Former Labour leader Michael Foot’s death in some ways marked the end of an era. I’m no "Footite", at least ideologically, but 30 years ago British politicians said what they thought. They sought to shape public opinion rather than tailor their policies to the latest whim of voters.
You might think that the likes of Thatcher, Joseph, Powell, Foot, Benn, Jenkins were crazy - depending on your point of view - but no one doubted their conviction. Nowadays, most British MPs dare not speak of certain subjects for fear of the reaction. If I said that there are too many immigrants in the UK and that this fomented violence, that South African president Jacob Zuma is a philandering fool, that the whole idea of European federalism is doomed, that the European parliament is a gigantic waste of time, that Geert Wilders has some good points about the dangers of fundamentalist Islam - then no doubt I’d be barred from standing for any mainstream party. Yet I believe all of the above and I don’t consider myself an extremist.
Looking at today’s MPs I’m reminded of the words of writer William Hazlitt, "The idea (fear) of what the public will think prevents the public from ever thinking at all, and acts as a spell on the exercise of private judgement. We may believe or know that what is said is not true: but if we know or fancy that others believe it - we dare not contradict or are too indolent to dispute with them."
It’s worth quoting that because it sums up what’s wrong with today’s politicians; they are frightened of new ideas that challenge the consensus or threaten political correctness.
If David Cameron dared to spout a few more radical ideas on crime and immigration, and challenged the federalist project, he would attract more supporters than he would alienate. Fact is, the next election is there for the taking by the Conservatives. Recent polls indicate a narrowing in the opposition lead but that’s commonplace towards the end of a government’s term in office and the beginning of an election campaign.
I suspect that - with a little more courage from the opposition - Gordon Brown will share a similar fate to that of Labour in June 1970 when Harold Wilson faced a summary shock eviction from Downing Street at the hands of Edward Heath. The Conservatives just need to be a little more brazen in the battle of ideas. If they are, then Brown will soon be consigned to a very small page in the history books. People will remember him, however, as a great thrower of mobile phones.
According to a recent report in Bulgarian-language daily Monitor, an alleged "SMS mania" was responsible for the inability of the average Bulgarian teenager to write to standards of grammatical correctness in their native language.
We have finally learned about the activities of Ahmed Dogan, the almighty and long-standing leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party, during all the years he failed to appear in Parliament.
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