‘As Ken Clarke ob­served, Lord Car­ring­ton was a “se­ri­ous grown-up politi­cian of the kind needed now”.’

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS - Tom Rich­mond tom.rich­mond@ypn.co.uk

Tom Rich­mond

IT IS very doubt­ful that a politi­cian and diplo­mat of Lord Car­ring­ton’s se­nior­ity and sta­tus would sur­vive for long in con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics.

The rea­son? The man who served every Tory pre­mier from Win­ston Churchill to Mar­garet Thatcher did so from the House of Lords be­cause of his sta­tus as a hered­i­tary peer.

And, while Peter Man­del­son and An­drew Ado­nis were peers who held down high-pro­file jobs in Gordon Brown’s gov­ern­ment, Cab­i­net Min­is­ters should be scru­ti­nised, and held to ac­count, by demo­crat­i­cally elected MPs.

How­ever, it was an irony of tim­ing that Lord Car­ring­ton died on Mon­day. He was the last For­eign Sec­re­tary to re­sign be­fore Boris John­son’s vit­ri­olic de­par­ture in the wake of David Davis’s res­ig­na­tion as Brexit Sec­re­tary.

Even more co­in­ci­den­tally, the last time two Cab­i­net Min­is­ters quit on a sin­gle day over a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis was in 1982 when Lord Car­ring­ton – and his deputy Humphrey Atkins – both re­signed over Ar­gentina’s in­va­sion of the Falk­lands.

And here the com­par­isons end. As Tory grandee Ken Clarke ob­served, Lord Car­ring­ton was a “se­ri­ous grown-up politi­cian of the kind needed now” be­fore con­trast­ing his one-time col­league’s dig­nity – and re­spect of high of­fice – with the “child­like” be­hav­iour of many of to­day’s politi­cians.

Like so many of his gen­er­a­tion, Lord Car­ring­ton’s ap­proach to pol­i­tics was shaped by the ex­pe­ri­ences and scars of the Sec­ond World War, where he was a tank com­man­der in the Gre­nadier Guards.

As for­mer pre­mier Sir John Ma­jor ob­served: “In war and in peace, he served our coun­try with courage, grace and dis­tinc­tion. He never fell be­neath the dig­nity of his of­fice, yet leav­ened pub­lic life with an ir­rev­er­ent wit that de­lighted all who worked with him.”

A states­man who also bro­kered the in­de­pen­dence of Rhode­sia, and then went on to head Nato as the Cold War ended, he will, nev­er­the­less, al­ways be re­mem­bered for his Falk­lands res­ig­na­tion when his warn­ings to the Cab­i­net about the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of the with­drawal of the pa­trol ves­sel HMS En­durance from the South At­lantic went un­heeded.

“The na­tion feels there has been a dis­grace,” he later wrote in his mem­oirs which were devoid of re­crim­i­na­tion.

“Some­body must have been to blame. The dis­grace must be purged. The per­son to purge it should be the Min­is­ter in charge. That was me.”

What a con­trast with the undig­ni­fied res­ig­na­tions of Messrs Davis and John­son, two Brex­i­teers who did not have the guile, or states­man­ship, to win a con­sen­sus on how best to im­ple­ment their prin­ci­ples.

In­stead the brood­ing pres­ence of both on the back­benches will only in­ten­sify the pres­sure on Mrs May. Again con­trast this with Lord Car­ring­ton’s ex­am­ple. When Mrs Thatcher was about to be top­pled, I asked him for a com­ment on her premier­ship.

He de­clined very po­litely, say­ing he wanted to keep out of day-to-day do­mes­tic pol­i­tics. Yet there was mu­tual re­spect. “We had dis­agree­ments but there were never any hard feel­ings,” she wrote in her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

When she started lec­tur­ing a for­eign vis­i­tor in her usual forth­right way, he fa­mously in­ter­jected: “The poor chap’s come 600 miles. Do let him say some­thing.” And when a jour­nal­ist be­gan a hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tion with these words “If Mrs Thatcher were run over by a bus...” he in­ter­rupted: “It wouldn’t dare.”

An honourable man, it shows how dis­hon­ourable pol­i­tics has be­come when Lord Car­ring­ton’s res­ig­na­tion was, ar­guably, the last time that the once sacro­sanct doc­trine of Min­is­te­rial re­spon­si­bil­ity was ob­served.

And, be­cause of the de­cline in in­tegrity, pub­lic life is all the poorer as those who would pre­vi­ously have been deemed un­fit for high of­fice, like Boris John­son, have not only done so but be­smirched pol­i­tics with tom­fool­ery that would sad­den states­men of Lord Car­ring­ton’s stature.

THREE POINTS on this week’s reshuf­fle which have been over­looked in the Brexit mael­strom. First, all four ‘great of­fices of state’ are held by politi­cians – Theresa May, Philip Ham­mond, Sa­jid Javid and Jeremy Hunt – who all voted to re­main in the EU. A nod to a softer Brexit?

Sec­ond there’s now just one North­ern MP – Skip­ton and Ripon’s Ju­lian Smith – in the Cab­i­net. Yet, as Chief Whip, pre­oc­cu­pied with try­ing to hold the Tory party to­gether, he has his hands full. All the more rea­son for the post of North­ern Pow­er­house Min­is­ter to be given Cab­i­net sta­tus.

Fi­nally, Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling has now sur­vived six reshuf­fles since the elec­tion – pre­sum­ably be­cause there’s no one ca­pa­ble of do­ing a bet­ter job.

NET­WORK RAIL did not like my col­umn last week about its re­fusal to an­swer Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest af­ter it emerged new trains be­ing in­tro­duced on two busy com­muter routes will be too long be­cause plans to ex­tend sta­tion plat­forms have been dropped.

Apolo­gies in ad­vance for the crude lan­guage, but this is how their mis­sive started. “Have our route guys been piss­ing you off!?” emailed head of me­dia Kevin Groves. Sorry, the state of the rail­ways is no laugh­ing mat­ter here and Net­work Rail – and oth­ers – would dis­cover this for them­selves if they ven­tured out of their Lon­don com­fort zone.

If, of course, the train gets them here. Per­haps an FOI is in or­der about the num­ber of oc­ca­sions Net­work Rail chiefs have vis­ited York­shire in re­cent times – but the reply will ei­ther be late or ig­nored be­cause this or­gan­i­sa­tion does not keep up-to-date records or un­der­stand its pub­lic-ser­vice re­quire­ments.

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