Comment

School kids could do a better job of running this Cabinet

I don’t think I have ever felt the despair I do now about those who are meant to be in charge

Boris Johnson in Cabinet Office room
Bryony Gordon proposes children who are not at school take charge of the Cabinet Credit: Andrew Parsons/AFP

It was the Tim Tams that did it for me. They tipped me over the edge. I thought, at first, that the picture of our prime minister brandishing a packet of Australian biscuits was some sort of photoshopped spoof. It had to be, because why would he be talking about Tim Tams when he is in charge of a country that a) has the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe and the third highest in the world b) has no serious way of defeating coronavirus other than asking its citizens to stand two metres apart from one another, and c) is currently not providing an education to the majority of its children.

But no. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that Boris Johnson had actually decided that it would be a good use of his time to make a hilarious social media video in which he spoke of his excitement about the opening of trade talks with Australia. “How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Arnott’s Tim Tams?” he asked, with a flourish, as if he hadn’t just been schooled on child welfare by a premiership footballer. Do you know when you’re in trouble, as a politician? When someone on £200,000 a week is more in touch with the day to day realities of British families than you are. 

Matt Hancock was full of praise for "Daniel Rashford”, the famous Quidditch player who had brought the food voucher situation to the government’s attention. Hancock, who appears to be using his position as Health Secretary to audition for the title role in the latest Joker movie, apologised for mistaking Marcus Rashford for Daniel Radcliffe, and moved seamlessly on to make a hash of something else: social distancing; the test and trace app; his relationship with Dido Harding. 

Luckily for Hancock, Dominic Raab was on hand to take the heat off the situation, with a well-timed interview in which the Foreign Secretary – THE FOREIGN SECRETARY – laughed off taking the knee as something from Game of Thrones, having somehow failed to educate himself on matters outside the world of Westeros. 

Sorry if I sound a little passive aggressive today, but really, I have reached the end of my tether – or my Tim Tam. I was willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. It was a difficult and unprecedented situation and I trusted that they knew more than I did because they’re the government, doh! 

Turns out I was wrong. Who knew that my seven-year-old daughter – my seven-year-old daughter who hasn’t been to school for three months now – could teach us more about this pandemic than the government? The government who, despite having some of the very best education money can buy, seem not to have learnt anything about the state sector, or how it works. Is Boris aware that the average class size is 30 – not 12, as it might have been at Eton? And when is he going to stop blaming the unions? Say what you like about them, but you’ve got to at least admire them for doing their jobs – which is a lot more than can be said for the Cabinet right now.

For many families, the £1bn ‘catch up’ package announced yesterday is too little, too late – and way off the mark. Parents don’t want extra tuition and contingency plans in place by September – they want normal schooling, and they want it now.  

In my almost 40 years on the planet, I don’t think I have ever felt the despair I do now about those who are meant to be in charge. How dare they wave Tim Tams in our faces, after everything that has happened? Over 40,000 dead – and that’s a modest estimate – and millions more out of work, and the prime minister wants to talk about biscuits. Read the room, Boris! Read the room! Nobody is laughing (apart perhaps from Matt Hancock). We just want our children back at school, especially now they can go to the zoo and shop at Nike Town. Should that really be too much to ask? 

I have a suggestion, regarding how to save the nation. We take the nation’s children – the ones unable to go back to classrooms – and charge them with running the country. Not only will this kind of project look good on their CVs in years to come, but they would probably do a better job of it than our elected officials. And while the kids are getting on with that, cabinet ministers could perhaps go back to school, so they can finally learn how the real world works.