It's hard to forget what the Tories are really like, despite Theresa May’s disingenuous One Nation rhetoric. But with his defence of George Osborne, Lord Heseltine has provided us with a timely reminder.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions programme on Friday (17/03/17), Heseltine trotted out the sort of elitist claptrap that would have made Marie Antoinette blush.
Osborne, he argued, should be commended for adding the Evening Standard editorship to his expanding portfolio of jobs and we should be grateful to have such an exceptional chap living among us. The country would be impoverished, he said, if people like Osborne were driven out of public life.
Allow me to pop on some rubber gloves and unpack this sodden parcel of stinking manure.
Heseltine believes Osborne to be an exceptional individual even though, in the very same breath, he suggests the former Chancellor would leave his role as a public servant if he were denied the ability to take on other lucrative work.
Therefore it appears that 'exceptional' to Hezza is a person whose commitment to public service is so weak that even £74K pa and generous expenses aren't enough to keep them focused on the job.
But isn't Osborne now also getting £650K pa from BlackRock, the world's biggest fund management firm? Isn't this enough to stop him collecting jobs like a dung beetle collects, well, dung?
Clearly not. But maybe it's not about the money. So let's instead consider that priceless commodity - time.
How does Osborne attend and take part in parliamentary debates, respond to inquiries from his Cheshire constituents and act on their behalf if he's behind a desk at the Standard, managing a major paper serving an audience in London? Being exceptional might enable you to work faster than other mere mortals but you can’t be in two places at the same time.
Practicalities aside, what is truly appalling about Heseltine’s remarks is how disingenuous and self-serving they are. If a policeman or teacher turned up for work and said they couldn't fulfil their duties properly because they had taken on another major role elsewhere, they would be sacked. And rightfully so.
If a nurse or carer decided to turn up for a fraction of their contracted hours but demanded their full remuneration they would be laughed out the door, all the way to the job centre.
Heseltine hooked a red herring to try to support his dissembling, citing professional footballers as an example of where the public seemed to have double-standards when it came to huge pay packets.
Firstly, this assumption is wrong: I know many people who think money has ruined the game and that players are obscenely overpaid. And, secondly, if a pro footballer decided to pick and choose which games to turn up for because of other work commitments he'd be on the transfer list faster than you could sing, 'The referee's a merchant banker!'
So let me help Tories like Heseltine understand what exceptional is. Exceptional is the single parent who holds down a job and budgets a meagre salary sufficiently to feed and clothe their kids, who they look after without the assistance of a nanny or au pair.
Exceptional is the nurse or teacher who works dozens of extra hours a month, not because they will see any extra money for their toils but because they are genuinely dedicated to public service; because they care for those who rely on them; because they are selfless.
Exceptional is the ‘White Van Man’ who has started his own business and works tirelessly to keep it afloat, knowing his family rely on him and if it all goes to shit they won’t be able to make ends meet.
Exceptional are the millions of ordinary people collapsing into bed at the end of another relentless day of work, kids, school pick-ups, PTA meetings, football coaching, caring for elderly relatives, shopping, cleaning...the list goes on, the chores and responsibilities never ending. That’s what exceptional looks like.
But not to Heseltine and the born-to-rule Tories. To them exceptional is the individual who can hoard the most power and wealth, never having to worry about life’s real responsibilities: money can take care of those - nannies, au pairs, PAs, private schools, private healthcare, chauffeurs, first class travel...
It is an utter disgrace, and to our eternal shame, that we treat those who do genuinely exceptional work with contempt, paying them a pittance when compared with our avaricious political masters.
Heseltine said he’d like to salute Osborne. I’d like to salute both of these egregious Tory toffs - with two ***ing fingers!