Alex Massie

Forget the GOATs we need GOAPs

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A few weeks ago Michael Heseltine wiped the floor with the rest of the Question Time panel. Last night it was Paddy Ashdown's turn to do the same. It helped, of course, that much of the programme concentrated on defence issues, about which Ashdown really does know something. But it was still an impressive performance, not least since the Tory representative was William Hague and not some minor nonentity from the lower reaches of the Shadow Cabinet.

Hague was fine and will, should the Tories be elected, be a perfectly reaosnable Foreign Secretary. But Ashdown was the star. All this was a reminder that, freed from the grubby business of having to solicit support, our politicians can talk with admirable candour, clarity and authority.

Indeed, one could not suppress the feeling that a government made up of these old-stagers would be vastly prefereable to the government of keen young Tories we're actually likely to have. There's much to be said for experience and the perspective it brings. At the very least there's an excellent case for establishing an unofficial mentoring programme, pairing younger prospective-ministers with the OAPs who've seen it all before.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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