Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Viggers: Labour Government is made up of ‘amateurs’
The training of ministers?
He talks of their ‘lack of any real understanding’ and their ‘lack of a sense of direction’, noting they ‘have not really progressed at the strategic level’. He opines that ‘the intellectual horse power...needs better co-ordination’. And his judgement is unequivocal: ‘We are putting amateurs into really important positions and people are getting killed as a result of some of these decisions. It's a huge responsibility and I just don't sense we are living up to it.’
Putting amateurs into really important positions?
Coming from such a senior member of the military, Lt Gen Viggers’ comments are as astonishing as they are damning of this Labour Government.
But they are a statement of the blindingly obvious: all politicians are amateurs. One does not need a qualification; there is no requirement for a diploma or a degree. One does not need experience in any particular field: one simply stands for election, and the people vote. If sufficient numbers vote for a particular party, the leader of that party is asked by the Queen to form a government. They do it for the love of it: they are amateur.
Yet these are they who insist that education must now continue up to the age of 18; that nursing must become a degree-level profession; that teaching must become a Masters-level profession. But they do not even need so much as a GCSE themselves.
One had to see the irony in Alan Johnson being Education Secretary: he left school after his O-levels, and therefore had no experience of Sixth Form requirements let alone the pressures of a university degree. How can one administer the education of the masses when one’s own education was so limited?
Does a medical doctor make a better Health Secretary than one with an MA in English?
Why did the RADA-trained and Oscar-winning actress Glenda Jackson become a Transport Minister and not a Minister for the Arts?
Does someone with a second class degree in modern history have the economic knowledge or the intellectual capacity to be chancellor of the exchequer?
What good is a degree in Russian and East European Studies for grappling with the complex ethics and science of GM foods or global warming?
Why is Parliament full of amateur square pegs in round holes?
The truth is that Cranmer would have it no other way. Parliament has to be open to the amateur because the alternative does not bear thinking about. Historically, many of those who became MPs were farmers, industrialists or war heroes. Then came the era of lawyers, accountants and trade union representatives. But now we have the rise of the ‘professional politician’ – those whose path to Parliament has been that of a degree in PPE, followed by local council, parliamentary researcher and policy adviser or chief-of-staff to someone important who can grease the cogs for selection to a ‘safe seat’.
Perhaps Lt Gen Viggers will be encouraged to see Col Bob Stewart on the Tory green benches and Gen Sir Richard Dannatt on the red.
But democracy demands a Parliament that is necessarily amateur: God forbid we end up with a government of énarques.