Kaieteur News – There are some startling, unflattering, acidic descriptions by a former UK Cabinet Minister of the present UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his predecessor, Theresa May. Sir Ian Duncan, former Minister of International Development and deputy to Johnson when Johnson was Foreign Secretary painted this canvas in a just released memoir, “In the Thick of It.”
Duncan referred to Johnson as “a clown, a self-centred ego, an embarrassing buffoon, with an untidy mind and sub-zero diplomatic judgment.” On former PM, May, he wrote that she lacked personality on the campaign trail and that she was “a frightened rabbit, a cardboard cut-out, her social skills are sub-zero.”
There are two things to note about these insights. There is not going to be any libel writs because the British courts, like the American courts, are going to interpret those reflections of Duncan as not scandalous but fair comments on public figures that must face critical assessments of their performance and style. In fact, if the publishers felt the words were libelous they would not have retained them in the book.
In fact, Duncan had some devastating things to say about the current Home Office Minister, which we in Guyana know as Home Affairs. She is an East Indian woman, Priti Patel, who holds extreme right-wing views. Duncan noted that, the former head of Essex University, where Patel graduated from, as a student, Patel was “abysmal beyond measure.” Duncan wrote that Patel is “a nothing person, a complete and utter nightmare.”
Sadly, the outdated libel laws of Guyana will remain because whichever party is in power, will feel protected from critics by the ancient laws and have no interest in reforming them. It is left to the attitude of the judge to deter frivolous writs and the most powerful way of stopping nonsensical libel trials is by the imposition of enormous cost. If you sue for the most illogical reason and you lose, the biggest cost you will incur is not going to be over $200,000. If judges impose severe cost like $1 Million or $2 Million, it may help to stem the tide. People are going to think twice to file writs based on frivolities if they know they will have to pay millions in cost.
The other thing to note about Duncan’s characterisations of British Ministers is their application to Guyana. Do these descriptions apply to Guyana? My answer is yes. I have consistently argued on this page that the politicians who got power in 2015 were circus clowns of the highest order, unfit to lead a modern Caribbean nation.
Let’s provide some examples. Every high school student knows from reading his/her books that the state is primarily concerned with the security of the entire territory. When APNU+AFC came to power, they changed the Ministry’s name from Home Affairs to Public Security. The person responsible for that should never have become a Minister.
Government’s role in the security of a country is all-encompassing thus its jurisdiction is national. A simple, commonsensical label should have been “National Security.” Take health. The Ministry was renamed Ministry of Public Health. The same logic applies to education and agriculture. But the word, public” was never put in front of the ministries of Education and Agriculture respectively.
The Ministry of Public Works was changed to Public Infrastructure. Why “infrastructure?” Isn’t “works a simpler word and has a more expansive meaning? How do you explain this illogical, contorted thinking? There is only one answer – the persons who were responsible are clowns who couldn’t perform in the circus.
Duncan wrote that Theresa lacked personality on the campaign trail and her social skills were sub-zero. Which government leader in Guyana that portrait applies to? The answer is David Granger. I have consistently argued on this page that the personality of Granger contributed to his electoral defeat in 2020.
Granger was never suited for West Indian politics. Guyana is an essential part of the West Indies. It has a West Indian style of politics. West Indians like their politicians to ground with them, use Creolese, laugh and joke with them. They like their politicians to be a people’s person. They like their politicians to be light, modest and humble. Granger had none of these qualities. He was stiff, perennially serious and distant.
From his attitude to the media, the analyst knew this was the wrong man to lead Guyana. He was always inclined to insult journalists if awkward questions were asked. He didn’t have the capacity to emulate his hero Burnham. Burnham would turn any embarrassing question into a rib-tickling joke. Granger cost his party to lose power. But it chose to accept such a leader.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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