The strange case of the two-headed Camerlot horse

2headhorsept  While many folk of my acquaintance think Chris Grayling to be a horse’s arse, this is grossly unfair and demonstrably untrue. He is simply another from the Camerlot stable of two-headed horses gaily galloping in two opposite directions at the same time. The result is that he remains, shaking, snorting, and steaming – but rooted to precisely the place he started from.

Last week in the Commons, Chris railed against criminals getting short sentences, setting forward a chart showing how longer sentences offer a better chance of prisoners not reoffending. In fact, most of these cases relate to blokes being given longer rehabilitation programmes while in prison: they don’t have to be banged up in a cell every night for that to happen. But Mr Grayling would have us believe this is all straight from the horse’s mouth, so there you are: short sharp shocks are just so yesterday daaarling, do try to keep up with the Blue Rinse’s progress re this one.

This week, however, Chris Grayling demonstrated that two heads aren’t always better than one, when he promptly announced the closure of seven jails. In doing this, mind you, the Minister went a fair way down the path of proving that two heads are worse than none, or that he is simply headless – whichever strikes you as most likely. I’m torn myself, but I think on balance that even if you’re the owner of seven horse-heads, it’s unlikely to make much difference: they’re still horse-heads full of hay fantasies and not a lot else. The aggregate addition of intelligence is unlikely to be significant.

His ‘wriggle room’ on this one was that, although the closures meant a net loss of 1500 places, he had “unveiled the programme after a stabilisation of the prison population left the service with a spare capacity of some 5,000 spaces”. Presumably because some of those serving long sentences were let out early, the better to let them offend again.

Nobody knows (or could tell me when I asked) which Tardis-based technology Grayling has been developing during his time in office, but this omnidirectional approach to policy is far from unique in the magical kingdom of Camerlot. The syndrome is handed down from the man at the top, on whose two heads the crown rests uneasily – as indeed any singleton crown would. King Dave it was, you will recall, who fired every squaddie in the British army, and then ordered the General Staff to invade Libya. The priceless riposte from one senior officer (“What with exactly, Prime Minister?”) was richly deserved, but passed way above the essentially low brow of Mr Cameron’s noddle.

David Cameron’s neighbour Draper Osborne indulges in the same sort of horse-play with our money, taking it away with one hand to the tune of £18bn and counting, and then letting Mervo the Magician chuck £400bn at the banks the economy…in a last vain attempt to revive it by urinating into the money-lake wherein it drowned. And just down the road at the Home Office, Theresa May (now fully identified as a daft mare) spent much of 2011 clamping down on terrorist immigrants via the counter-intuitive medium of relaxing border controls. She’s not good on a slippy surface, and on the whole prefers firmer going. Except that with two heads, of course, she is far from being a safe bet to stay the course. Staying still seems more likely.

At Conservative Home recently, Tim Montgomerie tried to lay out the “tortuous process” of Camerlot’s elucidation of policy direction, and came down at something like “Right-wing with a heart”. But shifting animal parallels for a sec here, a Party with a heart misplaced in its one working wing isn’t likely to get off the ground: perhaps two wings and a heart in the right place would be preferable. I couldn’t possibly comment, because I’m not and never have been a Tory. The fact remains, most voters are baffled and confused about WTF Dave stands for, and what Camerlot as a whole wants to achieve. They’re not alone: the 1922 Committee, the Barclay Brothers, the old Shires bastards and several of the PM’s Cabinet colleagues have the same problem.

Their confusion is understandable. Dave is for the small guy and the big society. He’s for universal privilege, which is an oxymoron – apt from a moron who somehow made it to Oxford. He wants to give the police more freedom to tackle crime by putting a politician on Plod’s head. He wants in to a sort of European Union dance whereby he opts the right leg out, puts the left oar in, he keeps the Poundy-woundy and he turns about, but we don’t know what it’s all about, ooooooooh okey-okey cokey.

There is of course a degree of classic Cameron cunning in being the two-headed horse: if someone accuses him of doing something, he can point to the fact that he’s also doing the opposite. This is a step on from Blairism, when Tony said he’d do something but then didn’t bother. When asked where the pcs on every school desk were, he got other people to say they were moving forward on it, taking the temperature, assessing the budgets and listening hard. It never failed to impress, and it never achieved anything.

On occasion, the back-forth-up-down-small-big-fat-thin persona evinced by the Prime Minister serves him very well indeed, in that critics are so busy dealing with the first bit of crass simile, they miss the dissimilarity of the second simile, and then forget what sounded similar about the first simile. “I’m in favour of a level playing field and a leg up,” he’s inclined to say, adding, “For getting stuck in and being the referee who, you know, scores the vital goals, and keeps telling the other chaps to roll up their socks.” To further bamboozle, while doing this Dave curves his hand and makes a planing motion, which could stand for steering the ship safely into harbour, or then again be simply him directing the listener towards a point where his ownership of two horse’s heads is less painfully obvious.

So Blair talked but didn’t do. Cameron talks out of two heads and doesn’t move. The result is still exactly the same: nothing in the way of effective policy emerges, and no direction is visible to those looking on from the grandstand. It is the way of contemporary politics, in that the entire process is idea and solution-free. No winning post is defined by either distance or direction. The only advantage perceived inside the Prime Minister’s essentially devious mind is that, while at one end of the horse it looks like we came in last, he can go to the other end and say no, you’re wrong – we came first. It’s what passes in Camerlot for horse-sense, but merely passes the explosive parcel onto the next generation. And outside the Westminster bubble, it passes all understanding.

Earlier at The Slog – hijacking the media UK-style

25 thoughts on “The strange case of the two-headed Camerlot horse

  1. I suspect a fairer definition of Cameron and Osborne would be that of a two arsed horse with no head producing nothing but shit…..and still going nowhere.


  2. But isn’t modern politics a mere Punch and Judy show? Mr Punch descends into farce to distract the public’s attention from the incoming tide that will swamp them. There’s little call today for competent conviction politicians when the markets dictate policy.

    So instead they dissemble, distract, and ‘entertain’ us, until their paymasters plans are completed and we are drowned in debt. I vote we follow Iceland’s example. Bang up those responsible for this mess (serving those longer terms now so in vogue of course) and re-introduce the Bradbury pound.


  3. Ref. Prison population. The silly sods in the Home Office seem genuinely not to understand that recidivism is so high because the inmates are those who have finally made it into prison after a career of offending and being given derisory non-custodial sentences along the way. You really have to work dreadfully hard to be imprisoned these days, and by the time they are banged up the people concerned are already almost beyond redemption. Or rehabilitation. Thus the re-offending figures are ‘disappointing’ to use the HO euphemism.

    If a miscreant guilty of a first offence was imprisoned in an unforgiving (but not physically brutal) environment, where things like TV etc. were benefits to be earned rather than bestowed automatically as of right; where they were compelled to do repetitive and boring work to pay for their upkeep and where any remission of sentence had to be justified by genuine changes in attitude, then we may see a reduction in prison numbers, and promote the welcome realisation amongst the criminal fraternity that prison is something to be avoided rather than an accepted as an inevitable hiatus in their chosen career.

    The soft twerps in the Commons will never accept this. Until they are jailed themselves, perhaps, for the insouciant manner in which they seem to be signing away this country to the subservience of others.


  4. JW, another brilliant play on words, whilst imparting knowledge. Please tell me you smoke big fat joints! My wit is enhanced by ganja (not today), somewhat, but nowhere near your level of sparkling wit and repartee. If this comes natural, I shall truly feel like a plodder. In fact, please don’t tell me. Mums the word. Ain’t nowt wrong with being a plodder!


  5. He stands still, looking both ways at once because he’s between the US of A & the EU. He has no room for manoeuvre as he tries to please them both. They say that no horse can serve two masters, or even three if we count in the poor, forgotten British public. Perhaps he’ll go lame or cast a shoe? We live in hope.


  6. @Caratacus………. work hard to get into prison these days ! The exception being the little guy who gets caught not paying any one of the innumeral (?) taxes (or constitutionally illegal revenue collections diguised as fines – or charges in modern political parlance)………. in which case………. “There’s always room for one more !”


  7. @Mo……… I think (and JW appears to agree) he is already lame……… it’s just that nobody is ever allowed to see his feet ! As to looking both ways…… yes – but its a kind of ‘spinning’ motion ensuring that it will eventually all unwind and leave him sitting in a hole (full of sh1t) of his own making :)


  8. Prison might work if only genuine bad people were banged up, and it was nasty in the prison. But when they have secret family courts using syndromes that were invented by paedophiles and they are using Richard Gardner’s Threat Therapy on mothers whose percieved crime is that they want to protect their young (which is what every animal by the natural laws are supposed to do) and also deliberatly putting people into prison for not being able to afford to pay unfairly taxes which crush poor people more than rich people, then it is not really going to do anything good for our society at all, all it’s going to do is make everyone apart from really bad people very very angry and upset. Which is what has happened.


  9. But the ‘third head’ of this disreputable nag is the target of reducing the resources spent on policing, thus preventing crime-detection, thus reducing the prison population. Simples.


  10. I give way to m’learned friend ..

    If a political point is to be made, of course a little guy will have to be incarcerated. This will mean that there will be less room for bent bankers, perverted politicians or friends of the governing clique.

    I stand corrected ;-)


  11. Fools must pretend to be wise
    IT’S a faith that THEY use as a ‘Heavy Disguise’.

    With apologies and acknowledgments to John Ford (Strawbs) 1971


  12. The tories are about duplicity I feel they either can’t see their own contradictions or they are aware of them .
    All the same they are a nasty bunch .
    Go back last year when a protest against workfare took place . It was organised by right to work organisation. A Tory mp was furious that the workfarw using companies had caved in to protest .
    So the party of hard work and fair reward had become hard work for no reward.
    And also the party of companies having the right to not pay anyone.
    In wades another Tory mp who tells the police to arrest the protester that is a libertarian tory mp I hasten to add.
    We later hear this same mp has produced a book where she claims all british workers are lazy . So the party of hard work and reward is the party of hard work no reward and the freedom to pay no wages and silence criticism


  13. Don
    In an ideal world, the suits would go to jail. But the suits are in charge.
    example, why is fraud for banks classed as mis-selling?
    Who makes the rules?
    Not the Politicians, left or right, but their masters.


  14. The problem is now that being a politician is a career in itself. We are seeing that in Australia as well. It used to be that someone made a living outside politics and then decided that they were so incensed about a cause that they stood for Parliament.

    The current lot on all sides: (a) Goes to Oxford, Cambridge, the LSE or an Australian equivalent (b) Joins the university political club of their alleged persuasion. (c) Meets a lot of other would be baby politicians. (d) Graduates and works for a political organisation. (e) Gets duly endorsed and elected.

    These “professionals” stand for nothing but themselves. There is no fire, no passion, no cause except re-election and their own advancement.

    That is the cause of the lack of leadership. When you really don’t care where you are going, any place is as good as any other place. The politicians are just there for the ride.


  15. “It used to be that someone made a living outside politics and then decided that they were so incensed about a cause that they stood for Parliament.”

    Like my solicitor Richard Wise.


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