Sunday 26 April 2015

Over-egging the pudding

In Peter Hitchens's Mail on Sunday column today, he makes a great deal of Norman Tebbit's contribution to the general election debate.

In case you missed Tebbit's comments, he argued that since the Conservative Party wasn't going to get anywhere in Scotland, then Tory supporters might have to choose between Labour and the Scottish National Party. And since he is in favour of the Union, the conclusion is obvious. So was he advising Tories to vote Labour in Scotland? 'I hesitate to say that. But it is logical from where I stand.'

This, Hitchens says, is 'the most amazing development in politics since another former Tory giant, Enoch Powell, urged his supporters to vote Labour in February 1974'.

Er, no, it's not. I fear that Hitchens's longstanding hatred of the Conservative Party is clouding his judgement a little.

In the first place, Powell did not 'urge' people to vote Labour in 1974. He hinted heavily that this was the best option, in order to secure a referendum on membership of the European Community, and he revealed - a few days before the day of the election - that he himself had already done so in a postal vote. But that's not the same thing as 'urging'.

More importantly, this is not Tebbit's first offence in this territory. Back in 1997 he was asked if he would support James Goldsmith's short-lived Referendum Party. 'I would not go that far,' he said. 'Not yet. But I can understanding why many people who do not have such a strong attachment to the Conservative Party are doing so.'

In more recent times, he has repeatedly implied in his blog on the Telegraph site that his heart is with Ukip and that it's only force of habit that keeps him in the Conservative Party.

Hitchens writes: 'Lord Tebbit's outburst was astonishing.' And he asks: 'why hasn't the Tory Party expelled, or at least suspended him, for this blatant defiance of his leader?'

Well, it's not really that astonishing - it's not out of character for Tebbit at all. It is. however, a good story, and Hitchens is right that it should have attracted more attention. But - just like Owen Jones - Hitchens damages his case with this kind of hyperbole.

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