Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Faking offence, pointless apology and how Maggie continues to defeat the left


As is often the case with these things we’ve got swept along in silliness as a result of some faux offence taken by eminent blogger, Tory Bear over some tasteless comments from a Barnsley Councillor, Tim Cheetham about Margaret Thatcher’s demise – comments cast still further out into the world by Ellie Gellard who has made the use of “snide” into a (rather unpleasant) tool of political campaigning.

There are however some real concerns here – firstly about fake offence, secondly about “apologising” and thirdly about Margaret Thatcher.

We undermine our criticism of those who leap to take advantage from being offended if we adopt the same position for political gain. I suppose Cllr Cheetham should know better but who am I to talk? And what we do in taking this faux offence is play the left’s game of victimhood. Was Tory Bear really so offended by the tasteless joke or did it just become a reason for having a go – for calling for apologies

Which brings us to apologies – I was always told that forgiveness only comes when the apology is meant. Again we see the use of apology – and calls for apology – as a political tool. Had Cllr Cheetham grovelled, squirmed and said “ever so, sorry Mr Bear” would he have meant it? Or would it have just been a necessary act in his mind? And since there is no evidence that the offence is sincere why should Tim and Ellie compound the dishonesty by apologising? And isn’t the likeliest person to be offended Margaret Thatcher?

And so to why the left should move on from Maggie-bashing. It’s nearly 20 years since the great lady left office – 12 of which years having been under a Labour Government. For most of those involved in this spat, Maggie is but a memory – even if they were born before 1990 there memories are those of a small child or those transferred across the generation from parent to child. Yes the scars of deindustrialisation, the impact on places like Barnsley of pit closure continue to inform us about the politics of such places (although when Labour gets just 26% in a by-election in Rossington – a classic pit village – it does seem the memory is fading). But the left should look forward – to how their ideas might influence the shape of tomorrow’s world not backwards to dreams of a place that’s gone and won’t come back.

I never considered myself a “Thatcherite” – altogether too whiggish, too Gladstonian for my tastes. But those ten years transformed my country – painfully for sure but changed nonetheless – and made it possible for the small battalions to climb back out of the place they were hiding. Championing those folk is the challenge for me – and it should be something both left and right can support. We do not need big institutions, grand national organisations – we need things local, people-sized, participatory and independent of big government.


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