Marcus Dysch

Resigned to a nasty, dull kind of politics

In this week's Dysch on Politics the JC's political editor looks at two very different political careers with two potentially similar endings.

June 22, 2017 10:30

Something has gone very badly wrong with the way politics is conducted in this country. How do I know? Look at the resignations of Tim Farron and Andrew Percy.

Quitting as Liberal Democrat leader last week, Mr Farron said his Christian beliefs were incompatible with his political position. In the first week of the election campaign he had been questioned about his beliefs on gay sex.

Mr Farron attempted to fudge his answer but when he eventually clarified in a separate interview that he did not believe it was a sin, it was too late.

In his resignation speech, he said: “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.”

When I interviewed Mr Farron last September he came across as being more straightforward and normal than almost any other MP I have dealt with.

It may well be the case that his personal views were disliked by Lib Dem members, but has it not always been standard practice for politicians to leave their personal baggage at the door and promote the right policies for their party and the country?

Mr Farron has clearly been so shaken that he concluded he could not continue in his role.

Now consider the case of Mr Percy — a Tory with a Hull accent who has enjoyed a swift rise through the party ranks, becoming the minister for the Northern Powerhouse while at the same time completing his Reform Judaism conversion.

So far so impressive. But twice in as many months his position has baffled me. First, when the election was called, he grudgingly announced that he would stand again in his safe Brigg and Goole seat, having earlier intended to step down if the election had come in 2020. Then, when he was offered the chance to continue in his role at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Mr Percy rejected it. He said he had “reluctantly decided to step down and leave the government” and would be pursuing “other challenges” from the backbenches.

Perhaps there is something personal, or indeed political, holding Mr Percy back from serving under Theresa May again, but look at what he told me five weeks ago after receiving antisemitic abuse on the campaign trail.

“It’s become more poisonous in the last few years in politics generally,” he said, before going on to talk of something “very nasty and sinister” having been “unleashed”.

The battering Mrs May has taken from the media and the public in the past fortnight has largely centred on her apparent inability to be “human”. Yet a few months ago the same people were lauding her for “getting on with the job”, being a serious character and the antithesis to the years of Tony Blair’s spin and soundbites.

Last week I bemoaned the paucity of leadership figures. These two cases only strengthen my concern. How can we expect to be enthused by our leaders when those with an ounce of individuality feel politics is not for them, and those who apparently thrive often do so by revelling in monotony?

Apropos Mr Farron’s departure: the candidacy of Sir Vince Cable to succeed him as Lib Dem leader does not bode well for the party’s relationship with the community.

It was Sir Vince, in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, who tried to enforce an arms embargo on Israel. His election would be a backwards step for the party.

June 22, 2017 10:30

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