Johnson’s humanity and Cameron’s lack

There has been much controversy over a recent Guardian editorial on the ‘privileged pain’ of David Cameron using the health service. Following what the media refers to as an outcry the editorial has been much modified.

Even modified, there is much to agree with:

No one should be blamed for their parents or their luck. By the standards of everyday life he seems an unremarkably decent man; by the standards of some of his colleagues, a kind and thoughtful one. But politicians should not be judged by the standards of everyday life. They should be held to higher ones, because it is in their power to make much more damaging mistakes than most people can.

Mr Cameron was quite without the imagination or the moral seriousness to see the suffering that his government caused by its austerity policies; he was a man who could not really believe that food banks were needed even in his own prosperous constituency of Witney as a result of his deliberate actions.

But the original claim:

Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain.

has even more to commend it. For although it seemed not to be directly spelt out, in fact Cameron’s compliments on the treatment for his disabled child from the NHS were lavished on a service that had yet to be subject to any age of austerity, since Cameron’s son died on 25 Feb 2009. Labour were spending what he would have called ‘profligately’ at the time.

So ironically and instructively, his pain was privileged, not only in the sense that his family background was one where more resources were available to him through the wealth of his own family, but also one where more resources were available to him through the wealth of us all.

The latter lot of resources were ones his government proceed quickly to ensure were much diminuished.

He may have got a first class degree, whilst Johnson got only a second. His degree didn’t, however, qualify him for any empathy outside his immediate contacts. Like most Conservatives, he is remarkably unreflective. Cameron blames Johnson for his (undoubted) personal ambition without being able to see his own in wanting to sort out his personal Tory party problems by submerging the whole country into chaos by granting a bogus referendum, on a subject which barely registered as a worry of the electorate at the time.

For all his faults Johnson (BoJo the clown) is a much more human character than Cameron (‘call me Dave’ – really?). Indeed Johnson’s human touch may well be why he attracts such engagement – even if they seem mostly hostile – on his walkabouts. And this aspect of Johnson’s personality may well constitute the worst threat to that other rather human character in our politics, Jeremy Corbyn.

Although currently, at least, it looks as though Dominic Cummings has largely done for Johnson’s humanity.

We should, I suppose, be thankful that Cummings wasn’t hired by Cameron.



  1. Paul Wright -

    Anyone who can complete the Bullingdon club initiation rite of burning a £20/£50 note in front of a homeless person or beggar on Oxfords Broad Street cannot be forgiven as far as I am concerned.

    There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this rite was practiced by initiate members of the club at the time of Cameron, Osborne and Johnson.

    Whether these hideous characters did or didn’t complete the rite is neither here nor there, for me just being a member of the Bullingdon Club is enough to suggest their disregard for humanity.



  2. Peter May -

    Tend to agree. But I was trying to talk in terms of ‘comparative’ humanity – if indeed that is possible…

  3. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    Comparative humanity…?

    State your preference for being eaten by a crocodile or a lion….. 🙂

  4. John Q -

    As regards the NHS and privilege; on Radio Merseyside this week Andy Scott of pop group Sweet said that he had fairly recently had health problems. He had private health insurance but said quite clearly and categrically that the real work had been done under the NHS. Some things never change!

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