Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How wrong we can be

Just when we all thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the full horror of the new Finnish government was finally revealed yesterday. Some people may think that the appointment of incompetent ministers to positions in the government was what Kokoomus meant by the slogan “Finland’s Hope”. For anyone else, however, the grotesqueness of these appointments verges on a something of a sick practical joke.

Of course, given the results of the election overall, it was always going to be impossible to find a foreign minister as competent as Erkki Tuomioja. In many ways, Tuomioja embodied what it means to be truly European: he speaks a multitude of languages, he has international roots; he is extremely articulate, well-read and sophisticated, with a long grounding in international diplomacy. What’s more, he wasn’t going to be told what to do by a certain president of the United States (conspiracy theorists may wish to read this article by the Times' William Rees-Mogg on the subject of Jack Straw’s unfathomable removal in the 2006 cabinet reshuffle from his post as foreign secretary. Given the audacity and arrogance of the present US administration, nothing would surprise me…)

And so, despite offering ‘hope’ (albeit of a rather dubious nature) to the citizens of Finland, the Kokoomus, in their wisdom, has offered us Ilkka Kanerva. With most Conservative governments, sleaze only begins to seep through their squeaky-clean exteriors after several months in power (e.g. the Conservatives in Britain during the Thatcher / Major years, and more latterly the new Swedish government, whose culture minister, it was revealed, had neglected to pay her television licence for years, and whose trade minister was found guilty of tax evasion and resigned after one week in office. Of course, the US administration goes without saying. Will these people never learn?) But now, to add to the sheer perverseness of the new Finnish appointments, we have a series of ministers touted for government positions whose shady dealings have already been exposed on more than one occasion.

So, as foreign minister we now have a man not renowned for his social, political or linguistic adroitness, but who has throughout his political career been embroiled in countless scandals, notably one involving several young women and a series of lewd text messages, and whose stubborn demeanour makes him utterly unsuited to a position in international diplomacy. The question as to how (or, indeed, whether at all) he will cooperate with President Tarja Halonen (who vetoed his appointment as head of the Bank of Finland) remains to be seen. Cynics and conspiracy theorists may also see this as yet another concerted effort to make sure Halonen no longer takes part in EU summits. To quote a colleague, it’ll only take a few excruciating evenings at the same table with him to make Halonen stay at home of her own accord…

Then there’s the former culture minister, Suvi ‘golf course’ Lindén, who resigned after it was revealed that she had secured government funding for a golf course in which she owned a considerable number personal shares. Conveniently for her, she’s now been moved to the department of communication, where her shady dealings won’t cause as much harm. I was very surprised to read that student organisations were largely happy with the new government. Jyrki Katainen (one of the many current parliamentarians who believe that universities are factories and that students should be forced to graduate regardless of whether they have in fact learnt anything) has predictably been appointed chancellor, and the idea that he, of all people, is prepared to give students a penny extra to alleviate their poverty is absurd in the extreme. At least, in a show of some sanity, Astrid Thors has been appointed Europe minister.

Anna mun kaikki kestää…

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