Silly season seems to also be affecting Westminster

PUBLISHED: 20:26 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 20:26 13 August 2019

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas who James says is sexist for wanting to have an all-female cabinet

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas who James says is sexist for wanting to have an all-female cabinet

PA Wire/PA Images

Silly season is a well known part of a journalist’s calendar - stories that make the news seem a little light-hearted during the summer months, which is exactly what’s going on in Westminster, says James Marston

It's mid-August, the silly season.

Traditionally in the trade of journalism a tricky time. Everything is shut, people are on holiday, stuff doesn't happen and we struggle to find news, ending up with rather ridiculous headlines and odd news items - Elvis spotted in a piece of toast, suggestively shaped vegetables, or alligators spotted in drains, that sort of thing.

August can sometimes herald the occasional media hoax as well - something I've always secretly enjoyed as it's important that journalists, perhaps more than most, don't take themselves too seriously.

August can also be a time of tension, civil unrest, the dogs of war and violence - remember execution of Louis XVI, the spark of the First World War in 1914, and the lawlessness of those riots in 2011. It's not a month I always enjoy, it seems the heat of the summer makes people waspish, anger issues come to the fore, the mood can be febrile - Hong Kong looks like a tinderbox even as I write.

Yet this year along with the Boris Bounce we have a general election in the air - as the parties align themselves to remain or leave votes and slog it out again.

I think it is coming because the Tories are talking about crime and punishment - bang them up and throw way the key - and the Green party is suggesting the slightly odd idea of an all-woman cabinet and the Labour party has suggested grouse shooting should be reviewed.

These ideas all seem a little silly season to me. The throwing away the key attitude doesn't seem to me to either deter or rehabilitate those who have committed crimes. Putting more people into prison for longer doesn't appear to make much difference apart from making a few reactionaries vote Tory. Sentences have been rising over the last 30 or so years, I'd rather see resources used to tackle the causes of those crimes - social inequality, deprivation, lack of education etc.

The idea of an all-woman cabinet seems silly too. According to Caroline Lucas, who clearly wants to raise her media profile, "In my experience, women tend to be less tribal, they tend to find it easier to establish trust more quickly." Easier than what? Men? What an insult. Can you imagine if, a white middle-class male leader of a political party, said: "In my experience women find it difficult to work with each other because they take things too personally and fail to establish trust as they too often resort to hysteria." They'd be an outcry. By suggesting gender determines behaviour and attitude it seems that Caroline can be as sexist as she wishes.

And the Labour party have turned their attention on grouse shooting suggesting its bad for the environment and ought to be reviewed. It's the hunting ban all over again, the London left chattering elite making assumptions and illogical leaps of understanding in order to carry out a class war.

If grouse shooting is bad for the environment then so is horse racing and dog racing and going on holiday and living in a developed Western democracy. Why is grouse shooting singled out? Because it appeared on Downton Abbey and the left think it the preserve of the rich? Can you imagine the outrage if a right leaning party suggested a review of football because it's bad for the environment?

The assumption by all our political class that we can't immediately see through what they are doing and why is a staggering insult to the intelligence of the electorate.

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The political class is in a mess of its own making and I have little sympathy with it, I must admit.

And coming up with silly ideas isn't going to impress anyone.

James's Mailbag

Dear James,

Is the NHS underfunded? Yes.

Can we afford to meet everybody's demands? No.

I am probably one of a few people alive who have read the NHS Act of 1946, it is clear in the Act that the word comprehensive meant inclusive of all the people regardless of ability to pay. We have over the intervening 70 years added a second meaning, everything that medical science and technology can do.

The NHS was designed during the 2nd World War and was based upon pre-war health needs and medical ability. There has not been an holistic review of the NHS since and it is in desperate need of a redesign to make it fit for, appropriate to and most importantly sustainable throughout the 2020s and beyond.

I believe that those rapid and continuing developments together with an ever increasing proportion of elderly in the population has taken us to a point where no economy in the world can afford that ideal everything possible to everybody healthcare system. You are right no politician dare say so as this would be portrayed as an attack on the NHS, a sure voted loser. The only way forward is via a cross party review and redesign of the NHS.


Peter Cain
(retired NHS finance director)


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