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EDITIONS
Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Too nice for politics?
Estelle Morris
Morris: Candid resignation statement
Mark Davies

It's a tough, hard, macho world. Intense rivalry, huge egos. Long hours, burning ambition. The unforgiving glare of 24-hour media coverage, job prospects decided by ballot box and prime ministerial favour.

That at least is the image of politics in the UK. And how most of those at the centre of it love the description.


It took her resignation for everyone to suddenly remember what a nice, decent person Estelle Morris is

The backroom fixers and the party technocrats who stalk the Westminster corridors revel in it. Those on the fringes, from the bag carriers to the party hacks, lap it up as well.

The media fuels the image with talk of plots and back-biting, while keeping a weather eye open for signs of weakness.

Not a place, then, for a nice person to get involved without due care and attention.

Of course it took her resignation for everyone to suddenly remember what a nice, decent person Estelle Morris is.

And only when she had quit the government could she reveal with such candour the challenges of running an office of state.

Candour

But it does raise the question - again - about the sort of world people can expect to find if they decide to take up a career in politics.

Of course the image is over-played by newspaper headlines and the Westminster myth machine.

Yet what is true is that candour such as that displayed by Ms Morris on Wednesday is a rare thing.

All traces of spin stripped away, the answers were candid, the emotions painfully exposed.

In truth, it doesn't happen very often. For the most part, politicians leave their emotions at home, preferring the scripted reply to the apparently heinous offence of revealing their true feelings. Even in resignation most ex-ministers still opt for weasel words.

Blame

The reason is simple and understandable, the fear being that any sign of weakness will be lapped up by a media on the prowl for high-profile scalps.


Perhaps they will consider whether it is healthy that able, talented people are put off political office because of the apparently tough, hard-bitten macho world they inhabit

So was Estelle Morris just too nice for a political career? Some would say that yes, she simply couldn't cut it in the tough political world.

But because of the image politicians feel they need to live up to - and the media has to take its share of the blame for that - what we don't know is whether the public would actually prefer real human beings as their leaders instead of bland automatons carefully controlled by party machines.

Everyone is now rushing to hail Ms Morris for her Kevin Keegan-like candour. Her resignation statement is described as a breath of fresh air in the stagnant political world.

Yet the fact that her comments come in the wake of her withdrawal from the cabinet speaks volumes.

Hard-bitten

Hopefully other politicians will take a long hard look at themselves.

Perhaps they will consider whether it is healthy that able, talented people are put off political office because of the apparently tough, hard-bitten macho world they inhabit.

In truth, they talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. Most politicians will admit that Westminster needs reform, that its macho image must change, even that ministers thrust into high profile jobs need more training for the challenges they will face.

But as ever the pace of change is snail-like. And the one thing they'd all hate to be called is nice.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"Officials applauded in support and wept with sadness"
BBC correspondent Jonathan Beale
"It is unprecedented for a cabinet minister to say 'I am not good enough'"
Estelle Morris
"I have not enjoyed the job as much as I did that of minister of schools"

Key Stories

Analysis

AUDIO VIDEO
 VOTE RESULTS
Was Estelle Morris right to resign?

Yes
 58.32% 

No
 41.68% 

16899 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

23 Oct 02 | Politics

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