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The mock outrage of our self-righteous MPs

By Toby Neal | Politics | Published:

Once they have maxed up outrage on metaphors, what outrage have politicians got left for things which are truly outrageous?

Calling off the dogs? John McDonnell took a very literal view of criticism of Jeremy Corbyn.

“One of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics.”

Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan was forthright in his condemnation of Boris Johnson’s comments comparing the Chequers Brexit agreement to a suicide vest around the British constitution.

But he doesn’t seem to get out much. If he did, he would find much else to disgust him in modern British politics, especially as he is so easily disgusted. He is Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, by the way.

We are privileged to be living in unique political times, as “one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics” virtually coincided with one of the most hilarious.

“Call off the dogs,” said Labour MP Chuka Umunna in a message directed at Jeremy Corbyn.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, immediately went before the cameras with his trademark undertaker manner but accompanied by an angry tone.

He issued an important correction to Umunna’s “grotesquely offensive” comments.

Pseudo

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“Our party members are not dogs! Our party members are human beings!”

You can laugh, and I did. But ultimately it is not funny.

This is pseudo sensitivity which is creating a political class of MPs who, by and large, have never had jobs, only know politics, dedicate themselves to being experts at the political game flitting from one media interview to another – and are cut off from ordinary people and what they think.

It doesn’t help that they are based in London, a remote city out of touch with mainstream thinking and afflicted by a self-reinforcing groupthink.

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As they sleepwalk around in their fantasy Westminster bubble they need protecting from outside threats. Enter The Bodyguard. Anything approaching danger to their equilibrium gets shot down with a barrage of outrage and indignation.

To be outraged or offended is to be empowered and the more outraged or offended you profess to be, the more empowered and righteous you are.

There should be outrage clinics at Westminster where all those who are prone to express their outrage are given counselling and treatment.

Opportunity

To have all that rage bottled up inside them, just looking for an opportunity to be vented, cannot be good for them.

It is striking how often those who are so regularly outraged by this and that are also the very same politicians who call for an elevation of the political debate and for things to be discussed in measured tones. Nevertheless they give themselves a free pass to call their opponents any name under the sun.

Once you have maxed up your outrage on metaphors, what outrage have you got left for things which are truly outrageous?

The willingness of modern politicians to accuse their opponents of saying something so beyond the pale that it should not even be discussed is an attempt to frame the terms of the debate, so that the only ideological battleground that can be fought over is the battleground of their choosing.

This applies to both parties. Labour has been embroiled in an anti-Semitism row which runs the risk of confusing racism and bigotry with legitimate criticism of military and governmental acts such as, for instance, using white phosphorous in civilian areas.

Realisation

After the Brexit vote, there was a brief but fleeting realisation among MPs that the great unwashed were not in accord with their magnificent wisdom. One after the other they went on the television looking as if they had been slapped in the face with a halibut.

Before I go on, I’d better explain that that is a figure of speech. I am not really suggesting that MPs were, let alone should be, slapped in the face with a halibut, nor any other sort of fish. That would be “outrageous” and “grossly offensive.” Particularly to halibuts.

Anna Soubry was white faced. You should have heard what people out there were saying, she said in horrified tones.

Which is rather the point, isn’t it? MPs should be out and about hearing what people are saying, which will include insults and things that offend them.

And their response should be: “You are wrong because...” and not “Shut up!”

Heaven help us if the concept of freedom of speech is corrupted to become a freedom to say only those things the politicians and political flag-wavers think you ought to be saying.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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