Tuesday 8 January 2019

Anna Soubry and the n-word: it's not disgraceful, it's free speech

One Lucy Mangan, in The Guardian reviewing Brexit: The Uncivil War, the Channel Four TV film about the Brexit referendum, condemns it as superficial and irresponsible for being balanced and not coming down on the side of Remain. 

Move along. Nothing to see here. 

Nothing to say really. Stupid woman is no longer a permitted phrase, even in the case of someone who is (a) stupid and (b) a woman. Especially not in such a case.

Miss Mangan interested me when she said she understood why the writer made Dominic Cummings the protagonist. He organised the 'official' Leave campaign and is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

You can see why he was catnip to a dramatist otherwise looking out at a sea of grey suits and wondering how to get inside the heads of shapeshifters like Cameron or Gove (as Gertrude Stein famously said of her old home, torn down to make way for something new – “there is no there there”) or persuade viewers that Boris Johnson is real enough to be a protagonist in anything other than the rolling Boris Johnson show that is his life.

This reminds me of a conversation between Harold Nicolson and J. M. Keynes, in which the former asked 
What do you think Lloyd George is like when he is alone in a room?

to which the other replied

When Lloyd George is alone in a room the room is empty.

That interchange seemed wonderfully profound to me when I was 19 and I repeated it rather often. It summed up my philosophy of life, which was an immature 19 year old's understanding of life, the philosophy of E.M Forster. I would have done very much better to have attended Mass and understood that every man is an immortal soul, hard though it may be to believe it. Nicolson and Keynes, though brilliant, never grew up or believed in God and nor did Forster, who was somewhat less brilliant.

Annoyingly, Miss Mangan goes on to refer to the other Leave campaign, the one with which Nigel Farage was associated and which paid for a poster showing vast numbers of immigrants queuing up to enter England, as 'fascist'.

But this, though desperately unfair and angry-making, is also par for the course and normal. 

What is not normal is the wave of sympathy for Anna Soubry, the Remainer Tory MP, whose attempts to be interviewed outside (note this) the purlieus of the Palace of Westminster have been incommoded by  a handful of protesters shouting 'Nazi' at her. 
In the strange world of political correctness the worst thing you can be is a Nazi and the second worst thing is to call someone a Nazi when he has the politics the media like. 

Calling someone who wants England to be free from foreign rule a Nazi is fine, naturally. People like that have it coming to them. Miss Soubry herself has often accused Leavers of being racists and fascists.

Everyone seems to think shouting out insults at itinerant Members of Parliament should be illegal. Thankfully it might not be, yet, though I am not at all sure if this is so or not. Had the insults referred to Miss Soubry's sex or race they would have been illegal. Very shockingly indeed, a member of the public in Brighton was put on trial a few years back for shouting out 'Coward!' at his MP. This attracted little attention or remark.

The Times think that the protesters' behaviour was illegal and may be right.

Scotland Yard was accused of “wishy-washy” policing at the Palace of Westminster yesterday after failing to take action against protesters who hurled abuse at MPs and commentators. 
Legal experts and former senior police officers said that the Public Order Act was clearly breached by men who surrounded the Conservative MP Anna Soubry and called her a Nazi.

What a long way we have come from 18th and 19th century elections with dead cats thrown at candidates. There is a case, according to Dr. Robert Tombs, for arguing that real democracy was curtailed by the 1832 Reform Act, which took away votes from raucous working class electors in constituencies like Preston. Without going into that, democracy is in poor shape now, when members of the public get it in the neck for calling a legislator a fascist who wants to ignore the decision of a referendum.

Calling someone a 'Nazi' is not disgraceful. It's free speech. What we are all, I hope, fighting for.  Except I know we are not.

It's Nazi to dislike free speech or rather so we formerly thought. Now people think it's free speech that let the Nazis get elected.

The left once championed the people but now greatly fear a (white) mob. The same people who argue that MPs must not be subject to pressure from the so-called mob usually also argue that the border between Northern and Southern Ireland must be invisible because otherwise the IRA will go back to murdering people. 

The ironies are endless. You can probably think of them for yourself, gentle reader. I don't think I have time or energy to try to list them.

Allison Pearson mentions one in today's Telegraph:

If a few aggrieved blokes are not allowed to shout “scum” at their elected representatives then it is the state, not the people, which is flirting with fascism.


  1. The left once championed the people but now greatly fear a (white) mob.

    The Left is virtually extinct. The people calling themselves the Left today are right-leaning globalist liberals. Hint: Tony Blair represents the far right. Blairitism is a right-wing ideology.

    In our world Left is Right and Right is Left. Freedom is Slavery. War is Peace. Democracy is Fascism. Lies are Truth.

    The people who fear and hate the people (the white mob) are the ruling class. They have always feared and hated the people. They are the political establishment, the bankers, the money men in the City, the bureaucrats, the fat cats. There is nothing remotely left-wing about them. Celebrating sodomy does not make you a leftist. Claiming that there are 57 genders does not make you a leftist.

    Blaming the Left for the problems of today is like blaming the Jacobites, They are political movements that have long since been marginalised to the point of complete impotence.

    If you want leaders on the side of the people then you need an actual revival of actual left-wing politics. My gut instinct tells me that a lot of rank-and-file Labour members who voted for Corbyn as leader would like to see such a revival. Which is why the political and media establishment hates and fears Corbyn.

  2. Free speech is important, the restrictions in the UK seem outrageous from an American perspective.

    Re. populism and so forth - an example of populism from the left and the right actually governing together is Italy, which has strong fascist and communist traditions. We'll see how this works out and which populists will prevail when they start a war with each other. Probably the fascists are better positioned now.

    I think populism and a more direct democracy could be a good thing in places where the elites are worse than the general public and the political system is selecting in a negative way (i.e. Romania, maybe also Italy). In other places, where there is an elite with a better education than average, more sophistication, they are better off with being run by bureaucrats (France is an example of a place that's been run by the highly educated bureaucracy, with pretty good results).

    1. There is nothing fascistic about the League. The League are both Catholic conservatives and also successors to Garibaldi's nationalists. I think conservative anti immigration parties will inevitably take over in Western European countries where the centre-right does not do something effective to stop the gradual replacement of Europeans by non-Europeans. Yet though I expect a complete change in politics in almost every Western European country I rather doubt that populist governments will succeed in stemming the tide of migration.

    2. Yes the restrictions on free speech are outrageous from my perspective too. Until the 1960s and the invention of hate speech there was as much free speech in the European democracies and in Canada etc as in the USA.

  3. Clinging grimly to your distopian world view. You used to be funny, you know.