Judgement means “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing” or an opinion or estimate formed by this process. (Merriam Webster).
AUSTERITY AND AFTER
During the years of this Conservative government, judgements have been made by individual prime ministers which have had significant and, sometimes, devastating effects on people’s lives. The consequences of judgements by David Cameron and his appointed Chancellor, George Osborne, have resulted in the children born in 2010 living for most of their young lives under austerity. Boris Johnson judged, after initially supporting Remain, he should hitch his wagon to the Leave side as it was the vehicle most likely to take him to victory in a Leadership election. We are now left with the consequences of self-imposed isolation and the impossible task of discerning what we have actually taken back control of! Johnson and Cummings judged that it was ok to base their campaigning, like Nigel Farage on blaming immigration for all Britain’s perceived ills. The lie about £350m going to the NHS from the EU, plastered on the side of their campaign bus, was a just means to an end.
PANDEMIC AND PUTIN: THE PERMACRISIS
Then, to further test the judgement of Boris Johnson and his cabinet ministers, the pandemic came along in 2019. We now await the results of first, his trial by Select Committee as to whether he knowingly lied to Parliament, and, second, the Covid Inquiry will examine his judgement during the pandemic years to see just how well he “got us through it”.
Next, Vladimir Putin decided to throw his weight about and invade Ukraine. This must have seemed like a cloud with a very richly woven silver lining to Johnson – a chance for him to play at being Churchill! He could strut about in Kiev with his bosom buddy President by name and nature, Zelensky and pretend that supporting Ukraine was his absolute and personal choice. Then, the cost-of-living crisis hit. Yes, it is a global phenomenon, largely due to the price of oil and gas, but had Johnson and his predecessors listened to climate change experts in the past, they might have come to a judgement that would have resulted in our being self-sufficient in electricity from renewables by now. Had we not left the EU our businesses would be in better shape, and had the banks and the city been better regulated, as George Brown judged they should be, we would not have millions of dirty roubles sloshing around in the city and being used to buy peerages in our House of Lords.
Of course, overarching and dwarfing all that in terms of long-term consequences, is the threat that, by the time the children born in 2010 are 50, the planet could be largely uninhabitable. No wonder the Collin’s Dictionary’s word of the year is “Permacrisis”!
JUDGEMENT AND JOHNSON: THE FALLOUT
Finally, after much writhing and wringing of hands, as Tories tried to hang onto their leader, despite a catalogue of poor judgements, lying and law breaking, Johnson’s day was done and he could put all his fancy dress costumes away and leave the theatre where he had acted out his childhood dreams.
Liz Truss came bouncing in, with all guns blazing, judging that it was all quite fixable and that she would “deliver, deliver and ….(wait for it) …..deliver”. Well, she delivered in spades! Spades which dug an enormous hole in the financial stability of this country and its people.
Rishi Sunak, slid into place smoothly, on 25th October, and stood at yet another lectern, almost convincing some that here, at last, was a man, who seemed as though he might be a better judge of the crisis situations the country faces than his predecessors. He said,”I will unite our country, not with words but with action…..This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.” But, even before the lectern was back in the cupboard, he seemed incapable of resisting the impulse to commit a fundamental error of judgement by making the decision to bring Suella Braverman back into his cabinet. One of the most important offices of state has been given to a woman, far too intent on her own un-woke agenda, to bring her intellect to bear on finding solutions to the burgeoning growth of problems facing her Home Office Department left behind by her predecessor, who, by the way, seems almost human in comparison to Ms Braverman!
In the last 5 days she has managed to keep the focus of the media and her party on her security breaches, her failure to deal properly with the overcrowding and deplorable conditions at Manston, and her decision to refer to the “invasion” of “illegal” immigrants, words which not only fan the flames of division in her own party, but fuel and give justification to the kind of behaviour which resulted in the petrol bomb attack, creating another huge diversion from the issues that should be at the top of minister’s to-do lists. Rishi Sunak’s error of judgement to take her into his cabinet, restoring her to Home Secretary, against the advice of his colleagues in Downing Street is now casting doubt on his ability to lead with the “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”, he pledged to the nation.
He has also made a stunningly bad judgement in refusing to go to the COP 27 Conference. Even if he doesn’t care about climate change, he should have the political nous to realise that it is often the optics which are the most important thing to consider.
HELP: GET THIS GOVERNMENT OUT OF HERE
On, perhaps, a lighter note, many are now laughing at the prospect of Matt Hancock’s suspension as a Conservative MP following his questionable judgement in deciding to take part in “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”. Many will be hoping he will stay long enough to undergo as much humiliation as possible; others are angry that he has chosen to take leave from his duties as a constituency MP. Others still, those who have lost loved ones or continue to suffer life changing effects from Covid are infuriated by the flippancy with which Hancock appears to brush off his commitments as a constituency MP at a time of multiple crises. Personally, like the Deputy Chair of West Suffolk Conservative Association, I view with relish the prospect of seeing him eat something far more unpalatable than humble pie!
Judgement, good or bad is made after considering the pros and cons of the situation, weighing up the possible consequences and outcomes. But, perhaps the crux of the matter lies in our motivations, our knowledge and understanding of each situation, our prejudices, our objectivity or emotional response to the matter we are considering. What’s in it for others, who is going to win, who is going to lose? Am I doing this for me, or to the benefit others? Have I a collective responsibility as a member of a team? What is my responsibility here?
In the Labour Party, there are many judgements to be made at every level; policy decisions to make, who to elect to committees or to serve as councillors. Each member needs to make a judgement about continuing to support a party which may be acting in ways which do not conform with their sense of justice or integrity. Sometimes the bigger picture can get knocked off course by the need to follow personal commitment to a principle.
Every decision of importance has to be based on informed discernment and comparison, weighing and balancing the issues to ensure that the needs of those we have a responsibility to are being served. Governing, a country or a local council, is a massive responsibility. The country waits with bated breath to see what judgements the Prime Minister and Chancellor are making about their priorities in the autumn statement. . We need desperately to find that the needs of all the people are judged by those in our new compassionate Government, to be paramount.