Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"This is not the Time to be Mealy-Mouthed..."

If you can't stand the heat...Sir Keith sweats it out
Graham Brady is not of course the first politician to get in trouble for speaking his mind on an issue of the day. One of the more memorable of course was during a speech given by his old boss Sir Keith Joseph in October 1974. As he uttered the memorable lines, “our human stock is threatened” in relation to one parent families, the prospect of leadership of the Conservative Party was to desert him, never to return. That is not to say that Joseph was not to wield influence or even office as a minister again. He was key figure in the battle for ideas in the mid-1970s as the Butskellism consensus was demonstrably failing. It was Joseph that set up the Centre for Policy Studies that became so influential and for which Brady (and Willets,who sparked the grammar school debate), worked for in the late 80's and early 1990s. And declaring that 'Monetarisn is not enough', it was Joseph who wrote much of the 1979 Conservative manifesto. In office, he prepared parts of the economy for privatisation and introduced the GCSE as a minister in the 80's. Nicknamed the 'Mad Monk' due to his almost ecclesiastical delivery while breaking the consensus, Joseph fired straight from the hip ("This is not the Time to be Mealy-Mouthed: Intervention is Destroying us") whether he was speaking on television or at university lecture halls in the 1970s. It was a role he reprised when he spoke at Southampton University in about 1992. The speech which was delivered without a note for 40 minutes, had the audience, many of whom were far from politically friendly, spellbound. Tragically, less than two years later, he was dead.
One wonders if an elected politician, could survive within the party system for being so outspoken and not a little eccentric today. I doubt it.


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