Andrew Castle is Leading Britain's Conversation.
10 January 2017, 12:05
What’s the point of Chris Grayling? What’s he for?
Three further days of misery for hundreds of thousands of Southern Rail commuters began this morning, with no end in sight, and the Transport Secretary sitting on the side lines, wringing his hands.
Being a cabinet minister is not a spectator sport. All Grayling is doing at the moment is raising futility to the status of high art.
He has options. At least three. He could summon all the parties to his office for talks, and bang their heads together, making clear that this dispute cannot go on, and shaming both sides into ending it.
He could remove Southern’s franchise, and get the government to run it, as happened with LNER a few years back.
Or he could introduce emergency legislation to restrict or ban public sector strikes like this, which holds the country to ransom, paralysing productivity and destroying peoples working lives. And the public would support him.
Instead, like the Tar-Baby, he does nuffink.
Grayling should be one of the best-known faces in British politics. He should be everywhere, lambasting the lot of them.
Instead, he turns up at Clapham Junction this morning, looking like a boring, bald headed bloke (which he is) with most people not even giving him a second glance.
Come on Grayling. Get off your backside. We don’t pay you to be a spectator.
ARE THE LIGHTS ON THERESA?
Sadly however, Grayling, who was Theresa May’s Campaign Manager, seems typical of a government paralysed by indecision.
When May was elected, a few of our more strident newspapers described her as the new Thatcher. Having been Mrs Ts youngest Minister for four years, I begged to differ at the time, saying no comparison could be wider of the mark.
Mystic Mellor wanted to be wrong about this, but I’m not, am I? And interestingly, none of those same newspapers liken her to Mrs T now.
All around Whitehall, there is drift and uncertainty even on the core issue of Brexit. It’s perfectly obvious, beyond Brexit, Mrs May has no agenda. She wants to be somebody, but seemingly doesn’t want to do anything. Dave Cameron in a skirt? Maybe.
Margaret Thatcher was a dynamo; an impatient reformer, always on the go, who changed the face of Britain, almost entirely for the better.
Theresa May isn’t like that. She reminds me a bit of a house left empty for the weekend, where the owners leave a few lights on to try to pretend someone’s there.
But there’s no one in.
I’ve followed, or participated in politics for 50 years. I find it hard to think of a more depressing time for British politics than right now, with a government seemingly rudderless, Labour led from the far left, the Lib Dems bankrupt of ideas, and a Farage-free UKIP thereby rendered inconsequential.