Monday, 31 August 2009

Daniel Hannan, Enoch Powell, and quality of political discourse

I remember, back in the 1980s, listening to Any Questions on Radio 4, on an occasion when Enoch Powell was on the panel. When he spoke, a group of people sought to drown him out by chanting “Enoch Powell is a racist.” I disagreed with Mr. Powell’s views on immigration (and indeed, on much else), but I could not see how anyone who listened seriously to him could believe him to be a racist. Some people, however, were not only determined not to listen seriously to Mr. Powell, but also determine to ensure that no one else did, either. For these people, open minded political discussion is not on the agenda. In fact, any intelligent, rational, political discussion is not of much interest.

And when Enoch Powell is mentioned, not much has changed - as witness the reaction to Daniel Hannan’s reference to Mr. Powell in his Reason TV interview. Mr. Hannan said:
“He was somebody who understood the importance of national democracy, who understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small government Conservative."
Lord Mandelson waded in, and Parmjit Dhanda, Labour MP for
Gloucester, called on Mr Cameron to remove the party whip from Mr Hannan, and said: “When another Tory candidate praised Enoch Powell in 2007, David Cameron criticised him and he was forced to resign.”

The two cases, however, are completely different. The Tory candidate in question, Nigel Hastilow, had said that Powell was right about immigration. But not only did Hannan not praise (or mention) Powell’s views on immigration, he doesn’t even agree with them. Mr Dhanda is either being stupid, or intellectually dishonest.

And this is the thing that depresses me. The level of political discourse in this country should be a little higher than “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” It shouldn't be based on ignorance and dishonesty. And yet members of parliament can come up with pure idiocy, and not face deselection.

Last year, Hazel Blears complained about political blogs:
"Mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy. Until political blogging 'adds value' to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair."
I’m sorry, Ms. Blears, but I do despair of politicians, and I am cynical about them. And there is dishonesty, stupidity and hypocrisy among politicians. Political blogging does add value to our political culture. It points out dishonesty, stupidity, and hypocrisy. And it also allows new voices and ideas.

And, at least with most of the blogs that I read, blogging provides a level of rational political discussion that is well above what we often get from career politicians like Lord Mandelson and Mr. Dhanda. If only the result of their silly remarks was a public outcry about the stupidity and intellectual dishonesty that so often characterises political discourse in this country.


Phil Walker said...

"Mr Dhanda is either being stupid, or intellectually dishonest."

The former, for sure. Did you see him in action during the Speaker's hustings?

Young Mr. Brown said...

No, I'm afraid I missed the hustings.

However, something about his words gave me the impression that it was stupidity.