Two MPs have recently been turning the controversy surrounding their decision to insult their opponents as a way of progressing their agenda.
Daniel Hannan, an MEP who has achieved the remarkable distinction of managing to look even younger than his clearly low mental age, has implicitly compared one of his German colleagues to a Nazi and in the process used the publicity as a soapbox to advance the cause of swivel eyed lunacy:
I would almost be tempted to compare it to the ErmÃ¤chtigungsgesetz law of 1933 but I think that would be disproportionate and perhaps a little rude to our president, who is a committed democrat and a decent man.
I have to say I would almost be tempted to call Young Master Hannan a shameless little cunt and a chinless wonder to boot, but I think that would be disproportionate and perhaps a little rude to someone who I am sure it nice to small animals and is kind to his mother (I could get to enjoy this). I’d call it a cunning stunt, but I’ve used that gag for someone else.
Meanwhile, our own Greg Mulholland has done effectively the same thing. I suspect his decision to call Ivan Lewis an “arsehole” (or as Jonny Wright has suggested elsewhere, possibly an aardvark – Hansard is rather vague on this point) was rather less calculated, but nonetheless he has managed to propel an otherwise forgotten debate about the hospice movement onto the news pages. Was Greg listening to Hannan on the Today Programme this morning and calculating that it he was onto a potentially good thing? Either way, it worked.
In fact, it is hard to deny that Greg is coming out of this better than Lewis, who does indeed come out of this incident sounding like a pompous arse:
“I hope Mr Mulholland will reflect on the fact that the use of such language is not only inappropriate but sends out a terrible message to young people about the importance of decency and civility.
“This is now a matter for the Liberal Democratic leadership.”
I’m sure Greg is quaking in his boots. The line about young people particularly made me laugh. If Labour ministers seriously believe that the only place where “young people” might get exposed to such mild swear words is by diligently reading Hansard or watching BBC Parliament, they truly are hopelessly out of touch.
To be sure, there is a real place for using restrained language in Parliamentary debates. The formality often in my view ensures that debates don’t get blown off course by ad hominem. But there’s also a place for raw emotion in politics and that is what Greg is guilty of here. Superficially, Mulholland and Hannan are guilty of the same thing here; scratch beneath the surface and they couldn’t be further apart.