My History graduate hackles have been raised by the recent furore surrounding William Hague. In the last couple of days William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, felt compelled to tackle a nasty swirl of innuendo that had blown up around his employment of a young male aide, Christopher Myers. Some ‘right wing’ political bloggers and certain elements of the British press leapt on the fact that Hague had appointed an inexperienced, gay man to be his Special Advisor. The whispering campaign essentially implied that Hague was having a sexual affair with this man and that his marriage was on the rocks. The key elements of this seem to centre around the aide’s inexperience, the fact that they had shared a twin hotel room during the election and this rather camp picture. Hague issued a statement denying the allegations and reiterated the strength of his marriage, going to highly unusual personal detail whilst doing so. The bulk of this debate is covered much better elsewhere, but to me the initial rumours are a demonstration of the kind of insidious, casual homophobia that still exists in portions of our society, particularly it seems in the right wing political media.
The most troubling point aside, I want to pick up on one detail that struck me when I first read the story and which has continued to bother me. Call me paranoid but there seems to be a general assumption that one of the things that makes this guy unsuitable is that he ‘only’ has a History degree from Durham. And even worse, it’s a 2:1! Now as a History graduate with a 2:1 from a UK university I’m just a teensie bit sensitive to this. For a start what exactly does qualify someone to be a ‘Special Advisor’? It seems to me to have a particularly fluid job description. The BBC have a go at summarising what these roles generally entail (here). I’ve always felt that one of the career avenues that history really does open for graduates is politics. A history degree equips you with pretty much all the desirable transferable skills: analytical, debating, research and verbal and written skills. As well as that any History graduate worth his or her salt will be able to demonstrate empathy and the ability to put current events into perspective. We very rarely learn from our past mistakes, perhaps more historians in the mix would help? Indeed a number of recent politicians do have History degrees, including Gordon Brown, Alan Milburn, John Prescott, David Blunkett, Douglas Hurd, and Sir Chris Patten. Actually, I’m not sure that list helps my point. But, it does demonstrate the point that History does churn out politicians. That’s also just the politicians, a fair portion of the Civil Service is made up of History graduates as well.
So what am I suggesting? Well, having thought about it, nothing short a Historian led coup will do. We should unite and take the reigns of government from the lunatics in charge and we’ll do away with Special Advisors to boot. Just a casual browse of History blogs of note should give us some ideas of how we could cover policy areas:
Prime Minister: Nick Poyntz (@mercpol)
Social Policy: Lucy Inglis (@lucyinglis)
Buildings and Infrastructure: Patrick Baty (@patrickbaty)
Arts & Literature: Dainty Ballerina (@DaintyBallerina)
Health: Caroline Rance (@QuackDoctor)
Foreign Policy (well Pirates at least): Ade Tinniswood (@AdeTinniswood)
Urban renewal: Katrina Gulliver (@KatrinaGulliver)
Of course I would be happy to fill one special and particular role in this revolution, that’s right subjects bow to your royal majesty: King Gentleman Administrator.