Dead Men Left

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Norman Tebbit never said sorry for anything

All things considered, rounding up four innocent men and women, accusing them of a horrid crime, torturing them to extract confessions and then locking them away for fifteen years as a result is one of the few things I don't hold Tony Blair personally responsible for. There's always the possibility he's warming up for more telling apologies in the near future.

That said, a public effort to clear the victim's names of whatever residual opprobrium still attaches itself has to be welcomed.

Unfortunately, New Labour has so debased my faith in the British political culture that the timing of this announcement instantly makes me very suspicious. Alongside the amusing ERM leaks, it all seems part of a contrivance to dredge up assorted bits from the Tories dim and dismal past - all those blustering dismissals of retrials! all those refusals to talk to Sinn Fein! - and so shore up fading memories and make Blair look marginally better by comparison.

It's not just me, the other Norm says the same thing:

Asked to choose in a general election, half the electors will say none of the above. Many will opt for Ukip, the BNP or the Lib Dems. The Tories and Labour will split the rest. The Campbell-Blair ploy of reawakening memories of the ERM crisis is shrewd, but dirty, politics. They calculate that, as in Clinton's re-election, a world-weary electorate will examine its wallet, think back to negative equity, mutter "It's the economy, stupid", forget the deceptions over Iraq, hold its nose, and put Blair back in No 10.

They don't make Tories like this any more. Probably just as well; they tended to win elections.

As blunt as ever[*], Tebbit hits the nail on the head over the ERM:

I think entry into the ERM - enthusiastically supported by Labour, the Liberals, the TUC, the CBI and the whole woolly, wet, bien pensant Europhile consensus - might have been forgiven, but the purblind refusal to admit the mistake and get out earlier was too much for electors, especially Conservative voters.

Gordon Brown, Shadow Chancellor at the time, supported the "whole wooly, wet, bien pensant Europhile consensus" on the ERM, tailing along with the rest of the Labour leadership in vocal support for all things EC.

Since Jacques Delors' rousing speech to a desperate 1988 TUC conference in Bournemouth preached the social virtues of EC-driven integration, the Parliamentary Labour Party had made strenuous efforts at discarding their Eurosceptic past. A bit too strenuous, and a bit too vocal, on Brown's part: the ERM debacle damaged his reputation like nothing before or since. The disastrous exit, however, paved the way for the consecutive years of British economic growth Brown has made so much of.

That he should have consequently cemented his Cabinet career from the wreckage of the ERM, leaving the Tories decisively broken, is no small irony. No wonder Tebbit's annoyed. Ha ha.

[*] The old Tebbit would never have appeared in The Guardian, surely? His dotage is turning him soft.