Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nasty Hypocrisy

I've got a lot of time for the Labour MP Tom Harris. I don't agree with him politically, obviously, but he seems to be one of a dimishing number of Labour politicians that doesn't come across as totally deluded and, even more rarely, he honestly expresses his opinions which are usually reasonable.

I say usually because of this blog post. It attempts to provide evidence of the tired old anti-Tory charge that they are the "nasty party". I've no reason to think that what Labour's top blogger claims about the behaviour of a couple of Tory backbenchers is untrue (although he's hardly an inpatial witness), but the final paragraph raises my eye brows.
"(Now, I’m going to take bets on this one: a prize for the first Tory (or LibDem – same difference) commenter who brings up Damien McBride. And a special prize for the first Tory (or LibDem – same difference) commenter who actually condemns this behaviour rather than seeks to defend it. Come on – who’s first…?)"
I suspect what happened here was Mr Harris MP finished writing his post, realised that anyone with even the shortest political memory would know what utter hypocrisy it is for a member of the Labour party to call any other party "nasty" and realised he needed pre-empt people pointing this out.

So, he picks on one possible (and in the bloggersphere, probably the most renowned) example of New Labour's endemic nastiness - Damian Mcbride's Smeargate and attempts to discredit what he knows to be the inevitable charge of hypocrisy by casting the subject as some kind of cliché.

The problem for Tom is that Smeargate was just one of many examples of Labour nastiness he could have mentioned.

  • There's the contempt with which Labour hold the electorate (and even their own supporters) as illustrated by Bigot-gate;
  • The appalling treatment of Dr David Kelly (leaking his identity, his humiliation by a Labour MP at a select committee hearing);
  • The systematic undermining of anyone they consider to be critical of them by briefing against them. For example, members of the public (i.e. bullygate) all the way up to Generals, the BBC (Kelly again) and even their own senior people (Alistair Darling's "forces of hell" and the constant negative briefings between Blair and Brown etc);
  • Alastair Campbell (no more needs to be said about this nasty piece of work).
That's just a few off the top of my head, I could go on, but I think the list, says it all.  It is Labour, not the Tories or Liberal Democrats that are "nasty". To extrapolate the behaviour of a couple of new backbench MPs to represent the approach of a whole party isn't very believable. 

Personally, I think the whole use of the word "nasty" is childish. I know it was Theresa May that started the whole thing off years ago in a clumsy attempt to illustrate the image problem the Tory party suffered from that was causing them to keep losing elections, but Labour jumped on it and have thrashed it to death over the years. For Labour, I'd prefer the words: dishonest, vindictive, bullying, controlling and poisonous. Hmmm, perhaps nasty does actually sum that lot up quite well.

I'd like to say that Tom Harris has never been part of that nastiness. The hypocrisy in his piece arises from his support for the real nasty party and its leadership (including all the likely winning candidates in the current Labour leadership election), not from his own personal behaviour.

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