I once asked Michael Gove, when he had just been appointed Education Secretary, if he would mind awfully appointing me as chairman of Ofsted: I had one or two vigorous ideas, such as reversing the grades awarded to schools for ‘cultural diversity’ so that they more closely represented what the overwhelming majority of parents actually think. Michael smiled politely and walked away, which I took as a definite indication of assent. Frankly, I will never forgive the treachery. Gove handed out the job to someone who went native almost immediately, became subsumed by the Blob. Serves him right. I assume Gove, in a cowardly manner, was worried by the possible howl-round of appointing a chap who had once asked readers if they had ever, after a few pints, considered giving one to Harriet Harman. I had been trying to be nice, but there we are.
Michael was clearly terrified of the Twit-ter-storm, the maniacs on social media sites, the relentless fury of a couple of hundred thousand people, almost all of whom we pay for out of our taxes to carry out their fatuous jobs, if they have any, and who care for freedom of speech and freedom of conscience with the same fervour with which a Tower Hamlets imam cares about the rights of his local LGBTQI folk.
Toby Young got a little further than I did, as part of The Spectator’s drive to capture all the major offices of government — Taki in charge of immigration, Charles Moore personally strangling foxes at the Min of Ag and Jeremy Clarke running the MoD — but tendered his resignation when it became evident that it would be shortly tendered for him. The mob works. The mob thinks it is an expression of democracy — and in a sense it is, so long as nobody of importance pays any heed to its eternal, moronic fugue and its bedwetting tantrums.
The problem is that people who should know better, i.e., the government, do take it seriously. Perhaps it is because they are right-wingers: they see that 200,000 people have signed a petition against something and assume that they are just normal people, a bit like them. But they are not. They are the same 200,000 liberal-left wank-puffins who sign every fatuous petition got up by Change.org or 38 Degrees: they are magnificently arrogant in their presumption that because 0.3 per cent of the population have summoned up the ability to click a button, they must have their way.
The first thing, then, is for the government to reappraise the numbers issue. Maybe start taking a mild interest in petitions when they reach about the four million mark — about 6 per cent of the population, instead of promising House of Commons debates as soon as they reach the pitiful figure of 100,000, as is the case now. So, four million, minimum, otherwise ignore them totally. The government is out of date on the numbers, on what constitutes a genuine public feeling.
With Toby Young there was no popular feeling at all — it was just them again. The usual suspects. Take no notice of them, they count for nothing. Because otherwise nobody who is right of centre will ever be able to be appointed to anything. Every time they do, the puffins will begin their work. The fundamentalist wankpuffins will tap ‘Toby Young Twitter tits’ or ‘Rod Liddle Facebook give Harriet one’ into Google and rip everything out of context, stripped of nuance and regardless of whether it was uttered 25 years ago — and then the foot-soldier wankpuffins will swallow it whole and tap their little buttons on their laptops for Change.org. That’s how it works — a few judicious Googles and almost every-one in the country can be found bang to rights, can be shrieked at and told to resign.
The political right, in general, does not behave like this. It does not become beside itself with fury when someone who has views counter to their own is appointed to a post, which is all that happened in the case of Young. For the left, it is all that matters: if he disagrees with me, he must be vile and thus unsuitable.
Toby Young was appointed to a minor role on an obscure education quango because of his exceptional work with free schools. In the education sector there are almost no right-wingers appointed to anything. No visiting professors, or honorary professors. By contrast, the genuinely idiotic journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has been a visiting professor at three universities, despite having said that she wishes white men to be expunged from the face of the earth and that the white working class is ‘scum’, and having referred to people who voted Leave by the brilliant term ‘Brex-shitters’. But the right do not get inflamed in quite the same way.
Your history will always come back to haunt you, but only if you are on the right. If you are on the left, it won’t matter at all. Just hypothetically speaking, I think it is entirely possible that one could be appointed to a senior position within a left-wing party despite having demanded honours for IRA murderers, supported genocidal terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and proclaimed an affection for a totalitarian communist dictatorship in, say, Cuba which imprisons trade union leaders and persecutes homosexuals That’s just hypothetically speaking, mind; I can’t know for sure.
The problem is not the mob, no matter how fascistic and undemocratic its mindset might be. The puffins have every right to tap their little buttons, to scream and stamp their feet, to howl with anguish. The problem is solely the respect given to it. A Guardian editorial column is read by about 100,000 people, 0.1 per cent of the population. It does not matter. And nor does double that number signing a petition. It is time the right wised up to this and acquired from somewhere the semblance of a spine.