Some pundits improve over time; others find their appeal declining. But there are always those rooted firmly to the bottom of the credibility pile, elevated only by their incessant self-promotion and the inability of otherwise sensible media folk to tell the difference between the King in his fine new suit of clothes and an imposter who is stark naked.
Thus it is with the implausible figure of Tim Montgomerie, who promoted himself as the face of “conservative” punditry, and got himself invited, rather in the manner of Chauncey Gardiner, onto TV, only to prove singularly clueless on the issues of the day, a trait that has been glaringly obvious since he penned “This is about revenge, not phone taps” about the then breaking phone hacking scandal more than eight years ago.
Monty’s latest exhibition of ignorance has come courtesy of the London Evening Standard, and a piece entitled “Under Theresa May, the Tory party is on a mission to self-destruct”. Here, he demonstrates not merely a crashing ignorance of history, but a tendency to rank paranoia, in his efforts to remind readers of his alleged credibility.
The ignorance of history comes in one apparently throwaway, but telling sentence, as Monty tells “During the Eighties, Margaret Thatcher undid much of the economic agenda of Clement Attlee’s 1945 government. From telecoms to airways to car manufacture, state-controlled industries were privatised”. Spot the mistakes - all three of them.
Whatever the Attlee Government’s economic agenda, nationalising telecoms was not part of it. The General Post Office, as it was then called, became the state monopoly provider of telecoms in the UK not in the late 1940s, but in 1912 - during the tenure of the pre-Great War Liberal Government (the birth of what we now know as the welfare state also occurred during this period, courtesy of Lloyd George’s so-called “Peoples’ Budget”).
That is bad enough for a supposedly authoritative pundit, but there is rather more. Airways? The Attlee Government didn’t nationalise any of those. The merger of pre-World War 2 British Airways and Imperial Airways to form the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was as a result of an act of Parliament passed in late 1939, under the Premiership not of Attlee, but of Neville Chamberlain.
Can Monty make it three in a row? He certainly can: “car manufacture”? The part-nationalisation of British Leyland, as it had then become, did not happen until 1975. Some commercial vehicle construction became effectively nationalised in the late 1940s, but not volume car manufacture. Montgomerie needs to attend some remedial history classes.
But the extra treat for Standard readers was that he was up for a little paranoia: “The march of the Left through educational, entertainment and other ideas-generating institutions is now almost complete … Huge numbers of public-sector appointments to grant-making agencies have been filled by the Left. Generations who’ve been through classrooms that dwell on the failures of the nation’s history and who’ve seen nearly every businessman in nearly every TV drama painted as a villain”. Oh, come off it.
Memo to all you TV bookers: this is not a credible pundit. So no change there, then.