Joe Dromey and the entitlement culture of the political class
From Brother Ivo:
Last week, Guido Fawkes highlighted a low key story about Joe Dromey, son of Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey. Joe had successfully complained to secure a correction to a Daily Mail story, which was his right: he is entitled to use all lawful remedies as much as any other subject of Her Majesty. Unfortunately he made one significant error which revealed much about his mindset.
When he emailed the newspaper, he copied the correspondence to his mother, who happens to be Shadow Minister for Culture Media and Sport. In so doing, he was subtly communicating the message: "Don't mess with me: I can make trouble for you."
As Harry Cole notes, Ms Harman has a leading role in the implementation of the Leveson recommendations, and her son was just mentioning the point to encourage his target to be that little bit more careful when dealing with him.
The Harmans have form in this area.
Jack Dromey, former Deputy General Secretary of the Unite Union, blazed the way for that interest group to capture a massive power base within the Labour Party, which has recently seen them extending that grip by securing first place on many of the regional lists for the forthcoming EU elections.
The problem with Mr Dromey's nomination for the Labour safe seat of Birmingham Erdington was not the £1500 donation made by the Union just 12 days before the selection, but that, as the number of safe seats was contracting closer to the election date, an exception was made for Mr Dromey to be nominated for Erdington which had previously been designated a women-only short list. This was, of course, the policy promoted by Ms Harman herself. As they celebrated his adoption, Ms Harman plainly forgot her earlier assertion that "I am in the Labour Party because I am a feminist. I am in the Labour Party because I believe in equality."
Ms Harman herself was not entirely free from such claims of privilege. When involved in a minor road traffic accident, she did not stay to exchange full details as required by law, but apparently drove off, declaring: "I'm Harriet Harman, you know where you can find me." She thereby placed the onus of seeking her out and getting past 'her people' upon the offended person to do that which it was her legal duty to discharge.
It does not end there. Like a stone dropped into pond, the ripples spread.
Her solicitor sister Sarah Harman got herself in serious difficulty with the High Court and the Solicitors Regulatory Authority when, aggrieved by a ruling her client had received, she referred case papers confidential to the Court to her sister, the then Solicitor General, who passed them to Children's Minister Margaret Hodge. To quote the Daily Telegraph report on the case: "The first that Kent Council knew about what was going on was when Sarah Harman told social workers outside court that she would talk to her sister, the Solicitor General, about the case. If necessary, she told them, the social services department would have to make a contempt of court application against her."
They did, and at initial public cost. The Court was not impressed. An application for permission to disclose the papers was brought to court as a 'cover' after the disclosure had already been made.
Again, the Telegraph report encapsulated the point: "Mr Justice Munby said the failure of Sarah Harman and her client to make full disclosure about the distribution of documents to the court was 'neither a pretty nor an edifying picture'. He said both Sarah Harman and her client had displayed a 'remarkable and disquieting lack of candour'."
Sarah Harman's witness statement had been "disingenuous to say the least" and she and her client had "misled a judge last month by a mixture of suppressing truth and suggesting falsehoods".
The then Shadow Attorney General Dominic Grieve was succinct: "I would have thought that the law was very clear on this," he added. "The documents are confidential, it's as simple as that."
So the overall picture around Ms Harman and those close to her is not dissimilar from the attitudes of the late Leona Helmsley who famously declared that "We don't pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes" - an attitude some see reflected in the private trust arrangements of Margaret Hodge herself.
The Harman mindset appears to be that some are indeed more equal than others.
One can imagine the uproar from Ms Harman, Labour and Unite if such a accumulation of "rules only apply to little people" centred around David Cameron, or any other member of the Bullingdon Club.
Ms Harman is no doubt not a uniquely unattractive case, though certainly a prominent one.
Why does this happen?
We ought to be generous enough to assume that Ms Harman has sincere impulses: she represents a poor inner London seat and no doubt encounters real need in her constituency surgeries.
She was Secretary of The National Council for Civil Liberties ( forerunner of Liberty) and, although it may not always be on the wise side of history, its aspirations are not intentionally ignoble. Even her enshrinement of the sometimes damaging equality agenda into the heart of Government probably had a proper genesis.
So what is it that leads Ms Harman and her family into such poor attitudes?
Brother Ivo's thinking is that this is rooted in the statist philosophy of the Harman dynasty.
By this way of thinking, the state is the agent of all good impulses, and it is at its best when shaped by the great and the good, of which they and folk like them are the best extant examples. They do good, intend good, embody all proper values, and to impede this (or them) is to render humanity a profound disservice.
Such attitudes have a historical parallel which they will not find flattering. The "L'Etat c'est moi" philosophy of Louis XIV has been reincarnated amongst a political caste in the UK and USA alike, with families we can all nominate, for whom a similar philosophy is laced with arrogance. Now it is "L'Etat c'est nous" and nous sommes doing very well out of it, thank you very much.
Having once operated the levers of power, the experience becomes both addictive and symbiotic. They love the state for the validation it gives to them, but equally they must protect the state so that it may continue to give its privileges and immunities to them and their own. Little wonder that the expanding opportunities presented by the European Paliament prove irresistible.
Brother Ivo has previously lamented the news that some 75% of British MPs are millionaires. He looks at the 'success' of the Kinnocks - another dynasty founded on state/EU patronage - whose share of re-distributed taxpayers wealth bears little relation to the added value felt by Joe and Joan Public.
What is especially worrying is that much of that wealth is generated through proximity to the political process rather than independent activity. Whether through consultancy, media or book deals, directorships, second property capital gains or gold-plated pensions, there are many whose association with the state has seen them rise or maintain high wealth and social status. Once tasted, the relatively secure life of safe-seat politicians (at least 50% of all parliamentary seats) is hard to give up, and it becomes very tempting for the political class to wish to secure similar advantages for one's family.
What was once considered 'public service' is now a highly remunerative career option.
In short, for all the talk of social mobility and equality, the Harmans/Straws/Benns/Blairs/Kinnocks etc are as wedded to patronage and family advancement as any medieval monarch, or indeed any parent seeking the advantage of a good education for their offspring.
It is against this background that Brother Ivo views the latest additions to the House of Lords with a degree of dismay. We now have the largest legislature in Europe - bigger even than the EU Parliament - and there appears to be no limit to how many more can be added from the families, friends and patrons of the political class.
The Upper House may have had its origins in privilege and patronage, but at least when its membership was governed by primogeniture it had a self-funding and self-limiting mechanism wholly absent today.
The philosopher Roger Scruton has described society as a contract between past, present and future. Was that not better secured under the ancien régime?
When the upper legislature was in the hands of the old aristocracy (albeit latterly with limited powers) its members were largely economically independent, un-beholden to current politicians, had a sense of history and heritage, and were frequently eccentric and dis-obliging.
Perhaps we cannot go back to that, but we can look at its virtues and ask whether the current direction of travel is proving a real improvement.
Those entering the privileged world of the political class seem to be increasing swiftly and inexorably, and in inverse proportion to the calibre of its nominees. It is surely the duty of sceptics to expose how these people get there, how they behave and how they underwhelm us with their self-awarded rewards for failure.
It is noble work and has a sound precedent.
As WS Gilbert might have written:
For every boy and every girl,Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of lawyers.
who's born into this world awhile,
is either a patronising Harmanite
or else a passionate Guidophile.