We were promised a bonfire of the quangos, and now someone’s leaked a list of the 180 faggots (any US visitors will need a good dictionary of British English if you’re not to go off wildly in the wrong direction here) that will be providing the fuel. Cue lots of hand-wringing from the Cabinet Office, along with much moral indignation about irresponsibility.
Irresponsibility, my arse. The Cabinet Office is talking about its embarrassment that one of its documents has been leaked, not about the moral decadence of leaking as an activity. Because leaking is like terrorism: it depends on whose side you’re on. Just as one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, so one woman’s leak is another’s confidential briefing. Listening to politicians working themselves into a lather of indignation over a leaked this, that, or the other is to witness an object lesson in hypocrisy. When it suits their purposes they’ll be busy ensuring advance copies of speeches or carefully constructed pellets of poison are distributed exactly where they think they’ll be most useful.
I never thought I’d ever write these words. I admired Eric Pickles on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. No, that’s far too broad brush. I thought in general that he was, as usual, an insufferable, smug, and disingenuous bastard. But on the subject of the leaked document I did admire his relaxed, “couldn’t give a fuck” attitude. He didn’t go on about the immorality of the leaker. He simply said that the document was out of date. A masterly dismissal.
Of course, it helped that his macho megalomania was well served by the impression the leak gave of a government willing to lay waste to quangos left, right and centre, and not sparing the horses in doing so. For all that, other politicians could usefully learn from his technique of carefree ridicule when it’s their turn to be drawing the sting from embarrassing revelations.