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They are so thin-skinned these days

Posted by Helen Thursday, March 05, 2009

It is rare for me to look back to anything that can be described as the good old days because as an historian (if only in my dreams most of the time) I know full well that those days did not exist. But there are occasions when one does wish that there was more of the politicians of yore.

I do not sigh for more honourable, truthful or even patriotic politicians. Across the field they are now as they always were. It is, as I have said before, the system that allows them so many possibilities of interference in our lives that is at fault. However, I do wish our political class showed itself to be just a little less sensitive and thin-skinned. Let's face it, nobody forced them to go into public life and, in particular, to go into politics, the most controversial of all parts of public life. Now that they are there, they have to take the rough with the smooth and accept brickbats as well as bouquets.

This appears to be a problem in other countries as well. Those of us interested in American politics have watched together with the people of that country with astonishment as the President of the United States and his staff attacked one critic after another in vicious personal terms. Say what you will about President Bush, he never descended to this sort of muckiness.

The biggest campaign President Obama seems to be waging is against Rush Limbaugh. Yes, that's right: the President of the United States is waging a political battle against a radio presenter. And we all know who is going to win that battle.

Rush's popularity is soaring and while Obama's personal popularity is not falling yet (neither did Dubya’s at this stage) his policies are sinking. Now Limbaugh has invited the President to come and debate on his show – mano a mano, as they say, without his personal advisers, muckrakers or the ubiquitous teleprompter. So far there has been no acceptance.

Well, much as I like to discuss American politics, which seems so much more entertaining and important than outs, it is time to turn to our own thin-skinned politicos. I seem to have earned the disapproval of yet another of our elected representatives, this time no less a personage than John Redwood.

Last October I wrote on the BrugesGroupBlog in a posting that was mostly about George Osborne's travails:

The other name is that of John Redwood, an unlikely candidate but you never know. The great advantage of Redwood becoming Shadow Chancellor would be not his supposed euroscepticism, which, like most Tory euroscepticism, is worth considerably less than Neville Chamberlain's infamous "piece of paper", but the fact that, according to his own interminable stories, he knows how the European Union operates.

This means that when Mr Redwood assures us that a Conservative government will do such things, all of which happen to be EU competence, not only we shall know he is lying, we shall also be able to assume that he knows he is lying, something one can never be quite certain of with the rest of the Tories.
Mr Redwood, who is to address the Bruges Group on 18 March, seems to have taken umbrage. (One wonders what he makes of what the boss wrote about him about the same time. Probably had the vapours.)

Mr Redwood would, it seems, like to have some corrections made to the comments about him on the BrugesGroupBlog. Well, I am happy to issue corrections but I have no idea what it is he wants corrected: that he is lying or that he knows he is lying. As soon as I find out I shall issue that correction.

In the meantime, let us contemplate the equally dishonest and incompetent MPs of 1812 when Spencer Perceval was assassinated within the House, the only British Prime Minister to whom such a fate has befallen. In the wake of the event and, incidentally, the murderer, John Bellingham, was apprehended by one of the Prime Minister's colleagues, there were calls for greater security to be extended to Members of Parliament. This idea was rejected scornfully. Those who go into public life must take the consequences. How times have changed.

UPDATE: Those two offending paragraphs have now been deleted from the BrugesGroupBlog, though clearly they can still be read here. The BGB's future is under review. Stay tuned.

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