2016 minus 25: sympathies and votes

Posted: 7 December 2015 in 2016minus, politics
Tags: ,

Once again, we learn that old songs can mislead us. Not only did four Liverpool lads entirely mislead us as to the ease of living in an ochre underwater conveyance, but it turns out that you don’t shake it all about after you’ve been in and been out repeatedly. At least not according to David Cameron and the Conservative Party who want to shake the EU up a bit before deciding whether we’re to remain in the organisation or to leave it.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the ongoing irritations about the British political system (other political systems exist, with their own irritations) is that over the past few years, it’s developed into a competitive sport; points are scored not by achieving something but preferably by ensuring that your opponents look foolish. To that end gaffes are played up as if they were of great importance rather than genuine mistakes; as a result, apologies which should put the matter to bed won’t be made, even if they should   end the matter… won’t be made because they wouldn’t end the matter.

We’ve seen this a lot in the past few weeks, even leaving aside the odious comments made by Gerald Kaufman and Ken Livingstone about which I wrote a week or so ago. But since they were from the left, let’s look at an equally odious comment from the right. 

David Cameron made a comment at a ‘private meeting’ which he must have known would be leaked, suggesting that at least some of those who were voting against the government motion to extend bombing into Syria were “terrorist sympathisers”. As a matter of fact, I’m sure he was right… that some of those voting against… were terrorist sympathisers… as the word terrorist is commonly understood.  

Let us be clear: the comment was aimed at Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Let’s not pretend otherwise and it’s foolish and mendacious of Cameron et al to pretend otherwise; it was meant to imply that Corbyn and McDonnell were sympathetic to terrorist organisations right now, and one specific terrorist organisation that’s in the news right now as well. 

Let me be equally clear about something else: I don’t think for one moment that anyone voting in the House of Commons the other night sympathised with Daesh, Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS or whatever the designation of choice currently is. Seriously, I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell sympathise with ok-let’s-stick-to-Daesh at all. In any way. I’ve no doubt they genuinely believe that bombing is not only ineffective but counter-productive. I may have many disagreements with both gentlemen, but I am certain that they voted from and for their consciences, and for and from the best of motives.

Let me further be clear about one more thing: without in any way reducing my certainty on either of the two preceding paragraphs however, both are terrorist sympathisers; it’s just not Daesh with whom they sympathise. It’s the IRA, and Hamas, and other armed organisations for whom they’ve expressed sympathy for, and supported, and honoured, and praised in the past. And when I say “in the past” I just mean pre- their apotheoses into the two most senior people in the Labour Party. I don’t mean the distant past either. Both gentlemen have expressed support within the past ten years for Hamas, and slightly longer ago, both made no secret of their admiration for the IRA.

That said, Cameron was an idiot to say what he said, and should have taken the first, the second and any other opportunity to make it clear that he didn’t think anyone had sympathy with Daesh. He was wrong not to. And his apology should not have been of the “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” type but of the “I was wrong; it was a foolish thing to say; I unreservedly apologise.”

But then that would have been the sensible and proper thing to do. What would have been even more sensible and even more proper would have been not to say it in the first place.

But then that would have taken a level of common and uncommon sense to which many of today’s politicians can only aspire. 

I genuinely believe that most politicians enter politics out of a sense of public duty and the vast majority of them maintain that attitude for many years. It’s only a pity that for many of them, it’s faded long before they attain any senior position within their respective parties.  

Returning to the opening lines of this entry, sometime within the next year (long before the close of 2017) there’ll be a referendum on whether or not the UK should stay in the EU, or leave it. To say that it’s an important decision is to understate it; however, I fear that by the time we reach the referendum debate proper, the overwhelmingly vast majority of those voting will have long made their mind up, concluding not through mature reflection on matters of import, but making their mind up depending upon which campaign has scared them more. 

And no matter the result, those who do regard politics as that most competitive of sports will sit back, tot up their winnings and losses, and celebrate the gullibility of the voters.

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