Daily Archives: 7 September 2007

The Blaney game

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Apparently the 21st century political equivalent of having a punch up beside the bike shed after school is to have a live debate on 18 Doughty Street.

Having had one with Mr Blaney not that long ago – and lived to tell the tale – the one thing I will say about him is that he has a curious attitude towards the individual and the state. The crimes of an individual – in Nelson Mandela’s case the violent reprisals of the ANC – are always unforgivable. The crimes of the state – in this case the Tory government’s refusal to criticise South Africa’s system of apartheid – is always justifiable. Philip Lawrence’s murderer should be exterminated. The system of human rights that protects me from being abused by the state should be abolished.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but support for a system whereby the rights of the individual are always considered to be subservient to the interests of the state is support for the sort of totalitarianism that Uncle Joe would be comfortable with. Apparently however, we are to regard this as true “Thatcherism”. Thanks for clarifying, Donal.

The only exception to the rule that murder is murder is murder, as Donal himself pointed out during our debate on the Doughty News Hour, is Tony Martin (or St Tony as I understand he is known amongst certain members of the swivel-eyed fringe). Martin, let us not forget, shot a man in the back of the head as he was running away from him. At the very least, one would have thought, Mandela’s tacit support for necklacing by the ANC and Tony Martin’s laughably named ‘self-defence’ could be described as both morally abhorrent. Sadly however, simple consistency is too much to ask.

Ben Ramm doesn’t speak for me

I feel the need to point this fact out because whenever a journalist wants a rentaquote to be rude about the party leader, they not only trot out Ben Ramm but they insist that he publishes “a magazine for Liberal Democrat activists“.

If he does, he keeps quite quiet about it. The Liberal is a literary magazine which occasionally has dalliances with politics but is more concerned with poetry. All fine and dandy (with emphasis on the dandy), but the truth is it is largely ignored by Lib Dem activists. The closest we have to a magazine for Lib Dem activists is Liberator, and they don’t speak for me either.

Ramm of course, knows all this. Far from it being explained away as simple journalist laziness, his ubiquity in articles about the Lib Dems’ woes is down to an editorial policy of deliberately using journalists’ ignorance about the magazine’s standing in the party with a view to gaining free advertising. He isn’t interested, and never has been, in advancing the Lib Dem project. Everything he has ever written about the party is simply polemic. He has only ever seen the party as a tool for self-promotion. That’s his prerogative; but its my prerogative to point this out whenever he pops up again.

We should remember that Ben Ramm organised a campaign to get rid of Charles Kennedy. He did this by making extremely exaggerated claims about the level of support his online petition had received from party activists, again using the veneer of the magazine as a “voice of activists” to lend it some credibility.

Now, regardless of whether you love or loathe Ming Campbell, no-one can deny that the way his predecessor was dispatched was, to say the least, unfortunate and that the subsequent election for leader was necessarily more rushed than it should have been. That was why many of us were keen to keep our powder dry until later in 2006 (and why I seem to recall turning down Ramm’s request to run his anti-Kennedy petition site).

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of all this therefore – and now I appreciate the enormity of the Kennedy problem which was not wholly apparent to those of us outside of the Westminster bubble at the time – one thing Ben Ramm can’t do is absolve himself of any responsibility for the coronation of Ming Campbell. Even a shred of mea culpa would be nice, but that would appear too much to ask.

None of this would annoy me if The Liberal was genuinely committed to making a meaningful contribution to the debate surrounding the development of the party, but it manifestly isn’t. Indeed, in this Independent quote he appears more concerned with approvingly pushing David Cameron’s stock phrases (“a broken society” et al) than anything else.