My first, somewhat erroneous, impression of the new cabinet member responsible for pensions was to note how youthful he appears. Upon further inquiry I discover he is a little older than I was when I first secured a cabinet post. There is, I note, a phrase in common currency in relation to the police, that great force devised by Sir Robert Peel, which refers to the observation that when one reaches a great age, one notes how youthful these gentlemen become. Clearly it also applies to cabinet members.
I gather I am not alone in wondering how a personage of no apparent distinction can be elevated to such great office. Indeed I hear he was elevated first approximately six months ago, holding the post of culture secretary and successfully in this role making minimal impact on public consciousness. It may, I fear, be a consequence of a single government being in power, without effective challenge, for too long a period. It seems that Mr Purnell is a creation of Mr Blair, an assistant to Mr Blair in his youth and then somehow elevated to a senior position in the British Broadcasting Corporation in the years prior to Mr Blair's elevation to Downing Street. He then returned to Mr Blair's side before seeking democratic legitimacy in an election in 2001, at a time when the socialist party became safely and securely entrenched in government, to an extent it was able to defy the will of the people with impunity.
I fear a government of grey men is under creation, individuals who exercise duty as public officials, sometimes with brilliance, but who are untested in democratic arenas. There are no gladiators, there is no Achilles, no Hector now, merely an Agamemnon without an Odysseus, gazing mournfully, after a decade of unresolved conflict, at weary, plague-driven troops, beset by acolytes but bereft of equals, the purpose of the expedition long forgotten while the distant walls of Troy remain standing, impregnable, but equally empty of inspiration, overseen by an ageing defensive Paris and a Helen, fading in beauty, no longer able to launch one vessel, let alone a thousand. Such an Agamemnon might ponder his purpose, and, if he lifted his eyes, would note he was surrounded by young men who had no memory of the first great landing of the shores of Ilium, no scars from the great battles beneath the walls of that great city, no tales of the great adventures of the Myrmidons and the Telamonians.
And as he pondered his circumstances, this ailing Agamemnon might ask himself if the young men served him, not in order to topple the walls of Troy, but to secure his kingship for themselves at the most opportune time.