Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boris versus Frank Field

The trouble with Boris, regardless of whatever political talents he may have, is that he's a 'character'. Andrew Roberts discusses this in The Times, though the word he uses is 'maverick'.  Roberts is right to complain about the grey, whipped conformists who have no life other than politics and who now form the vast majority of MPs. But he is utterly wrong to regard a 'colourful character' like Boris or the late Alan Clark as the opposite of this. The opposite of the grey ones is, in fact, Frank Field. Field may look and sound grey but he does two things neither the 'characters' nor the whipped ones ever do: he works very hard, reading everything, and he thinks for himself. He is also very courageous. Celebrating 'character' as the antidote to conformity further marginalises politicians like Field. It is the easiest thing in the world to be a 'character', a role that is in danger of becoming the default mode for people who want to be in politics to be famous but not to work very hard or think very deeply 


  1. There is a world of difference between having character and being a character.

  2. Excellent piece Mr Appleyard. Boris fits into the musical hall aspect of our national life. And Field is actually much funnier in a more sophisticated, un-Beano-like way.

  3. Frank Field is the most under-rated politician in Britain. It's a shame he was marginalised by New Labour over welfare policy. Welfare in the UK requires radical measures which it seems he alone articulates with any degree of coherence. As a measure of his integrity, Mrs T consulted him (he was then an oppostion MP) about whether she ought to resign in 1990. He brings honour to the profession of politics and it is good that you bring attention to him. I've no doubt the North London bruschetta eating media mafia distrusts him. Their priorites are on display in the excitement over Boris and Ken. I remember colleagues sniffing when Arnie won California that it would never happen here. Well, it's happening.