Schadenfreude is an unworthy feeling, but the fact that the Germans have a word for it and we do not is entirely to their credit, for it is a common human emotion.
I thought we had seen the end of mentions of the hopeless Liz Truss on this blog as she exited to the Ministry of Justice to become the first female Lord Chancellor but I cannot help but notice that her path has been a rocky one. Two ministers have resigned rather than serve under her, Lord Faulks and Anna Soubry, on the grounds that Ms Truss knows nothing about the law.
Blimey! We’d be pretty short of Environment Secretaries, in all recent governments (yes including Labour ones), if knowing about the environment were a necessary qualification for being in charge of it.
There are two serious points, somewhat contradictory, mixed up in all this. First, that the number of scientists or former conservation professionals in the House of Commons is almost vanishingly small and so from that perspective, the Secretary of State for Defra is almost certain to be a bit of a novice. The second point is that former ministers that I have known, of all ranks, have varied considerably in how well they have done their jobs but it has rarely seemed to be closely related to their initial knowledge of the subject. Good ministers have often been good ministers despite their lack of initial understanding of the subject.
What is more important in being a good minister is often that they recognise that they do not know much about the subject rather than that they do know about it. Labour ministers (with some exceptions) and Caroline Spelman and John Gummer (and that’s as far back as I can comment through personal knowledge) have consulted widely and brought people in from many perspectives to advise them. Rather too many Tories (Owen Paterson, Richard Benyon, Liz Truss) have shut out inconvenient voices and shut down or gagged sources of independent advice.
Liz Truss, remember, sent a rather curt and ungenerous note to the Lead Ammunition Group rejecting their years of hard work and misled the public in doing so. That’s a more damning indictment for someone to be taking on Justice than the fact that she is no lawyer.