Why do the comments of an obscure politician in a foreign interview on an historical topic raise a constitutional issue? Because they make one ponder the entire point of politics.
Conventionally, politicians try to avoid saying controversial things. They adhere to “the line”, try to avoid embarrassment. The result is a bland discourse, and a politics delivered in code. No one says what he or she means, everyone hints at it, and tries to avoid breaking any taboos.
This code is one of the things that people most dislike about politics. It excludes anyone but the insider. It leads to assumptions that ought to be questioned remaining unquestioned. It can render political debate meaningless.
Take Mr Hannan’s remarks about the NHS. If these are to be regarded as too outrageous to leave the lips of anyone in public life, then an entire strand of opinion goes unrepresented and the debate on healthcare is stunted. Similarly, while Mr Hannan has got the balance of his judgment on Powell completely wrong, in a mature democracy he should be able to make such a point and have it considered sensibly.
If politicians can’t say what they think, why bother with them?
Indeed! Meanwhile, this amused me, from the man himself:
I’m back at work, and catching up on my press cuttings. Of all the rude words used about me over the past two weeks, one leaves me utterly nonplussed. Left-wing papers keep saying that I’m “ambitious” – or, as Marina Hyde put it in the Guardian “gruesomely ambitious”. Oh dear. As Mark Antony says, “if it were so, it was a grievous fault.”
Still, I’m puzzled. What ambition could I conceivably have been advancing?
Seems to me, were one to be ambitious, one would (as The Times says) drone on about how wonderful the NHS is and pledge to pour more money into it. So you’d think she’d think he’s the very opposite of ambitious, if that’s what the people want to hear. Unless of course she knows something about what the people actually think that the rest of us don’t.