The Greasy Pole column from the October 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard
Grateful as we are to our guardians in Westminster who labour mightily to protect and nurture us we should not overlook that they also have human needs. Like a flexibly regulated system of claiming for incurred expenses. Like meeting the demands of flamboyant media producers to expose themselves to the nation’s reverential scrutiny. Like their need to relax the tensions of relentlessly legislating by giving way to laughter in the Chamber where their talents are displayed- laughter as a kind of therapy for them, side to side erupting in a booming, orgasmic release. Luckily there are in that august setting some who have a reputation for their skills in stimulating such pleasure. When any of these rise to their feet with the words “Thank you, Mister Speaker” they are not expressing gratitude for the opportunity to mouth yet another gabble of platitudes and evasions but are giving notice of the release to follow from their words. This is considered to be a useful, constructive way for Members of Parliament to spend their time.
Pleasing the Wife
The constituency of Wellingborough, Rushden and Higham Ferrers in Northamptonshire is represented in the House of Commons by the Conservative Peter Bone, who can be relied on to entertain the Commons in the style to which they are accustomed by opening his contributions to their proceedings with mention of his wife: “This morning at the breakfast table Mrs. Bone was saying . . .” or perhaps “It would be a great help to my wife and the Bone household if . . .” Mysteriously, this reduces the MPs to frantic laughter, as Bone asks David Cameron to rule out any more contributions to a Eurozone bail-out or to agree that it is necessary to maintain the laws against blasphemy and blasphemous libel or to denounce gay marriage as “completely nuts” (a particular preoccupation of his; last month he strongly objected to Nick Clegg naming those with such views as “bigots”). Amid the hilarity David Cameron, perhaps wriggling on the hook in Prime Minister’s Questions, is able to get his share of laughter by a smoothly suggestive reply: “A very big part of my life is spent trying to give pleasure to Mrs. Bone” or “I wish my wife was easy to please as Mrs. Bone”.
From behind this screen of sickening drivel it may be difficult for Mrs. Bone to get herself noticed. She works as Mr. Bone’s Executive Secretary (at a top-end £40,000 a year) in which she rates herself “a one-woman focus group” who “listens to people on the ground” (which seems to include only those who agree with her). Mrs. Bone has political ambitions of her own, which were disappointed when her application to stand as the Conservative candidate for election as the local Police Commissioner was rejected on the emphatic terms that she “did not display a sufficiently developed understanding of what the job would entail and did not have a sufficiently clear vision of what she might do if elected” (requirements which might rule out her husband as well as a whole clutch of MPs). But the disappointed candidate was not put off; this, she sulked, was “bully-boy behaviour . . . the party grandees wanted to get at Peter through me”. It might have been expected that the next step for her would be to resign from this collection of bullying exponents of the tactical underhand were it not that capitalist politics, with its competing ambitions and need to deny reality, does not operate with such consistent honesty.
And “consistent” Is not a word to be readily associated with this pair of wedded Tories. Peter Bone’s first experience of trying to be an MP was encouraging for him when, standing in Islwyn against the hapless Labour leader Neil Kinnock, he recorded the highest ever Tory vote there. However he did not come up to this promise in subsequent elections in Pudsey and Wellingborough because he lost to swings notably worse, for his party, than the national trend. In fact when, in 2005, he eventually won at Wellingborough it was by 687 votes – a swing of only 2.9 per cent when the national swing was 3.1 per cent. Perhaps there was a message in this about him personally and his voter- averse style (in 1995 the Daily Mirror condemned him as “the meanest boss in Britain” in response to him paying a 17 year-old trainee 87 pence an hour). In action in the Commons, he was rated as a prolific speaker but in case this gave the wrong impression he was one of three who, according to The Times, “boost their ratings on the internet by saying very little, very often” with an example of one contribution of only three short sentences which was about the postmaster of the tiny Northamptonshire civic parish of Little Irchester. He is on record as describing the NHS as something which “would not be out of place in Stalin’s Russia” and for opposing regulations designed to give equal rights in goods and services to gay people. He could not have been surprised when, earlier this year, Tory MPs ejected him from the Executive of their mouthpiece, the 1922 Committee.
In February he opened a Commons debate on human trafficking – among the cruellest, most ruthless of crimes estimated to generate $82 billion a year, almost as much as arms dealing and drug smuggling. It is, in other words, typical of the capitalist system – savage and inhuman as it is driven by the all-dominant motive for profit and the abuse and waste of human life. It was inconsistent with this reality for Bone to offer the argument that an independent National Rapporteur – such as there is in Holland – would be more effective in keeping a check on the problem than the present slapdash system. Significantly he also supported his case on financial grounds: “ . . . it would do all the things we want at a fraction of the cost”. Peter Bone is one among many who claim an ability to manipulate a significant change in this horror. But in fact he is only likely to find a place in history as a feeble joker.