Francis Maude is widely regarded as the hard man of the Cabinet Office – if you look at the photographs of Cabinet Office Ministers he can’t even manage a proper smile, more of a ‘I’m coming to get your quangos‘ leer. Having said that, Oliver Letwin, who is a cultured gent and so tends to be let out in public more than Maude, hasn’t managed a smile either, but that’s obviously because he was taken unawares whilst tying his tie (keep trying Oliver!).
Maude said recently that he had no sympathy for fears over the government’s plans (where are the LibDems please?) to reform the ‘regulatory quagmire’ of the planning system and that such opposition was ‘bollocks’ (his words). Fellow Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin, with a properly tied tie (I am told), in contrast, is quite open to some ‘bollocks’ and said at a Tory Party fringe meeting that there was no intention to weaken the protection of SSSIs in the government’s plans and that if there were a danger of this then the government would fix it. This is an excellent glancing blow by the RSPB – well done! And we’ve always thought that Letwin might be the ‘dog’s Maudes’ as they are now known.
But Francis Bollocks is widely credited with being the principal executioner of quangos under this government (which includes the Lib Dems). The story goes that one Cabinet Minister was told by Maude that she (that narrows it down a bit) just ‘didn’t get it’ when she came up with her first list of proposed quangocides and that she should go away and come back with a longer list.
And rumour has it, great thing rumour, that Maude still has it in for Natural England. Having removed its ‘Maudes’ he is looking to rip out its heart at some stage inthe future.
My favourite Maude-moment was when he was interviewed on the subject of the Big Society and asked what he did to volunteer – and answer came there none – except a load of ‘Maudes’. Maybe Maude should take a leaf out of St Francis of Assisi’s book who said ‘ It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching‘. ‘We’re all in it together except not me’ seems to be the Maude modus operandi. It’s possible, but not likely, that the Public Administration Committee enquiry on Smaller Government: Bigger Society will ask Mr Maude for a ‘maude juste‘ on his volunteering activites next Wednesday.
Here is a selection of quotes from Francis not-of-Assisi Maude. I fear I may have mistyped some of them and the originals can be found on a site called BrainyQuote (!) which features no quotes from the Chancellor George Osborne at all.
For the most part our grassroots members are serious, nice, tolerant people – I have nothing in common with them at all.
If we do what we think is right, not try to point-score, people will begin to trust us. But we don’t, so they don’t.
If we want to change what people think of us, then we have got to tell them that they are talking bollocks.
Our party believes in diversity, but not much, and not biodiversity.
Our party has known great, great days. But we have no God-given right to survive, let alone to succeed. And I’m doing my best to alienate our natural supporters by telling them that they are talking bollocks.
So our problem is not Labour, it is us, because we talk bollocks.
The party at its best has been a modern party. But that was a century ago.
They don’t think we’re in touch with modern Britain, or understand modern Britain or like modern Britain – and they’re right!