His name is Maude

Brilliant. We seem to have had a fuel crisis without there being a fuel crisis. I am often embarrassed to be British, and to live in Britain, but the week just gone has been particularly mortifying. Francis Anthony Aylmer Maude, MP for Horsham and Cabinet Office Minister in the current government, pretty much single-handedly created a national petrol panic which was needless in the first instance, at the very least inconvenient and maddening, and actually dangerous in certain cases. The head of the UK Petroleum Industry Association called the whole thing “self-inflicted insanity.”

There have been calls for Maude’s resignation, but he isn’t hearing them. It may be unfair to blame the whole sorry mess on one man. Equally, it’s tempting to see some kind of government conspiracy behind it all, in which Maude was simply playing his part. The notorious, out-of-touch “jerry cans” advice may have exploded, to coin an unfortunate phrase, but in many ways, this might have been a happy rather than unhappy accident.

After all, this government seems to have done very little since their woeful Budget except deflect attention from their woeful Budget. You wouldn’t put anything past them. Also, as Tories, they are scarier in many ways than the last lot, comprised as the Cabinet now is, of out-of-touch public schoolboys, led by a PR who is no more interested in politics, pasties, petrol or the greater good of the country than any distant relative of Princess Diana who’s married to the elder daughter of the 8th Baronet of Sheffield raised on a 300-acre estate would be expected to be. David Cameron is interested only in looking after his own.

Anyway, I’m blaming Francis Maude. To be honest, I don’t care whether he goes or not. He’ll be replaced by an identical grey suit and nothing will change. I barely use my car. I’m seriously considering getting rid of it. But all week I’ve walked past the garage at the corner of my road and it’s had queues of drivers snaking out into a main road, causing disruption and ill-feeling for no reason whatsoever. I’ve seen people queuing up on foot with green petrol cans. Not “jerry cans”, because nobody in this century has jerry cans. Nor, Francis Maude, does everybody have a garage. His stupid remark: “When it makes sense, a bit of extra fuel in a jerry can in the garage is a sensible precaution to take.” Sensible? Oh yes. Even though it turned out to have been lethal advice based not on sense, but on a dreamy vision of Middle England even the Daily Mail might not recognise.

What I hate about Maude is what I hate about this government, and what I hate about George Osbourne and David Cameron and the rest of them: he seems to have no notion of what it’s like to be an ordinary person in this country going about their business. They don’t know what “making ends meet” means. They call the millions raised by the 50p tax rate “next to nothing.” They get themselves in a PR pickle about pasties because either they’ve never been in a Greggs – and why should they? – but because they’re only worried about what that will play like anyway. I don’t care if George Osbourne has had a steak bake or not. But don’t run the country if you haven’t, that’s all, and if you haven’t employ someone who has (radical idea?). Because a hell of a lot of people go into Greggs every day, and it’s a successful British business that serves ordinary people hot food, and the Government want to tax it out of business because – why? – they think that 20p on the price of a meal is next to nothing, and won’t hurt anybody.

So, Francis Maude, who thinks we all have a garage and a supply of 1930s German military petrol containers, is merely a lightning rod for all that’s wrong with this depressing government. “It’s not for us to give advice on what people should do,” he told Sky News, on the day the non-crisis turned into a crisis, careful not to sound like the nanny state of course, because he’s a Tory, and in that respect favours less government in the usual hypocritical way of right-wing, free-market politicians. “It is our obligation to tell them what is going on so that they can make their own decisions.”

These are the facts of the matter: tanker drivers at five of the seven main supply companies voted in favour of industrial action over terms and conditions, as well as safety standards. Unite, which represents around 2,000 drivers who deliver to Shell, Esso and major supermarkets, is demanding minimum standards for pay, hours, holiday and redundancy. They may still go out on strike – although not until after Easter – but if they don’t, who’s won? Ordinary drivers, inconvenienced and panicked for no reason? I don’t think so. The woman with 40% burns? Definitely not. Unite? No, because we’ve essentially had a practice run of what it would be like if those greedy, conniving unions had their selfish, money-grabbing way about luxuries like holiday and pay and safety, eh?

From where I’m sitting, the Government seems to have won, in the sense that they’ve had a week of further distraction from the real issues – NHS, tax – and they’ve still got Francis Maude if ever there’s another emergency in 1930s Germany. If only one of the main opposition parties had a leader worth the job.

(Once again, I speak as someone who was not directly affected by the petrol “crisis,” so I’m not moaning on my own behalf.)


8 thoughts on “His name is Maude

  1. They also have a lot of extra revenue from extra petrol sales.

    Never thought I would say this but nice to see George ‘pussycat’ Galloway back in Parliament.We need him and his bolshie ilk more than ever to put a rocket up the complacent MPs who nod whatever this coalition wants through.

  2. A perfectly written article – I’d love to be able to write a well-balanced response but I just get so angry at what these Tory rich boys are doing to our country.. This is yet another complete disaster of a policy which shows none of them live in the real world. I can’t think of anything they’ve done since coming into office which hasn’t needed major revision to even be workable.

    They really are shaping up to be worse than Thatcher ever was – mainly because they’re being so blatent about just protecting their own in such ludicrous & inconsistent ways at the expense of the rest of us.

    And, just to rub everyone’s nose in it, everyone’s favourite Health Minister Andrew ‘Run Away Now’ Lansley has leapt to Maude’s defence for whipping up an irresponsible crisis where none existed. Why would anyone want the support of someone who must rank amongst the one of the most unpopular people in the UK at present? It’ll be interesting to see if Lansley’s (or his wife’s) business interests extend beyond areas set to profit if the NHS is privatised…

    I’m just keeping my fingers firmly crossed that Ken Livingstone ousts Boris ‘Look At My Funny Hair’ Johnson in next month’s mayoral elections!


  3. I think it’s a mistake to say that Cameron doesn’t care about politics. Although I suppose it depends on what you mean by politics. Tony Blair didn’t believe in anything except his own brilliance. But Cameron is an ultra-Thatcherite to the bone. Yes, he and Osborne do also both believe in their own brilliance. But they are absolutely driven by an ideology. The extent to which people, and particularly the media, have given credence to the idea that they’re not – an idea they themselves have peddled furiously – is the saddest thing about this.

    Galloway’s victory is no less a triumph of bullshit and bluster by a self-interested cock. If that’s sending out a message to the main parties then it’s the wrong message. Presumably he only won because Barnum wasn’t available.

    Labour is in a difficult place for obvious reasons. And whatever Miliband says on policy has to be fed to us through the filter of this fantasy world where David Cameron’s intentions are basically good and where unemployment doesn’t even figure in the answer to the question “Is George Osborne as clever as he thinks he is?” The Budget is about nothing more than rabbits and hats, and people are more interested in the idea that David Cameron may have misremembered eating a pasty on Leeds station than they are in the number of times he’s been seen anywhere near Leeds since.

    Politics is reported to us by people who don’t believe politicians affect anything. There’s an underlying assumption that the economy will right itself before the next election, whatever the rights and wrongs of current policy. I think a lot of Labour MPs currently think this way.

    People are shocked when political statements actually have an immediate impact in the real world. Shunt up VAT and it takes a while for the shops to start closing. It’s easy to mock people queuing for petrol, but if you tell them that everyone else is going to be buying more petrol than usual, and that stocks may not be being replenished soon because of a strike – what do you expect them to do?

    But this is just a political blunder. You can’t connect Francis Maude’s stupid mouth with a woman being burnt any more than you could expect Tony Blair to be there with his solemn face on to meet each coffin returning from Iraq. It’s just been a couple of weeks of gaffes, that’s all. Lib Dem and Tory cabinet ministers banging on the table to celebrate the passing of the NHS bill is not an image that should trouble anyone.

    • Dave, when I say Cameron doesn’t care about politics, I mean he doesn’t care about the game of politics. He’s an ideologue, yes, but not one who cares that much about doing anything. He’s a dilettante, he’s playing a game, marking time until he can get out and do something less tiresome. Blair really wanted to get Labour into power, albeit for self-aggrandising reasons, but I think he cared about Labour to a degree that Cameron does not care about the Tories. Sadly, Blair was willing to sell Labour’s values down the river in order to get elected, which has left the party in the parlous state it is now, with zero moral authority in the political discourse.

      Also, I do not mock anybody for queuing for petrol. I feel sorry for them. I don’t use my car for work, I do not rely on it, but many people do, and I would never mock them for that. I can happily get about on public transport, but not everybody can. I respect that. Which is why I hate Maude for putting drivers in a panic.

      I think it’s too easy to put Galloway down. What he’s done is to prove that there’s an appetite for a party that isn’t one of the Main Three. (Or Main Two, as the Libs have committed suicide and will not be trusted again for at least a generation.) Galloway is a self-publicist and an egotist, and he should never have done Big Brother, but something happened in Bradford, and let’s not play the Channel 4 News card and try to belittle him. If the Greens had won, I think we’d have more respect.

  4. Following the straight from the Horses Arse comments of Maude .. Little Lord Fonterleroy Osborne answered the next day the charge of “scaremongering” with that it was “all about” the Unions irresponsibly holding the country to ransome..Shit..they did that without even actually CALLING a strike!…
    This incident is to me, the nastiest,divisive stupid ,irresponsible,incompetent piece of political mismangement since the “WMD at 45 minute” claim… when can we get rid of this bunch of shits…two years time?..can Miliband become the first of the “Non-Televisual” “Post-Presidential” Prime Ministers? Or are we still stuck with a junior USA style bullshit show?

  5. An unedifying week for British politics all round, in my view. Not least because I genuinely thought the Observer’s piece headlined ‘Milliband comes out fighting’ yesterday was an April Fool’s joke.

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