.It was? Well in that case would someone be kind enough to explain it to me please. I just can't see it and I don't think I'm particularly dense or autistic.

Martin said...

Do we have to say what is and what is not a joke here?

My comment: para 1 is sincere (Heresiarch, I loved it). Para 2 is insincere mockery.

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

Well that throwaway line is pretty common amongst some very silly people in tin foil hats who claim to genuinely think that Gordon Brown is a tyrant who will abolish elections.

There are an almost infinite number of silly things that Heresiarch could have written but he chose to write that. If its meant to be a joke then I'd like to know why he thought it might be funny unless he actually wants to imply that such a thing is not unthinkable.

Feel free to knock any politician for the things he or she says, does. But lazy mud-slinging like that should be challenged.

lost causes said...

Wow WML, no wonder you got banned from CiF. You're mad.

Anyway wasn't he saying if the DEFEAT at the next election happens, not if the election itself happens.

The Heresiarch said...

Woolly: that throwaway line is pretty common amongst some very silly people in tin foil hats who claim to genuinely think that Gordon Brown is a tyrant who will abolish electionsWell yes, Woolly, that was the whole point. As jokes go, it perhaps wasn't the strongest, but I hoped the irony-laden tenor of the rest of the piece would insulate most people - tin-foil hat or no - from taking it too seriously.

Clearly it's not just the CIF moderators who've had an irony bypass.

Martin said...

WML, I do not see what you are on about. This is satire in the tradition of Swift and others and in my judgement very well written.

Martin said...

Why has word verification suddenly popped up?

The Heresiarch said...

I've just had a major spam attack - Chinese characters popping up all over the place. It's taken me most of the last half hour to delete it all. Sorry for any inconvenience. It's annoying, I know.

Edwin Moore said...

No not all - I pasted it into babelfish Chinese to English it was most interesting!

Oh and Ban Woolly

[joke]

Martin said...

I woke up this morning to the thought of the terrible possibility that we have all been duped by Mad. Bunting and that her articles are part of some elaborate satire.

Perhaps the responses to her should have been - "very funny, you persuade me that there might be people who really do think that way".

WoollyMindedLiberal said...

lost causes said... Anyway wasn't he saying if the DEFEAT at the next election happens, not if the election itself happens.Er, no. He was implying that Gordon Brown might abolish democracy in the UK if he thought he would lose.

Its not in the least bit Swiftian, he held up grotesque mirror images of his own society to highlight its hypocrises and weird conventions. The war being fought over which end of a boiled egg, the big end or the little end, is a pretty good metaphor for the wars that raged in Europe over the question of transubstantiation - was the eucharist really the body of Christ when the priest blessed it or when it was actually swallowed. Clearly it was neither but that didn't stop people from killing over the issue.

Lines like that are feeding an unhealthy disdain for democracy and politicians. Its a lazy failure to engage rather like a teenager who just says "Wotevva" when asked what they'd like for dinner. It makes them wrongly think they are superior and cooler.

Martin said...

.... and Heresiarch's account is not a "grotesque mirror image" of how NuLab operates?