In the distant future, when archaeologists uncover this blog, buried under about forty feet of Thames silt, they’ll thank us.
What we do is keep a fastidious eye on what our MP gets up to. It’s not personal, he’s a pretty good MP. He pays attention when we write him whingey letters and he makes a decent effort to look after his constituents and their quotidien concerns.
However, Oliver Dowden is a minister in a disastrous government that’s visibly screwed everything up, over a period approaching 13 years. Latest catastrophic highlight: life expectancy in Britain has been flatlining for ten years and is now right at the bottom of the table for the big nations. For the poorest, it’s now falling. It’s worth dwelling on that: in the last ten years (it began long before Covid) our government has managed to reverse over a hundred years of steady improvement in the most basic of wellbeing measures – how long people live.
Anyway, in the last couple of weeks, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been pretty busy. Let’s catch up:
He banned TikTok. Okay, he banned it from government-owned devices. This is Dowden with his cybersecurity hat on (you’ll remember, he wears a lot of hats). Yes it’s pointless, yes it’s irrational, but it’s nice to see a government actually acting against a tech corporation instead of wringing their hands in a kind of supine, passive-aggressive way like they usually do.
One may now obtain a portrait of the King, free of charge, paid for by H.M. Government. Hold on, though. Dowden says it’s not for everyone, just for ‘public authorities’. His announcement says the scheme, which will apparently cost £8M, includes councils, courts, schools, police forces and fire and rescue services but we’re not sure if it covers sarcastic local blogs.
Check your phone, it might be Oliver Dowden. On 23 April, the government is going to send everyone in Britain an urgent text message. They’re testing a new, nationwide alert system that some of the papers are obviously calling ‘armageddon alerts’. It will be used in the event of an emergency, like a war or a natural disaster. Given the scale of the collapse in Conservative support nationally we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the first message said ‘VOTE TORY ON 4 MAY’. This is actually an international system that’s been used in some countries for years. It’s built into your mobile and you can turn it off if you’d rather not have Oliver Dowden freaking you out when the balloon goes up. And do you think they chose Shakespeare’s birthday for a reason? If they did they missed a cast-iron opportunity to call it The Grim Alarm (sorry).
Oliver Dowden knew that the BBC was worried about the appointment of Boris Johnson’s pal as Chairman about five months before he gave Richard Sharp the job. He didn’t do anything about it, though. And, of course, it was only nominally Dowden’s decision – it was Boris Johnson’s and it had already been made.
Here in the constituency, we know that our MP opposes the sale of the old airport land for the construction of a rail freight terminal but it’s been his government’s policy to permit the development for over a decade now, so it must be awkward for a Cabinet Office Minister. Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans has been asking questions in Parliament, though. The last time Dowden did so was in 2020.
The former Minister for Culture has developed an interest in choral music. Actually, it’s not the first time. But now he wants the BBC to reverse its recent decision to close the BBC Singers, Britain’s only full-time, professional chamber choir. Dowden’s Conservative government has cut BBC funding by 30% since 2010.
Fifteen extraordinary people have been recognised for bravery. They’re on the Government’s Civilian Gallantry List, issued for the first time since 2021. This is another Oliver Dowden joint. We would, perhaps tendentiously, contrast this list with Liz Truss’s ‘list of shame’ or even Boris Johnson’s ‘list of cronies’ (which, remember, includes his dad).
Still no news from the industrial action taskforce. It’s almost four months since Captain Dowden was put in charge of Rishi Sunak’s crack anti-strikes platoon. We’ve been combing the news ever since and we’re pretty sure he still hasn’t actually done anything and the strikes keep coming. We’ll keep you posted.