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Failing Grayling never requires any help to make a fool of himself

Failing Grayling never requires any help to make a fool of himself

In a recent podcast with the BBC’s Nick Robinson, John Major described the Tory rebels who are circling around Theresa May as worse than the bastards in his own government in the early 1990s. One wonders, then, just what the former prime minister might make of Chris Grayling? Or indeed, what Chris Grayling makes of…


In a recent podcast with the BBC’s Nick Robinson, John Major described the Tory rebels who are circling around Theresa May as worse than the bastards in his own government in the early 1990s. One wonders, then, just what the former prime minister might make of Chris Grayling? Or indeed, what Chris Grayling makes ofChris Grayling? Assuming he is capable of self-reflection. Not something that can be taken for granted, as if he were he would probably have resigned by now.

By no stretch of the imagination could Failing Grayling be described as a bastard or a rebel in the conventional sense, as he’s been nothing but loyal to May. But it’s this very loyalty that makes him such a threat to her. The last thing a leader struggling for survival on a daily basis needs is the constant support of someone who is invariably wrong on almost everything and has screwed up every job he has ever been given. To be backed by Grayling is the kiss of death.

There were many who thought that when May chose Grayling to be the campaign manager forher leadership bidshe was subconsciously signalling she hoped to lose. But when all her rivals spontaneously imploded and she accidentally found herself becoming prime minister without ever actually having said a word, May found herself duty bound to find a cabinet post for her champion. After a period of reflection,she appointed Grayling to be transport secretary. Primarily on the grounds of damage limitation. Transport was a relatively quiet beat and surely he couldn’t come to too much harm there?

This has turned out to be yet another of May’s catastrophic misjudgments. Failing Grayling has lived up to his name by proving there is no bad situation he cannot make worse. Planes, trains and automobiles have all ground to a halt on his watch, and transport departmental questions have now become parliament’s go-to event for bloodsports enthusiasts. A circus where the hopeless becomes the truly helpless.

Grayling has even entered into the spirit of the times by volunteering himself as clown-in-chief. Someone who doesn’t even require the help of any tricky questions from opposition MPs to make a fool of himself. He began by proudly drawing attention to the new low-emissions programme that he has chosen to name “Road to Zero” – a title that more accurately mirrors both his own and the government’s trajectory – before having a pop at Jamie Stone over the state of the SNP. No one had the heart to tell Grayling that Stone was actually a Lib Dem MP.

You can always tell that things are really falling apart when Grayling’s cheek starts wobbling and, sure enough, the moment Labour’s Lilian Greenwood, chair of the transport select committee, got to her feet the nervous tic kicked in. Could Grayling comment on his own department’s technical notices warning of planes being grounded in the immediate aftermath ofBrexit?

Those technical notices had never officially existed, Failing Grayling mumbled, his eyes rotating in opposite directions. But if they had, they would certainly never have had anything about planes being grounded in them because he could categorically state thatall planes would be flying on 30 Marchnext year. Even if he had to single-handedly man air traffic control to make it happen. The 2019 Brexit Airlift would go ahead regardless. Supplies would be maintained and no one would starve.

British Airways planes at Heathrow

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Grayling vowed that planes would be flying post-Brexit even if he had to single-handedly man air traffic control. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

With those words of reassurance, Grayling all but confirmed there wouldn’t be a plane in the sky. But there was an upside, because no planes meant no noise and no air pollution, which would be good news for the government’s environmental targets. Failing Grayling, the man you could rely on not to get the job done. And the roadworks that had been started without the knowledge of local MPs or councillors toturn parts of the M26 into a lorry park? They had absolutely nothing to do with Brexit. Or even lorry parks. They were just public amenity spaces beside the motorway that were being concreted over.

Having embarrassed himself enough, Grayling sat down to let the junior minister Jo Johnson take the incoming on railways. A thankless task that involved a miserable-looking Johnson explaining how the fall in rail users was basically good news, as it meant there was less overcrowding on trains and fewer people were arriving late at their destinations. Two hours later, Failing Grayling was back in the Commons to announce a yearlong review of the railways that would kick everything into the long grass indefinitely. “Now is the time for change,” said Grayling. Yes. Starting with him.

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