SLR Diary: Hairy politics in UK, SA. Who REALLY wants Boris Johnson or Lindiwe Zulu?

Simon Lincoln Reader has one eye on politics in South Africa, and one on the political scene in the UK. Taking advantage of his soutie credentials, SLR compares and contrasts the South African and British environment. South Africans may cringe at some of the political leaders who make it to Parliament, but in Great Britain politicians aren’t polished around the edges either. As SLR notes, outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May has made a serious faux, or two. And, as for Boris Johnson, who sports a controversial hairstyle, he’s in good company when you look across the parliamentary benches in SA. Lindiwe Zulu, the new minister of social development, referred to as uGinger by some, has come in for mockery, too. SLR wishes President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team good luck, although he’s not convinced there isn’t a Gupta friend or two lurking in the cabinet. – Jackie Cameron

By Simon Lincoln Reader*

A “Ratner Speech” is a term used to describe shocking public speaking.

In 1991, Gerald Ratner, then CEO of the famous jewellery conglomerate Ratner Group, was invited to speak at The Institute of Directors. He stood up and made arguably the worse salesman’s pitch of all time: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say – because it’s total crap.” He also went on to say that some of the earrings sold by the Ratner Group were cheaper than a Marks and Spencer prawn sandwich – but probably wouldn’t last as long. Almost overnight shares in the company tanked by £500m (roughly £900m today).

**

In 2002, as Chairman of the Conservative party, a woman called Theresa May made her own “Ratner Speech” at the party’s conference in Bournemouth. She declared that her party was “the nasty party” – until that point, something only spoken in whispers by the opposition. At the time, Tony Blair was unstoppable and the Conservatives were polling badly. It was the worst possible thing that could have happened to the party at such a precarious stage in its existence.

It has never been forgotten – in fact, no less than two journalists who were present in 2002 have mentioned it in respective obituaries of her premiership, as points to explain she didn’t understand conservatism, or she did but was mildly contemptuous of it. Few found anything from her uneventful term as Home Secretary that would hint at her style as Prime Minister – she was, for the most part, automated and strangely, appeared to feel comfortable in uncomfortable silences.

But here is a point that deserves more attention than it is currently receiving: not only did she lobby for the UK to remain, but her husband Phil is employed by an asset manager that announced it would be adversely affected by Brexit. Now, I wouldn’t call it a conflict of interest, but how does someone go from remain, to leave, to try and convince the public that she now believes what she once didn’t – all the while when the pillow talk says otherwise?

**

A man called Marcus J Ball has taken Boris Johnson to court for “lying” to the electorate over a bus banner advertised before the June 2016 referendum claiming that the NHS would benefit from EU withdrawal. Depending on which way you calculate it, the figure of £350m per week is either non-existent, or much lower than the actual saving.

I’m tempted to call Marcus a genius: taking a politician to actual court for lying is something we’ve all wanted to do. But I’m also tempted to call him a shyster who is using public money to virtue signal whilst ignoring politicians who lobbied for to remain with a series of whopping threats, none of which materialised.

**

That said, I’m about as eager for Boris Johnson to become the next Prime Minister as I am to find Busisiwe Mkhwebane standing outside my front door, presenting her one way ticket to London before announcing that she likes three cooked meals a day and prefers triple ply loo paper, the one with the Labrador puppy on the packaging.

**

Some notes about the South African cabinet appointments:

  • Ace Magashule’s interview post Cyril Ramaphosa’s address is the closest you’ll come to witnessing a man sweating spinal fluid. His and Jessie Duarte’s cunning plan to try turn David Mabuza on Cyril by sexing-up the sheet submitted to the integrity commission wasn’t so cunning after all. David and his camp are now reportedly furious;
  • Whilst Alec celebrated the absence of Gupta appointments, I’m not entirely convinced. Lindiwe Zulu, or Comrade uGinger, whilst not brazenly Gupta, is not an immediately wise choice, given the remarkably daft utterances she has previously made (on subjects ranging from Somali traders to Trevor Manuel) – and the photo she took of herself and Brian Molefe the day the latter was sworn in as an MP. “Change must happen,” said photo was titled. But perhaps she was talking about “change” from a nice olive Truworths suit into a pair of leg irons?
  • It will be argued that this is a cabinet designed for many things – growth, anti-corruption, better international relations, etc. But I think, to elaborate on point 1, it’s primarily a “kettling” cabinet – a formation established to control unruly features with undesirable intentions, namely, to protect the accused of the nine wasted years and obstruct economic development. But good luck to them all, even Honourable Ginger.

  • Simon Lincoln Reader lives in London.