Thursday 11 November 2010


It’s nice to know that while we’re all in it together with bills going up and wages going down (the average wage in the UK has fallen by £2,500 in the last year) that government ministers are suffering too.

So it was surprising to find that they had charged the country £20,000 for artworks to adorn their offices.

Yes, in these times of austerity, when the national debt is estimated to be as much as £4.8 trillion, our government ministers have changed all the artwork in their offices, replacing the New Labour taste for Cool Britannia with historic portraits and battle scenes from a time when Britain was great...if your definition of great is spending more money on armies than anything else and fighting almost everybody, almost everywhere.

Of course they didn’t actually buy any new art. All they did was to borrow different pieces from the reserves in the government art collection. (Why does the government need an art collection? Isn’t its function to govern, rather than to be art critics? Why can’t ministers be like everyone else and bring in a painting from home?) The money was spent on transporting and hanging the paintings. Clearly ministers can’t just bang a nail in the wall, like I do, and hang their pictures themselves. What hopeless creatures.

The most amusing thing I think is that Eric Pickles, who has, quite properly, been waging a war on waste in England’s local government, has himself spent £256.64 of taxpayers’ money hanging a new print of a photo of the Queen in his office reception.

Government Ministers. Don’t you just love them?

Pics: (none of them borrowed at taxpayers' expense)Joshua Ross Junior's Battle of Blenheim, which hangs in Iain Duncan Smith's office; the Queen and Eric Pickles

First Minister's Questions, with a good few jokes.. and a great line from Ms Goldie, is over at Subrosa's place... Go read it now....OK?


  1. Good on Pickles, there should be a picture of the Queen in every public sector office, room and hallway.

    In fact, bring it back in the schools as well.

  2. Just like the Soviet Union. (Well not with the Queen obviously.)

  3. Yea lets all get over and tell the Chinese that "democracy" is the best way to go. Oh dear of course HM the Q is not aherm elected-oh and neither is the House of Lords! Maybe that should have been a "limited democracy" is the way to go.

  4. Maybe they should have a compulsory voluntary policy regarding portraits of the Queen? Oxymorons by a government of morons?

  5. I don't support too much direct democracy, prefer the Metternich argument that before you can have 'freedom' as a concept, we first need to enstil, maintain and enforce the earlier concept of 'order'.

    Limited direct democracy coupled with indirect democratic tradition is the best way to go tbh.

  6. Dean surely you are not talking about Klemens von Metternich 1773-1859 the Prince of the Austrian Empire? That has to be the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time. And if you are advocating an Austro-Hungarin imperial model of "democracy" I don't see that you would have any problem at all with the current one in China after all they can choose between party apparachiks. Don't remember anyone being able to vote for the Austrian Emperor.

    As for you second paragrapg? Talk about gibberish? Perhaps we should bring back a property qualification for voting and dispense with the secret ballot as well.

  7. Munguin,

    Isn't it so easy to be flippant?

  8. Well thats very true Dean and I am sorry if I was flippant. But I would love you to explain how we could have a limited direct democracy linked to an idirect democratic tradition. I would have thought a democratic tradition would imply an evolving democracy. And I don't see how democracy (which does after all mean the voice of the people) evolve to be more limited through a tradition of allowing the people to have a voice. Sorry that just does not make sense to me.

  9. As for Metternich wasn't his "democratic" model (if you can call it that) so successful that he was turfed out in a revolution in 1848 and had to seek shelter in London? Clearly the contemporary Austrians did not share your starry-eyed view of their "democratic" prince!

  10. Dean,

    Why would they have pictures of Quentin Crisp all over the place?

  11. What worries me is why they insist on having battle scenes all over the place. I like to work in a peaceful and scerene atmosphere, and I doubt if I'd be able to concentrate on my work if I was looking at all that blood and gore.

    Still I'm not a Tory minister.

    I still object to £20,000 being spent on providing them with art, whatever it is. If they wanted to change the paintings in their offices they should have paid out of their own over generous salaries to have it done.

    As for pics of the Queen (either one)... Dear dear no.

    I've been in a few of the Scottish ministers' offices and I don't recall seeing any art at all.

  12. Monarch of the Glen would be nice though...

  13. I would have them hang this in all of their offices, nearer the truth.

  14. The guy is pretty busy these days CH, what with running around after Mr Obama and running around after Mr Hu, I think it's time the American and Chinese taxpayers made a large contribution to his salary.

  15. Metternich made a very good point concerning how democratic values* need the concept of 'order' as an essential prerequisite to function.

    But as to his policy, it kept a working balance of power in Europe for 40 odd years, following the bloodshed of revolutionary wars - I rather think it was a desirable outcome.

    But additionally, was his paternalist leadership style really that bad? Machievelli, the Prince cannot be expected to live by his own value and structure system, and Voltaire - 'enlightened despotism'...

    Limited democracy, well founded in democratic tradition - there is a plethora of enlightenment as well as Classical defenders of it [like Socrates!]

    *I use 'values' specifically and deliberately as like Burke I totally reject universal natural rights theory, but accept universal values theory.

  16. Dean that does not explain how a tradition of allowing people to have a voice could lead to a situation where people have a more limited voice does it. How often does that happen?

    As for poor old Metternich well as I say he got turfed out in a revolution himself in 1848 and had to go find a safe haven in England. QED?

  17. Munguin,

    Democracy matures and changes - how is anyone asking for 'the people' to have a 'more limited voice'? All we are saying is let us have more indirect democracy and less direct democracy. And how often does that kind of change happen? It has been happening in the UK for decades!!

  18. And I don't see anyone burning and rioting against the European Ideal now do we?

  19. Has it Dean I must have missed it!! All that democracy maturing to a less diret form all around me here and I never noticed it! What with local elections actually being propoer PR and all! Oh sorry that is democracy maturing to a "less" limited extent isn't it? Oh and so would AV I suppose but then you wont be taking part in that referendum seeing as you like your democracy to be of the most limited sort!

  20. Oh Munguin!

    Do you really think that PR referendum will change anything? Even if it passed - there is tones of evidence to suggest AV is even less proportional, even less fair in terms of providing a true demonstration of how the 'direct' vote of the people is represented in the home of all parliaments ... westminster.

    Think about it, all those 'special advisers', QUANGOs [oh yeh, they say they are getting rid of them ... believe that when it happens!], EU commission [it existance is a testimony to the effectiveness of indirect forms of democratic account. . . it has been happening all around you!

    Reminds me of that Yes Minister line by Sir Humphrey "we've been marginalising the people ever since the 1834 great reform act" LOL!

  21. The answer is no Dean as AV is not PR!