Thursday, 6 August 2009

Telling it like it is

I don't normally do "quote of the day" features, but this from Matthew Parris in The Times is a thing of beauty. He's objecting to Alan Sugar's action in summoning his lawyers after Quentin Letts called him stupid:


Over the years I’ve called Tony Blair a mad, delusional cheat, and Margaret Thatcher blinkered, brutal and imaginatively stunted; mocked John Major as Mr Pooter, called David Cameron a podgy puffball, sneered at Neil Kinnock, cast John Redwood as an emotionally illiterate Vulcan and described Tory Europhobes as swivel-eyed lunatics, John Prescott as virtually incapable of speech, the Lib Dems’ Chris Huhne as indefinably ghastly and Mr Speaker Martin a drongo.

And never a writ. Politicians may dish it out, but they do take it.

The ability to be offensively rude about politicians is often taken to be a defining characteristic of a free society. I'm not convinced of that, myself; on the contrary, it strikes me as very convenient for ministers engaged in restricting so many other freedoms to be able to point to the ritual humiliation they undergo daily as evidence that the lamp of liberty still burns. All that puerile name-calling is undeniably cathartic, but it rarely changes anything. Tony Blair may be a "mad, delusional cheat", but he's also extremely rich and still looks likely to get the Europe job.