The Conservatives: Not Fit for Any Honest Purpose
12th June 2020
According to The Daily Mail, Madeline Odent is the Curator of the Royston Museum in Hertfordshire. This museum is funded by Royston Council. In the past few days, Mrs Odent has taken to Twitter, giving expert advice on how to use household chemicals to cause irreparable harm to statues she dislikes.
It is, she says, “extremely difficult” to remove the chemicals once they have been applied. She adds that “it can be done, but the chemical needed is super carcinogenic, so it rarely is.” Again, she says: “We haven’t found a way to restore artefacts that this happens to.” Her last reported tweet features a picture of Winton Churchill’s defaced statue in Parliament Square, and says: “Stay tuned for our next edition, where we’ll be talking about marble memorials of racists.”
The newspaper and various people are calling for the woman to be sacked. It is, I allow, surprising for someone to hold a job that involves conserving the past, and then to advise an insurrectionary mob on how to destroy the past. This being said, and assuming the story is substantially true, Mrs Odent is less to be blamed for giving her advice than those who employed her as an expert on conservation and its opposite.
We have had a Conservative Government since 2010. We have had a Conservative Government with a working majority since 2015. For the past six months, we have had a Conservative Government with a crushing majority. It all counts for nothing, because the Conservatives themselves are useless.
Political power is not purely, nor mainly, a matter of being able to make laws. It is far more a matter of choosing reliable servants. Before 1997, we could suppose, within reason, that these servants were politically neutral. They often had their own agenda. They could use their status as experts to influence, and sometimes to frustrate, laws and policies with which they disagreed. But there were not self-consciously an order of people devoted to a transformative revolution. The Blair Government broke with convention by stuffing the public sector with its own creatures, loyal only to itself. This is to be deplored. On the other hand, the Blair Government did have a mandate for sweeping change, and it is reasonable that it should have given preference to employing those who could be trusted to further both the letter and spirit of this mandate. The Conservatives have had enough time to make the public sector into at least an obedient servant of those the people keep electing. Instead of this, they have spent this time employing and promoting people whom Tony Blair would have sacked on the spot as malicious lunatics.
Royston as a town and Hertfordshire as a county have been dominated by the Conservatives almost without a break since the creation of elected local government in the nineteenth century. Yet Royston Council allowed Mrs Odent to become the curator of its town museum. It allowed this in 2015 – five years into a Conservative Government. To her credit, she did not lie her way into the job. Once more according to The Daily Mail, she claims that she negotiated a contract with her employers that allowed her to “decolonise and diversify” the museum, and that her employers gave her a “safe platform” that she could use to “piss off some racists.” She adds: “a) my boss thinks I’m funny, b) she also supports BLM, and c) I’m the one reading [your direct messages].”
Ever ready to pose as the spokesman for a disenfranchised majority, Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative Member for Romford, announced that the spreading wave of vandalism was being driven by “a politically-correct gang of anarchists who hate everything about this country.” Fair enough, so far as these people do hate England. But this is not an insurrection of anarchists – not even the kind who like the power to destroy. It is an insurrection driven by the wealthy and the well-connected. Mrs Odone is the daughter of an American college president and the wife of a banker. She is part of a network of the rich who feel no twentieth century shame about their wealth, so long as they believe and act on their beliefs in a repeat of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. And they have been given the power to make this revolution by Conservative Governments.
A government of conservatives would long since have purged these people from every institution within its orbit of control or influence. It would have remodelled some and shut others down. This Conservative Government has instead left or even put them in charge of these institutions, and they are now acting in mockery of the parliamentary majority won just six months ago.
For the avoidance of doubt, I do not approve of police brutality. Indeed, I have long believed in abolishing the police. I am no fan of Winston Churchill. I do not believe, had I been alive at the time, that I would have supported slavery or the slave trade. I do not think, in retrospect, that having a big empire was a good idea. But the events that have been made the excuse for what is now happening took place in a foreign country, or a long time ago. What we now have is, I repeat, a cultural revolution – a cultural revolution led by what amounts to the ruling class. The BBC has incited it. Big business and the rich are cheering it on. The police have no wish to stop it.
It is also a cultural revolution that will not end with pulling down the statues of men whose actions may not have been spotless. Again, I quote Mrs Odent, whose honesty, if nothing else, is to be commended: “[W]e all immediately forget history when statues are destroyed.”
And a Conservative Government that, last December, swore blind it would stand by us has abdicated what little control it might still have. If disappointment is reasonable, we have no reason to be shocked. The Conservatives are, and always have been, unfit for any honest purpose. Sooner or later, I have no doubt – if it has not already happened – Mrs Odent and Boris Johnson will meet at some smart dinner. They will get on very well. Why not? She may despise him. Being herself intelligent, she has no choice. Being intelligent, though, she can also be sure that, unlike the average reader of The Daily Mail, he is not her enemy.