This from the Daily Telegraph today:
‘It should have been the easiest of questions for an experienced Cabinet minister to answer. Appearing at a press conference the morning after the 2012 closing ceremony, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was asked, perfectly reasonably, why the Government’s school sport strategy was not more “joined up”….Instead of dispatching the half-volley with a platitude before going on holiday, he gave a tetchy, telling response. After criticising the Olympics coverage of the reporter, Hunt said he was “astonished” he had “dared to ask the question”, and then failed to answer it.’
For all its myriad faults (the biggest being its ownership by two decidedly anti-social Barclay* twin tax exiles) the Torygraph is by some distance my favourite paper. The paper’s current overt and vulgar attempt to push the claims of Boris Johnson for a Premiership he couldn’t take up before 2016 I find irksome, if only because years ago I fingered Bully-Boy Boris as up there in the Joint Number One position as Most Dangerous British Politician alongside Harriet Harman.
But it remains my favourite read because it has renegades in its midst, it doesn’t spike them all the time, and it doesn’t have that disturbing Izvestia air about it that the Guardian has these days.
As regular Sloggers willing to believe even half the stuff at Hunt Balls will know, Jeremy Hunt is a nasty, oleaginous piece of work. His remark about an experienced journalist “daring” to ask a question speaks volumes as to how he sees himself and his peers in relation to the citizenry, judiciary and media they serve.
However, it doesn’t stop there. Somehow, it never does with Jeremy. For Mr Hunt – who resembles the ghastly Old Queen Mandelson in some ways – profits from the same technique used by pernicious Peter in his dealings with the 24/7 news culture. Sometimes he lies, at others he just dissembles, and at best he obfuscates. Even though he is not in the same sociopathic class as Mandelson, his rodent cunning is only ever just below the surface.
Starting with a swagger last week – “Nonsense. London’s retailers are quids in” – being immediately contradicted by the London Retail Association didn’t seem to bother him. I can nevertheless tell you via a valued Tory source that Hunt was soon thereafter rung by the Cabinet Office and told to shut TFU. But he then went on to tell The Independent: “It was quieter in the first week of the Olympics, but picked up a lot in the second week. West End businesses did well – theatre bookings up 25 per cent on a year ago according to Andrew Lloyd Webber, restaurant bookings up 20% according to Visa.”
So now Andrew Lloyd Webber is an economics researcher? I was unable to find anyone who felt things ‘picked up’ during the second week, nor was I able to find anyone at Visa willing to explain what exactly had gone up by 20% in relation to what. The Telegraph again:
‘Tour firms, hotels and restaurants said they had found the Games to be one of their quietest periods. Neil Wootton, managing director of the sightseeing specialist Premium Tours, said business was down by 42 per cent year on year: “It will take a long time to repair the shortfall of this summer. The knock-on implication has been felt by all attractions, venues, hotels and pubs we use – with some privately owned establishments calling us in panic-stricken attempts to drum up business”. Even traffic at Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, showed the floods of people entering the country had not materialised.’
But the Huntmobile ploughed on.
“We got everyone to their Olympic events on time,” said the bare-faced Minister. That’s simply not true: even among my own limited circle of feedback, the opening ceremony transport was chaotic, and throughout the Games unpredictable. Spouting drivel like this, Hunt sounds like the African despot insisting that 150% of the population voted for him because, in their enthusiasm, many supporters voted twice.
Typically, the claim only addresses half the issue. Getting home was the problem for most people, and night after night Sloggers emailed me to say that the Tube at the end of play was crowded bordering on dangerous. None of that should detract from the joy felt by millions either at home or in the Village at the largely positive Carnival atmosphere, and of course the historic success of our amazing athletes. But like every cowboy bandit chancer, Jeremy Hunt Minister of Culture compounded his mendacity by offering this quite staggering piece of illogic:
“We wouldn’t have been able to [get people there on time] if we hadn’t warned people that central London was going to be busy, discouraging some non-essential travel.”
Non-essential travel? Poppycock: they emptied London, and lost Britain much-needed productivity thanks to stay-away workers. Hunt and Johnson overdid that part of the strategy to the point where the London economy wound up losing any chance it had – slim at the best of times – of benefitting from the Olympic Games. They will never admit this, but to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Are they not both dishonest men? They came to bury facts, not to raise them”.
* Kenneth Williams diaries employ the cockney rhyming slang “a Barclays” with amusing frequency. I have often thought about its true meaning in relation to the offshore brothers.