Wasps in a jam jar

fiendish wasp.jpg

Boris once likened the demise of a political career to a wasp breathing its last in a jam jar: (see full text here)

it is not in the nature of politicians to surrender their own political lives; they are like wasps in jam jars. They buzz on long after hope has gone. They go on because it is in their nature to do so, because all political careers must end in tears

Having read the obituary for Patrick Pakenham, in The Daily Telegraph, it struck me that his exuberance and boisterous nature made it impossible to sustain his position at the Bar beyond 10 years. A talented barrister – something of a legend – and second son of the 7th Earl and Countess of Longford, he was highly intelligent and articulate. There are many tales of his amusing exploits. Here is a record of his final appearance in court:

As defence counsel in a complicated fraud case, he was due to address the court during the afternoon session, and had partaken of a particularly well-oiled lunch. “Members of the jury,” he began, “it is my duty as defence counsel to explain the facts of this case on my client’s behalf; the Judge will guide you and advise you on the correct interpretation of the law and you will then consider your verdict. Unfortunately,” Pakenham went on, “for reasons which I won’t go into now, my grasp of the facts is not as it might be. The judge is nearing senility; his knowledge of the law is pathetically out of date, and will be of no use in assisting you to reach a verdict. While by the look of you, the possibility of you reaching a coherent verdict can be excluded.” He was led from the court.

Suppose a few years down the line other politicians following suit and adding some drama. …Tony Blair in a final speech … “I am sad to bid farewell to members on the benches Opposite and wish them well. My days of dealing with pretty odd sparrows who act as peacocks are over and I may respectfully add that any possibility of anyone matching my exemplary record can safely be eliminated. [****** in reply]” *Fanfare* ~ as he begins a new life claiming the Presidency of the EU and lecturing in the US…

When ‘little secretary me’ happened to ask Alastair Campbell a question from a packed audience in Sevenoaks last year I alighted on the wasp idea and asked why in generic political terms a career should end so sadly. His convincing reply was that “Tony has nothing to worry about – he has a strong legacy”. “Ah – good thinking I thought” – the legacy, that’s what matters ….

Wouldn’t it be more fun if politicians went off in a flourish, or is this mere idealistic thinking? After all, one way to invigorate the youth vote may be to bring back, in a modernised sense, the drama of the Disraeli, Gladstone and Lloyd George days.


20 thoughts on “Wasps in a jam jar”

  1. In politics, I imagine, like sport there is an art to knowing exactly when to get out. The timing is important, by going out on a high you are remembered for longer and rather more favourably than by being seen as a gradual failure.

  2. The most dignified exit I can remember was that of Harold Wilson in 1976. He reached the age of 60 and simply retired, handing over to Jim Callaghan.

    As for Blair, I believe he will go down in history as an PM who lost contact with reality. (A case of “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greatest PM of all?” etc.)

    The problem for governing socialist parties (as opposed to non-ideological parties) is maintaining their integrity and avoiding become corrupted by power.

    New Labour is, in my view, a classic failure. The degree of its corruption being indicated by the almost total absence of any intention to reform (at this point) and the reliance on vague gestures about African poverty and climate control, which don’t correspond with actual concrete policies.

    Is Blair a hypocrite or is he just naive? I am inclined to think the latter. A man can perform brilliantly within a limited frame of reference and never see beyond it. Maybe this is the case with Blair? Some politicians have a great capacity for self-deception. Perhaps we can also see this trait in Blair? The thespian, the lawyer, and the Christian are all rolled into one. Tony doesn’t know which he is any longer .

    Footnote: I would like to start a campaign to ban all lawyers from politics! If I had my way they would all be employed as advisers, helping to draft laws, but not allowed to take decisions!

  3. Bloody good show, Melissa. Ace stuff. Move over, Boris etc.

    Simon: no, Blair is a hippopotamus. The man is indeed seriously self-deluding and bears the usual comparisons with the Thatch remarkably well. The ****.

  4. I think that the word’dignified’ is the wrong word to describe the retirement of Wilson. Timely -most certainly- at the most propitious time for himself- but I think he knew that he had run the race, and his time was ripe, as was the harvest he garnered.

    Politicians: elected to tender to our needs: the clue is in the wording, ‘Tender to OUR needs’. If and when that is satisfactorily achieved; and if there is a surplus in the household budget. Only then is the time to think about beneficent gestures to others.I refer specifically to the Gaullic fieldworkers,the French fellahin; who wax rich at our expense, by just being. ( 5% harvest 45%)

    It is ironic that there is a large proportion of politicians, full of Messianic fervour; ‘Excelsior’ banners flying; at least at election time; proclaiming their wish to achieve the most good for the most deserving people;almost always end up; themselves very rich, whilst there is hardly a dent to be seen in the poverty of those supposed to receive the largesse of well meaning folk: e.g.Pan Africa: need I say more?

    As for the lawyers drafting the laws to be enacted by Parliament: Isn’t that precisely what is going on? Further,( pause for sly grin,) those same lawyers are there to oversee the uoholding of those laws.( Always providing that the laws concerned are capable of being bent to suit the Administration in power at the time).

  5. Mac

    Your characterisation of lawyers singing from the same hymn sheet in the Executive and the Legislature is simplistic and misleading, old chum.

    (Pulling rank shamelessly, smug ghost of a smile playing lightly on my lips)I work in Whitehall for my manifold sins and I admire several judges (Court of Appeal and HL) who, for example, seriously hacked off Blunkett by telling him to observe the Human Rights Act and where to stick his anti-terrorism bill.

    So get your facts straight Mac before indulging in that time-honoured game of Let’s Kill All the Lawyers. Oright?

  6. No hymn: ergo no hymnsheet . ]

    Would suggest you read the document again; and then count the number of lawyer MPs in Government. Governments, if I have my facts straight, do legislate:It is the nature of the beast. Their very existence is to draft; discuss; evaluate the various pieces of proposed legislative measures,(originally in their manifesto), and finally steer through Parliamentary approval: in short:the act of making laws.

    I am , in fact, very much pro law, in its manifold forms. The fact that there is another branch, or branches, of the institution of law: the blunt end , I suppose one might say, which has to decide on the rights and wrongs of any dispute in law, does not detract from the oiginal remark that there are those such as Mr Loophole himself, making a fine living out of what should in fact , be an unassailable, inarguable fait accompli: a watertight bastion of fairness.

  7. Mac

    I must first of all apologise for the rather grumpy tone of my postings yesterday. And I agree that Mr Loophole is a problem with this government.

    There. All sweetness and light today.

  8. Kevin : if you weren’t blogging, we’d have to invent someone like you. Whack on as before, no offence taken. There are not a lot of KBs in a dozen. Know what it is yet?

  9. Just think of little fluffy bunnies jumping over a lovely spring hill… with boris waiting to catch them

  10. “In politics, I imagine, like sport there is an art to knowing exactly when to get out.” There is? I STILL haven’t told my parents. :p Could some brainy politician inform me…?

  11. Boris, disappointed not to see you amongst the protesters in Edinburgh this weekend. Were you otherwise engaged?

  12. Was on the river, obviously! end of Regatta week and annual Henley Garden Party with strawberries etc

  13. And we all know what STRAWBERRIES are! (Aphrodisiacs, in case anyone didn’t, and was feeling left out).

  14. Hi EWenman

    I thought only oysters fell into that category – news to me – no wonder strawberry-picking is so popular in the field near where I live: it gets everybody frisky

  15. And then there is asparagus. And chocolate. Both well known to make one frisky as bejaysus.

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