Saturday, February 18, 2006

Michael Crick, Jealousy, and the National Psyche

Michael Crick's attempt at a hatchet job on Chris Huhne was pathetically weak. You could tell from the start that there was little substance to the attack, purely on the basis that so much 'filler' material about Huhne's history had to be included in the report. If the dirt was really scandalous, then simply saying he was a leadership contender, and the front-runner in many polls, would have sufficed.

It was the filler, however, that I thought provided the most interesting aspect of the report. Whatever the ins and outs of EU campaigning law are, it seemed clear to me that whatever transgressions may have occurred are minor and arise from ambiguities in the law, rather than a deliberate attempt at embezzling. That Crick appeared on Newsnight in person to qualify many of the claims made in his report seems to me to be further proof there is little wrongdoing.
What was more interesting was the way in which Crick tried to demean Huhne's character at the start of the report. There is no doubt the aim of the piece was to attack Huhne; yet it started off not by attacking Huhne's policies, but his background. Huhne is undoubtedly a very privileged man, having been to Westminster School, Oxford and the Sorbonne, before having a career as a journalist and successful businessman.

It was also clear from last night that Huhne has acquired significant wealth as a result of his success. Good luck to him, I say - and congratulations on having constructed such a successful career. Crick's attitude was far less positive - when he asked Huhne if he was a multi-millionaire, his tone was so aggressive as to be unbelievable.

What is it about Britain that makes us so hostile to success? Why, indeed, should being bright (getting to Oxford and the Sorbonne) and successful (making lots of money) be considered a bad thing when it comes to representation of the people? Surely we want our brightest and best to be in positions of power, taking on that vital duty of looking after the interests of the people?

The clear implication was that Huhne's wealth makes him unsuitable to lead a political party. Yes, it is true that he will not have had to face many of the difficulties that many others have to deal with. But he cannot be blamed for the family he was born into, no more than any person can or should be. He may not have a knowledge of perceived injustice; he can, however, talk with authority on how opportunity has helped him and, by extension, how that should be extended to all so that they have the most to make of their ability.

In any case, that sort of thing is of sod all relevance when considering Huhne as a potential leader. What's far more important is what he's done in his adult life, what he's achieved as a politician, and whether his ideas and his sums add up to a coherent vision for running the country. His wealth is irrelevant to that. It says a lot about Michael Crick and the BBC that they will think less of a man for having had a successful business career.