As a history student, I know all too well the importance of avoiding making sweeping generalisations about politicians based on the actions of one individual. But I ask you on this occasion to allow me, just once, to make an exception. With the news that Scottish Health secretary Michael Matheson racked up an £11,000 roaming bill whilst on holiday in Morocco, I pose to you an important question: does this prove that politicians are just stupid?
On Tuesday mornings, I babysit for a family in Edinburgh. However, this week, as I watched over a four year-old, very proficiently navigating his way around his iPad, not only do I wonder what happened to the good-old toys like Sylvanian families, but also how this impressive skillset probably surpasses Matheson. Is this tech-savvy toddler a more suitable candidate for office?
Matheson has blamed the bill on his son watching football on the official iPad. In fact, more than £7000 of the charges were incurred on 2 January when he used more than 6GB of data to watch Celtic play Rangers (the priorities of a true Scot). Before admitting that the costs were incurred by the football, rather than legitimate constituency work, Matheson took the age-old approach of deny, deny, deny.
While some have described him as negligent or lacking integrity, what worries me most is his technological incompetence: as it turns out, when Scottish parliament switched the mobile plan from EE to Vodafone, Matheson failed to replace the iPad’s SIM card. Cue a collective sigh here from all STEM students (or anyone with a basic understanding of how SIMs work).
Not only do mistakes like this this divert Matheson’s and Holyrood’s attention away from more pressing issues like tackling health-related crises within NHS Scotland, but it also makes it difficult for us to take politicians seriously on policy. This ridiculous row is just one of a series of political blunders which raises genuine questions on the supposed ‘brightest and best’ leading our country.
One example that springs to mind came at the heart of the pandemic, when Dominic Cummings claimed his trip to Barnard Castle was to test his eyesight. Other honourable mentions include Liz Truss’s passionate rant about cheese, or her claim that barking dogs could deter drug drones.
Maybe I am just being harsh. Many of our politicians have been through rigorous academic degrees, but this doesn’t always translate to success in parliament. Take Anthony Eden for example: despite his Oxford degree in Arabic and Persian, his lying to Parliament about military action in Suez shows that being book smart can’t always guarantee good decision-making.
It’s very easy to criticise the incompetence of others, especially those we trust with major public decisions. Matheson has emotionally apologised to parliament and agreed to pay the full costs himself. At the end of the day, politicians, like us, are only human: to prove this, enjoy a list of ‘stupid’ things I have done in the last week, which would equally likely make people question my own fitness for office:
- Turning on the washing machine before loading in half of the clothes
- Arriving to my lecture with a dead laptop
- Dropping said laptop in George Square because I forgot to zip my bag up.