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The Left’s shameful tribalism Reaction to the death of Sir David Amess has been dispiriting

Sir David Amess. An industrious and conscientious MP. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty

Sir David Amess. An industrious and conscientious MP. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty


October 19, 2021   5 mins

The reaction from the political establishment to the murder of Sir David Amess has been what you might expect. Politicians and media commentators of all persuasions have been united in their condemnation of the brutal slaying of this evidently popular member of parliament. And that is, of course, how it should be.

But I detect that, deeper in the bowels of political activism, matters aren’t quite so categorical. There hasn’t, it seems to me, been the same kind of grassroots unity of purpose and solidarity accompanying Sir David’s murder as that which we saw in the wake of the dreadful assassination of Jo Cox. Fewer candles and words of unconditional condemnation, no Twitter hashtag, a little more reticence among those who were not of Sir David’s political hue.

The contrasting reactions are certainly instructive. Some have said the difference might be explained by the fact that Cox was murdered by a far-Right fanatic (very easy for progressives to condemn), whereas Sir David was killed allegedly in the name of Islam (politically more problematic). I think it runs deeper than that.

Sir David was a pro-Brexit Thatcherite Tory. A committed Catholic, he opposed abortion. Those things are enough to persuade some on the progressive side of politics that, while his killing was indefensible, his politics were rooted in a lack of compassion for others; ergo he does not warrant much more than the obligatory statements of regret and condemnation. That he voted against military action in Syria in 2013, that he had raised the alarm about fuel poverty, and that he opposed fox-hunting and had, more than any other parliamentarian, fought the wider campaign for animal welfare – all causes close to the hearts of many on the Left – seems immaterial.

This attitude is symptomatic of the tendency of many on the Left to see those on the other side of the political debate as inherently bad people — even sometimes as something a bit less than human. It is a dispiriting and destructive approach. It is also, quite simply, wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me. I have spent most of my adult life opposing the Tories from my place in the labour movement. There is much that has gone wrong in Britain over the years – particularly during the Thatcher era — for which I would lay the blame squarely at the Tories’ door: wealth and income inequality, creaking public services, the housing crisis, austerity, unemployment, low wages, boardroom excesses, chronic industrial decline, and so on. But that doesn’t lead me to believe that people only ever join the Conservative Party to screw the working-class or that Rik Mayall’s Alan B’stard is something more than crude caricature.

While I believe their prescriptions for the economy and society are often profoundly mistaken, I find it hard — unlike many of my colleagues on the Left — to conclude that most Conservatives are driven by something other than a genuine desire to make the country a better place. One can dislike the medicine — and even find it highly distasteful — while believing the person administering it to be acting with the best intentions.

Having spent most of my years living in a Labour heartland, I reside these days in a true blue Tory constituency. I’m quite certain that most of my neighbours vote Conservative. But they are often the most selfless people, doing good works locally, raising money for charity, coming to the aid of fellow citizens in need (such as during the covid pandemic), and throwing themselves into community-centred clubs and societies. I could debate and disagree with them all day on questions of the economy, the best model for public services, the value of trade unions, the role of the welfare system, or whatever; but I don’t have the feeling they are instinctively avaricious or lacking in compassion when they put a different view. I just think they are wrong.

Sir David Amess himself was the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety and rescue. In that role, he worked collaboratively over many years with my own union — the Fire Brigades Union — in an effort to bring about policy changes to better protect the public from harm. Presciently, two and a half years before the Grenfell Tower fire, he was ruffling the feathers of his own government in warning of the risks of fire in residential tower blocks, and he championed the campaign to have sprinkler systems installed in all schools. Though these types of crusades rarely hit the headlines, he remained a diligent advocate for them — as, so we have learned in recent days, he did for so many other unglamourous causes. That the leadership of my union — not exactly given to speaking warmly of Tory MPs — issued a heartfelt tribute to Sir David in the wake of his murder says much.

It is plain, then, that this was not some pinstriped-suited, bowler-hatted Tory out to feather his own nest; this was an industrious and conscientious member of parliament doing the hard yards of law-making in a way he believed would improve the lives of the public. And that’s the point: most MPs do the same thing every day, despite the perception to the contrary.

In my past life as a senior union official, I had cause to interact with MPs from across the political spectrum. The vast majority, even when we disagreed, were, in my experience, entirely human, attentive and respectful. Many were trying to juggle their public role with a busy family life, frequently travelling long distances between their constituency and Westminster, earning a salary that was arguably less than they might have been able to secure elsewhere. It doesn’t hurt for the public to be reminded of these things.

The great Tony Benn always said politics was about “issues, not personalities”. He was right. It is, of course, unbecoming for MPs to describe their opponents as “scum”, and I don’t hold with the argument, advanced by some, that parliamentary rules should be relaxed so as to allow politicians to brand each other “liar”. These things merely serve to reinforce the mistaken impression that MPs see parliament as their own private battlefield and have little interest in focusing on the things that matter to the electorate.

Ultimately, too, there is a real danger in fomenting the false belief that our political institutions are filled with self-regarding and venal politicians interested only in their own advancement. Democracy itself is damaged when the governed have such a low opinion of the governors. All parliaments have their rotten apples, of course. But unless we have good cause to do otherwise, we should make the battle about ideas and policies, not motives.

I certainly don’t argue that we should give MPs a free ride. On the contrary, robust debate and scrutiny – even a bit of gentle mockery – are to be welcomed. Democracy demands that we hold our law-makers to the highest standards and call them to account when they fall short. There is certainly no harm in MPs from time to time experiencing the raw anger of the electorate – such as when many of them tried to block the implementation of Brexit — and I would be deeply uncomfortable, too, if, as a response to recent tragic events, attempts were made to cocoon MPs from their constituents. Indeed, the chasm that has opened up between the political class and millions of ordinary voters in provincial Britain over recent years is attributable in no small part to the fact that the former simply didn’t understand the lives of the latter, and that situation would not be improved by any plan designed to increase the distance between the groups.

But it is certainly time that we – and by “we”, I really mean the Left – moved away from seeing people on the other side of the debate as enemies rather than opponents. As Sir David showed us, strong views, independently held and passionately articulated, need not be a barrier to building bridges, forging alliances or earning the respect of those on the other side of the divide. Sometimes they might even be conducive to these things.


Paul Embery is a firefighter, trade union activist, pro-Brexit campaigner and ‘Blue Labour’ thinker

PaulEmbery

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Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago

Excellent writing by a clearly fair-minded person who has something that, in my experience, is rare on the left, which is the ability to disagree without being thoroughly disagreeable. It puzzles me how so many people on the left are such devotees that they can’t bring themselves to support or even accept any idea that does not come from the left. The same is true of people. I am not a Labour voter but I have hugr respect and admiration for some Labour politicians such as Tony Benn and the wonderful Kate Hoey. I don’t agree with all the views at all, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great people with great ideas.

Why can’t we have a less partisan political system that can debate ideas on their merit and not on their political party origin?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Because if you let the Left into it, it will instantly morph into what we currently have.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Paul Embery is a thoroughly decent guy and a very good writer. If you haven’t read his book ‘Despised’ yet, I can’t recommend it enough. I agree entirely with his analysis of Brexit and his understanding of those (like me) who voted for it. Hardie, Attlee and particularly Aneurin Bevan represent my view of labour. I must agree with you about Kate Hoey, (also John Mann and Frank Field), good sorts.
What a dreadful, toxic mess we have now? It would seem that corrosive idealogues within the current Labour movement are furiously creating their own little anti-matter universe come what may.
A government in waiting???
Not a cat in hell’s chance.

Last edited 2 years ago by Karl Francis
Phil Rees
Phil Rees
2 years ago
Reply to  Karl Francis

But remember it was Bevan who described tories as ‘vermin’ and thus, to some extent, can be credited as the founder of that leftist group that considers all tories as ‘scum’.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Phil Rees

Oooh, that’s a bit naughty. Context is so important here.
The strain of trying to set up our National Health Service, (a gargantuan task) while receiving endless mockery and derision from all and sundry, nearly drove him out of his wits. Bevan regreted his ‘vermin’ outburst and what’s more, he apologized for it. Sir, I take it you are gracious and reasonable and able to forgive?
Angela Rayner’s recent ‘Tory scum’ nastiness, is one of a thousand reasons why I no longer support the labour party.
If you haven’t read ‘In Place Of Fear’, I heartily recommend it.
You may not agree with the politics of Aneurin Bevan, but he was a remarkable man who lapsed under intolerable pressure.

Last edited 2 years ago by Karl Francis
Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Now that was a comment worth reading, sir, and I second your views. Tribalism will be the death of us yet.

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Paul Embery usually has some very good comments in the show/discussion programme “Political Correction” on Sunday mornings on GB News.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

You know what I think. I think a big part of the problem is that, for many on the left, politics is their religion. It is politics that, in the words of Barack Obama, is going to bend the arc of history towards justice.
But Nazi Carl Schmitt — eeuw! — defined the political as the friend/enemy distinction, dividing the world into friends and enemies. Thing about enemies, he points out, is that in the extreme case you have to kill them.The book is The Concept of the Political.
So those Tory neighbors the writer talks about are people that do not think that politics is going to change the world for the better. In other words, in their daily life they do not often think about people that do not agree with them as enemies.
Something to think about.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

It cannot be good for the Conservative Party to be the ‘default’ government.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Is there still a centre left in the UK?

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago

Starmer is the centre left.

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
2 years ago

If that’s so, God help the left

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

Sorry, no can do – beyond even my powers. I’m with Pilate on this one.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

So is PM Johnson

John Howes
John Howes
2 years ago

But not sufficiently Left for his party ‘faithful’.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

ÂŁ

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Yes, the Carrie Johnson Tories.

Nick Wright
Nick Wright
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

The problem for Labour (and democracy, as you say) is that those holding extreme positions are too numerous, too vocal, too influential… and rarely referred to as the “far-left”. It distorts the debate, by legitimising their radical views and – as has been mentioned so often on here – shutting down anyone anywhere on the right (and increasingly the left, as Paul infers here). The only time the vast majority gets a voice is at the ballot box, which is why we see awful Conservative governments returning to power – the alternative is just too scary.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick Wright

I agree. But I don’t think this govt is that awful. No govt in my lifetime has ever been considered ‘brilliant’ we ALWAYS whine about them it’s just par for the course. Media hysteria and ideological bias doesn’t help either

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I think it should be about issues, not political leanings – never mind personalities. We all need to think independently, rather than join a herd

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Presumably the “mad nationalist right”, if you had to define it, would include those described by David Cameron as “nutters, fruit cakes and closet racists” (for what else is the far right?).
But we all know who they actually were and what they achieved ; “they represent virtually no-one” – bah, humbug!!

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

ÂŁ

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

It most certainly is.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

It only is if the left provide no reasonable alternative.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

It is not good for any party to be the default government. What we are seeing in these days is a mirror image of what happened when Tony Blair swept to power. Then, it was the Tories who were in disarray & the only brakes on power were the media & (the now much maligned) House of Lords. The Lords successfully blocked some of the stuff Blair’s government wanted to steamroller through the commons, simply because he had a big majority. It could even be argued that this was when some of the rot set in, in the Lords, because Blair then made sure some of his cronies got placed there, in order to do his bidding. I make these points not as a political statement, but to show that governments of all shades, who either aren’t held to account or are in power too long become rotten. If we can learn any lessons from the past 20 yrs it’s this. Labour will need coalition partners to regain power, just as Cameron did in 2010.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

ÂŁ

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago

.

Last edited 2 years ago by rodney foy
Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

I wonder whether some people politically active on the left quietly approve of the murder of their opponents. It’s certainly a trait which wasn’t quiet at all in many leftist regimes over the last century. Paul draws his inspiration from a uniquely British political strain which went by the name “socialism”, but actually wasn’t. It was the politics of Keir Hardie and Clement Attlee and the first eighty years of the existence of the Labour Party was marked by the struggle between people like Hardie and Attlee — and even Neil Kinnock — and the genuine “intellectual” (ha!) hard left for the soul of the party. It was this “intellectual” (ha!) left which was the genuine, purely materialistic socialist grouping, and they seem to have won. And they’re appalling human beings.

John
John
2 years ago

The IRA bombing of the Tory conference was, I believe, mentioned by Corbyn as “a good start”.

Jamie Smith
Jamie Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  John

“…every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us.”
D. Abbott

Andy Griffiths
Andy Griffiths
2 years ago
Reply to  John

When did Corbyn say that? I don’t doubt you’re right, but do you have sources?

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
2 years ago

What is now forgotten is the close links with the Methodist Church and a form of Christian Socialism, not least in its committee structures. Remember Lord Soper?

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

Very well, particularly on his soap box at Hyde Park Corner, wonderful man.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Whorton

I doubt that actually. I think he’d have despised the mealy mouthed posturing of QT.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago

Politicians and media commentators of all persuasions have been united in their condemnation of the brutal slaying

Not so much Sadiq Khan. No condemnation from him, just lamenting that he had “passed away” as if he was a pensioner dying in his sleep, rather than being stabbed 17 times by a fanatic.
See for yourself: https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/1449019870776070165

B Luck
B Luck
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Respect for MPs goes both ways across the spectrum. His tweet should be taken in good faith. In another he also called it “an act of terrorism” and a “horrific killing”. https://twitter.com/MayorofLondon/status/1449323361021083649

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
2 years ago
Reply to  B Luck

Fair – I stand corrected

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Steady, people. An assertion, a correction and a dignified acceptance using the word ‘fair’. This is far too radical, provocative and revolutionary for today’s world. Whatever next? But joking apart, I do not expect to see or hear this sort of exchange among and with my left leaning friends.

Last edited 2 years ago by Adrian Maxwell
Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Most people nowadays don’t seem to be able to stand any kind of correction, no matter how polite, so I salute you for your reply.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

It seems fine to me. The tweet was after David passed away in hospital. He was murdered of course. Can’t really fault the rest of it.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago

What is the meaning exactly of ‘passed away’?

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
2 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Yes, i thought thst was quite disgusting, even pusillanimous, and was surprised nobody else seemed to notice.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

The thing I look for in a politician is honest speaking whichever side of the divide they are on. Candour is characterised by the lack of an underlying agenda. That seems to be why I take to ones who are often vilified; they may not get everything right but you know they say what they mean. The question is, do those who describe other humans as scum, for instance, really believe that or is it just disingenuous grandstanding! The trend for politicians to speak meaningless anodyne buzz-word ‘jaberwokey’ means there are few I can truly trust. David Amess seemed to be a man of candid honesty.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
2 years ago

I agree – there has been something politicised, even inhumane, about the Labour reaction: from the first comments to the effect that “we of course had the Jo Cox murder”, to Starmer’s grandiose “reach across the aisle” words during the debate yesterday. Labour’s collective response seems to lose sight of the loss of an individual whom everybody appears to agree was a thoroughly decent man, and frame it in a political landscape of divisions being bridged by his death. I much prefer the contribution from Chris Bryant on their side: “I was never able to persuade David about gay marriage, but he always asked after my husband.” A perfect example of how a political disagreement has no bearing on personal courtesy and friendship.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

I actually thought that Sir Keir’s “reach across the aisle” comment was genuine, and it looked like the Conservatives did too.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
2 years ago

Yes perhaps I was being unfair about that, although it did seem rather impersonal to me.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Doesn’t Keir Starmer always seem impersonal? Spent too much time in the legal system, methinks.

David Giles
David Giles
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

I wasn’t impressed. If one needs to go somewhere one wouldn’t usually go to express ones horror at this atrocity, be it reaching across the isle or whatever, then just don’t bother.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

A good article. But it’s funny how what Paul views as being the fault of the Tories i can trace back to Bliar and Brown. “wealth and income inequality (intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich, anyone?) creaking public services (Bliar’s NHS “reforms), the housing crisis (immigration) , austerity (no more boon or bust), unemployment (?), low wages (tax credits, immigration) boardroom excesses (globalisation), chronic industrial decline (globalisation), and so on.”

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Most of those policies were stolen from the Tories.

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

Up to 2016, I was always amazed at the level of vitriol in anti-Tory screechers. I didn’t feel the same way about them – I just thought they were a bit thick, more deserving of pity than scorn.

During Brexit though, I saw people like Grieve and Gauke and Letwin and Soubry and all the rest, actually try and deny a democratic vote by low, cunning schemes, lies and chicanery. I think for the first time in my life, I was really angry with politicians. I actually joined the Conservatives to vote against David Gauke and for Boris, if he ever chose to stand as leader. That worked out well.

The rage on the left – the wailing, spitting and spite of it all, must surely come from their inability to persuade a good majority of the rightness of their beliefs. They call instead for proportional representation, as if endless coalitions lead anywhere but despair.

Boris isn’t really a Conservative now, if he ever was. He would never enjoy Reagan’s line on the nine most frightening words in the language (“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”)
Boris believes in big state solutions, which require heavy-handed control and high taxes. However, he will retire. When he does, I still hope for one more small-state, low tax, Conservative government. If we get one, the economy will rebound and yes, there will then be more tax income to pay for the weakest. That’s what those who spit ‘scum’ at Conservatives will never understand. Because they’re thick.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

Excellent comment throughout. ‘Debates’ with most (not all) of ‘The Left’ do not last long…usually up until the first question remains unanswered quickly followed by insults and screeching.

Andy Griffiths
Andy Griffiths
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan Gleeballs

I know some on the Left who manage to operate above the level of ‘Tory scum’, just not enough. Having said that I also know some on the Right who categorise anyone holding even moderate Left views as wannabe Communists, so it’s not entirely one way traffic, although I take your point. Of course resorting to blanket dismissals of your opponents is a handy way of avoiding debate, which is why so much political discourse turns me off these days.

Also it’s a bit rich for the Left to talk about PR – they had the perfect opportunity after Blair won in ’97, and ducked it. It’s unlikely to ever happen, simply because no ruling government is going to vote for changing a system that put them in power.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
2 years ago

As I am to my great-niece after I had the temerity to disagree with her on Black Lives Matter. Shocked that an apparently nice young woman could be so easily and quickly converted into a Labour witch. To those, no disagreement is possible. So sad. Her inheritance will now probably go to the cats and dogs home.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

Labour witch. Fabulous.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

Sad to hear that Brian. I had a brief discussion with my daughter (teacher – ’nuff said); as always we agreed to differ but was informed I had an insufficient understanding of white privilege, which I wear as a badge of honour.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

She will hopefully grow out of this bigotry.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

Thank you, Paul.
It’s horrible that another person’s death needs to serve as a trigger for real and proper re-assessment of conduct, but after this, and Jo Cox’s murder, surely our representatives should at the very least be genuinely courteous in public – and we courteous towards them – always.
I know it’s made me examine my conscience, my own online conduct, and thoughts about civic life/culture in general.
I come from a Tory family background but have been a political opponent all my adult life. Of course the deepest values should have no political ‘colour’ though.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

I agree about the importance of courtesy, and it’s one of the reasons why I come to UnHerd rather than, say, twitter. However, David Amess’s brutal murder had nothing to do with bad conduct in public life. He, like hundreds of others over the last few years, was the victim of a fascistic death cult inspired by Islam (we can argue about whether these people represent a perversion of Islam or its true expression, but its origin in that faith is beyond question). This is not a problem that will go away if the rest of us learn better manners!

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Agreed that the issues are quite separate really – both murders carried out by deranged individuals not ‘angry’ constituents – but the distinction is being highlighted between ad hominen verbal attacks and just coarse angry frustration, where an atmosphere of hatred, fear suspicion becomes accepted, somehow. If not ‘normalising’ physical assault and murder then brutalising more & more people setting up a continuum for the deranged.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

The trouble is that the perpetrators of these attacks (I exclude Jo Cox, which was exceptional) are often, by their own lights, perfectly rational and indeed virtuous. We won’t begin to address the problem if we simply dismiss them as deranged. This is a moral and spiritual battle, which has been with us for centuries. One side may have forgotten or lost interest in what the battle was about, but the other certainly hasn’t. In this context polite language and counter-terrorism measures, however desirable and necessary, are simply distractions.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

I agree about the importance of courtesy, and it’s one of the reasons why I come to UnHerd rather than, say, twitter. However, David Amess’s brutal murder had nothing to do with bad conduct in public life. He, like hundreds of others over the last few years, was the victim of a fascistic death cult inspired by Islam (we can argue about whether these people represent a perversion of Islam or its true expression, but its origin in that faith is beyond question). This is not a problem that will go away if the rest of us learn better manners!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I think that the important part of Mr.Embery’s article was his statement of belief that the vast majority of politicians, of all strips, honestly believe that what they are doing is the best fror the country and her people – this is a belief that I share, even about those with whom I vehemently disagree. I think that much of the communications media (not to mention the “social” media) nourishes a sense of cynicism within the public, and this cynicism often leads to disenchantment with democracy and a tendency to veer to extremes. I have actually seen this happen, but I can’t say how wide-spead this is. It is easy for the communications media to pick up wrong doings by politicians, and they should, but then there is a tendency to blow something which is a misdemeanour into a serious criminal act, or at least imply it. Politicians are human, they make mistakes, sometimes they are dishonest, but they are not evil, they are not “scum”, most are just trying their best.

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
2 years ago

The MSM, always hunting for a scalp, never seeing the positive but always the negative, always breeding cynicism, are a large part of the problem. There are no parts of that problem that can be fixed without first fixing our MSM.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago

Not sure that there isn’t a significant minority of our politicians who not only care nothing for “the country and her people” but are actively hostile to both.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

The problem is the lack of experience.
The days when a politician was craftsmen,engineer or industrialist who had worked overseas and fought in combat and perhaps won a medal for bravery are long gone . No politician was able to say ” From my experience of constructing …. in Iraq and meeting senior members of the Ba’ath Party I can say this.. ) or ” From my time working for Shell in Syria, being fluent in Arabic and serving in 50 Middle East Commando in WW2, I can tell you about the religious and ethnic complexities of the country ” or ” From my time serving in the ICS /Indian Army and speaking Pashtoo, Urdu, Dari and Arabic I can tell you this about the Pashtun ” .
In the 1930s we had more people who worked in China, spoke the languages and had good understanding of Chinese mentality than we do today. Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Jardines, Swire .etc were all companies set up to serve the Chinese Market.
I would be more reassured if politicians could say ” I do not have a clue but I will investigate “. People who have the confidence gained from overcoming obstacles and extensive experience do not tend to be abusive. Often they say “My experience is .. and my reading on the subject is …. “and are happy to exchange information with like minded people. Calling people Fascists or , ‘phobic is largely done by people who lack experience and reading on the subject and have not thought the subject through.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

You do not look to hard for an answer. In my experience, people on the left are by and large deeply unpleasant individuals and this is what drives them. Motivated by envy and spite, believe the world has not given you what you believe you are entitled to, the Labour party is the home for you. They struggle to maintain a mask of decency in public bur in private they are vile. I count members of my own family and some friends in this category

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

We’re still waiting for an apology from Angela Rayner for calling Tory MPs including Sir David Amess ‘scum’. I doubt it will happen. Any more than Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbott will express any remorse to the victim of Claudia Webbe’s harassment for having given Webbe character references. Because Socialists believe that they are always correct and that history will absolve them, Socialists never say sorry for anything.

Harry Child
Harry Child
2 years ago

I regret that I can only accept Stamer’s reach across the dispatch box was genuine when he deals with his deputy and the Commons suspends her membership for 6 months. If the Commons are serious about upgrading the debates they need to attack the attitude behind the ‘scum’ comment. Perhaps then we can start to believe they are serious, however I suspect it will be business as usual in days.

Steve Walker
Steve Walker
2 years ago

The rehabilitation of Tony Benn as some kind of saint continues to disgust me. If you want to know what he thought of the working class, take a look at how he treated Solidarity in Poland.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

The Labour Party was started by practical tough working class Christians such as Keir Hardie who wanted to undertake sensible measures such as improved working conditions, sick and holiday pay, improved housing, education healthcare , etc.The Labour Party of Keir Hardie was aginst class warfare.
From before WW1 The Labour Party attracted some serious intellectuals. People from all walks of life fought together in two world wars and came to respect each other. In the 1980s Dennis Healey was deputy Leader of the Labour Party, today it is Angela Rayner.
The greatest Foreign Secretary since 1945 was Ernie Bevin who was happy to have Etonians and Harrovians in the Foreign Office.As he said ” They did all right in the Battle of Britain”. Bevin did more to defeat communism than any person In Britain whether in the docks of Bistol or in founding NATO.The greatest Secretary Of Defence since since 1945 is considered to be Dennis Healey. Roy Mason was the most effective Secretary of State fo Northern Ireland in defeating the PIRA. Michael Foot was considered to be an expert on the Civil War and the Constitution. Peter Shore warned about the EEC/EU from the 1970s.
Those who have solid achievements do not need to indulge in vulgar abuse. The problem the Labour Party has is attracting people of solid achievement. Another problem for Labour is that none of it’s members appear witty.
From Healey to Rayner, from Callaghan to Corbyn, so a great Party declines.

Bogman Star
Bogman Star
2 years ago

One obviously agrees with the broad tenor of the article. However, I perceive that the demonising of opponents is across the board nowadays. Even a cursory glance at Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail etc headlines reveals an increasing normalisation of ad hominem attacks. Ironically, the scum-bag who murdered him presumably himself is a “far-Right fanatic”; all Islamic extremists are medievally right wing.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

“all Islamic extremists are medievally right wing”
hmmmmm…so they want small government? Islamic extremists (well not even those so extreme) want control. Islam is in itself a control of every aspect of a follower’s life: that is most definitely LEFT wing. Fits in the same cesspool as all the other bastardisations of Socialism: Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, Marxism etc.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

“all Islamic extremists are medievally right wing”
hmmmmm
so they want small government? Islamic extremists (well not even those so extreme) want control. Islam is in itself a control of every aspect of a follower’s life: that is most definitely LEFT wing. Fits in the same pool as all the other barstewardisations (edited to avoid moderation) of Socialism: Nazism, Stalinism, Maoism, Marxism etc.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
2 years ago

I don’t think he did say Ali Harba Ali was Far Right in fact the opposite. He said he was Islamic and, thus, more difficult for the Left to denigrate.
Regarding the KKK, it should not be forgotten that the US Republican Party was formed in 1854 by disaffected Democrats who did not condone Slavery. There’s a bit of history for you. When is the Democratic Party going to be cancelled for their historic support of Slavery?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeff Carr
Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

Yeah, I screwed that up. Cox’s killer was alleged to be far-right. There is nothing “right-wing” about white supremacy, fascism, or mental illness. So why do they always go there and how have a lot of smart people just given up making the case when leftists reflexively ascribe the actions of bad people to right-wing beliefs? Please, some gifted Unherd columnist, write an article about that. Maybe Daniel Hannan is too conservative for this site, but he makes a good case for the inherent leftism of fascism. Jonah Goldberg too. The latter wrote a book on the subject.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mikey Mike
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

You’re right. Hitler’s party was a socialist workers’ party, and the fact that they brawled in the street with communists doesn’t disprove that; they were direct competitors, and after all, once in power, the Bolsheviks in Russia executed far more ‘left-wingers’ than ever the Tsar did.
However, he was evil, so including him as ‘right wing’ has proved useful for ‘guilt by association’ for many years.

M Harries
M Harries
2 years ago

“
wealth and income inequality, creaking public services, the housing crisis, austerity, unemployment, low wages, boardroom excesses, chronic industrial decline,
”

> How is that not a description of the conditions under the Wilson / Callaghan governments?

‘Austerity’ – no one can define what constitutes it and moreover, what conditions would exist for it to be not existent. Since coming to power recently the Tories have spent billions more than received in tax – every year. It is nonsensical to state that a government is practicing austerity when they are actually practicing profligacy, the exact opposite. ‘Austerity’ is effectively a meaningless word that is a card too easily played and impossible to refute as no lone agrees where the line lies.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Looking on Keir, Jeremy and PinkNews Facebook feeds the left have barely disguised their glee. They see it as ‘he’s a Tory he got what he deserved’ – and will then talk about being fairer, kinder and more inclusive without any irony whatsoever. They are maniacs that remind me more than a little of medieval torch and pitchfork mobs filled with wide eyed religious zeal. They are why I left the left.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

I think he meant the guy who killed Cox has been labelled “far – right”.

In fact i’ve read convincing testimony that he wasn’t “far – right” at all
 just mentally unwell. Still, wouldn’t want to let a crisis go to waste.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago

Thank you Paul, I always enjoy your articles.
Yes, Sir David’s interests are broad in scope and this is what we should encourage in political life. That is the best tribute the country could pay to him.
I don’t think the Left are heartless, I honestly don’t, especially their leader. But I do think Sir David supported a couple of issues in particular, which Left wing MP’s find problematical in regard to their constituents and cramps their style considerably when framing an appropriate response.
Go through the full list of his interests, revisit the hot-button issues at the recent Batley & Spen by-election and go from there. These Labour MP’s aren’t necessarily malicious, some will be genuinely scared of expressing sincere and heart-felt views.
This is becoming a huge problem for the country’s democracy, and – ignoring the over-egged nonsense that is the BBC’s Ridley Road – casts a shadow over the efforts of many before, during and after WW2 to reach out to those persecuted by actual Nazis.
I’ll say no more as I do not wish to receive a “knock on the door” similar to that which my parents/grandparents could have received were it not for the heroism and sacrifice of so many during WW2.
It’s going to take a lot more than a report from Dame Shami to sort the mess out that is Her Majesty’s Opposition.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Well said Paul. Again you seem to speak in a voice I recognise – the Left I used to feel a part of – but no longer see enough of.

Eric Sheldon
Eric Sheldon
2 years ago

“– such as when many of them tried to block the implementation of Brexit —” ?

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
2 years ago

Change the names and many of the comments could be about the US. Steve Scalise, a Republican member of the House of Representatives, was shot by a lunatic supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democrat. First near death, Scalise recovered and, during the President’s speech to a joint session, welcomed Scalise back. Republicans applauded. Democrats were silent.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Holmes
Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

There’s a lot to dislike about the ideas of Benn, indeed. Opposition to the Iraq war isn’t one of them.

James B
James B
2 years ago

I suppose I might also describe myself as a typical Tory. Middle-class and affluent but, I hope, a liberal who believes in open debate. This is one of the most sympathetic and brilliantly-argued articles I have read in many a year. Warmest congratulations.

Lizzie Scott
Lizzie Scott
2 years ago

Well said.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago

Jo Cox was lauded as a God-like being – “Never-does-anything-which-isn’t-perfect”.
Pity they never tell us what IS perfect!
I was brought up not to broadcast my good deeds – if they were actually good, they would be seen by their results. No need toshout about them!

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 years ago

Sir David’s murder didn’t receive the same level of attention as Jo Cox’s in part because he’s a man and Cox was a woman. Men are, and always have been, considered disposable. The death of women always generates more sympathy than the death of men.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Shaw
Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 years ago

This piece is the epitome of Embery; while claiming to to be a person of the left he seems to have a blind spot and deaf ear to the right as far as abusive behaviour goes. Brexit lowered the tone to the extent than the Labour MP for Barnsley, Dan Jarvis came close to withdrawing his party workers in the 2019 election such was the level of abuse from Brexit Party supporters they were receiving. Brexit moved from being a debate about the UK’s relationship with the EU to one where “The People” had spoken and anyone suggesting there were nuances of detail that could be discussed on such a huge issue were declared to be “Traitors” or “Enemies of the People”. Judges and lawyers had their pictures put in the papers labelled Enemies of the People, MPs were not just shouted at when attending the House but often obstructed and forced to engage in dialogue in a way which, as I am assured Mr Embery knows, would be illegal for Trade Unionists. It should not be forgotten that the level of vitriol aimed at Jeremy Corbyn (including a physical attack) was unprecedented and the person who cops the most online abuse is Diane Abbott.
And no, the word liar should be used sparingly but faced with a Prime Minister who regularly and knowlingly lies to Parliament why should it be wrong to say so.
But no, according to Embery, it is all the left’s fault

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

It’s good to highlight the great things David Amess did. But the greater preference for lauding Jo Cox by the left is just because they feel more affinity for her – she was one of them. I can’t imagine anyone on the left objecting to praise for Amess, but it’s more appropriate for most of it to come from the right, from his political and religious allies. It’s human nature and Embery is making a mountain out of a molehill, IMO.

mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

Its true that lefties are more likely to jeer at anothers’ misfortune, even their death or being orphaned as their creed is one of hate and envy. However we need to get things in perspective a bit. Jo Cox held openly anti British racist views and aired them in public. A Mess voted for covid laws that mandated masks not gloves to repel a severe seasonal flu (covid) so did Broken Shi*e. Nutters took 1 and 2 and the Reaper no. 3. Many thousands died of both the flu and the withdrawal of cancer and cardiac care. Sadly what we needed was a trial so their peers could judge them and the other MPs etc on their deeds, and deliver the justice that fate has taken from our hands.