Posts Tagged ‘Simon Heffer’

VAL 2016 | Säg den glädje som varar. När Labour valde Jeremy Corbyn till partiledare var det många konservativa som tackade högre makter.

New Statesman 8-14 April 2016

Inom partiet var näst intill säker på att regeringsmakten var näst intill säkrad för lång tid framöver när det största oppositionspartiet valt en partiledare långt ut på vänsterkanten.

Detta naturligtvis under förutsättning att man inte förflyttade partiet för långt ut åt höger. Detta var också premiärminister David Camerons strategi efter partiets överraskande valseger. Man ville säkra sin position i mitten.

Men det var innan de interna partistriderna inför folkomröstningen om medlemskapet i EU. Nu befinner sig Conservatives i ett inbördeskrig mellan ”Leavers” och ”Remain”.

Skiljelinjerna mellan anhängarna till Brexit respektive Bremain går rakt igenom regeringen. Sex ministrar har t.ex. valt att stödja ett utträde.

Och detta är bara de som öppet har tagit ställning för ett utträde. Hur stort mörkertalet är i realiteten är det ingen som vet.

Simon Heffer, kolumnist i The Daily Telegraph och The Sunday Telegraph, har skrivit i New Statesman om stridigheterna och David Camerons krishantering.

The Conservative Party is approaching not only a historic referendum, but a historic moment of crisis. It is deeply divided over whether or not to stay in the European Union, and the divisions are unequal. At the top, most want to stay in: not out of conviction, but because most ministers have found it politic to agree with David Cameron, even if they cannot support his view that he got a great deal from other EU countries after his supposed “renegotiations” with them. Among MPs generally the mood is far more hostile; and at the party’s grass roots it is predominantly in favour of leaving. Where this ranks in the history of Tory party crises is not easy to say.


The current division is open and is breeding hostility, luxuries afforded by one of the Tories’ few unifying beliefs: that Labour poses no threat at the moment, and they can have a quarrel that may even verge on civil war without fearing electoral consequences. Whatever the outcome, the present quarrel allows the opportunity for a major realignment of the party without it having to go out of office. A minister who is (just, and after much soul-searching) committed to our staying in the European Union told me frankly last week that the Tory party was “a mess” and that, whatever happened on 23 June, the referendum would be the beginning and not the end of a painful process for the Conservatives.


There is an idea on both sides that scores will have to be settled after 23 June, and, the way things are going with party discipline and out-of-control aides in Downing Street, such an outcome is inevitable. Should Remain prevail, a wise prime minister would understand that this was a time to heal wounds and not deepen them. It remains a matter of conjecture how wise Cameron, whose vindictive streak is more often than not on the surface rather than beneath it, is prepared to be.

Those who work for his party at the grass roots, and on whom MPs depend to get the vote out at elections, will be unimpressed by a purge of those who have not backed him over Europe. There isn’t much of a voluntary party left, and there will be even less of one if he acts rashly in victory. If it is a narrow victory – and it is, at this stage, hard to envisage any other sort – his party could become unmanageable unless he acts with restraint and decency.


Conservatives worried about the stability of their party believe that only Labour under a new, more effective and less factional leader could present the serious electoral challenge to them that would shake them out of these unprecedentedly acrimonious and self-indulgent divisions. We can only imagine how differently the In campaign would be conducted if Labour had a nationally popular and an obviously electable leader.

As it is, many more dogs are likely to be unleashed. Things promise to become far nastier, dirtier and ever more internecine for the Tories, not just before 23 June but for a long time afterwards: and with the party in power for at least four more years, one can only guess what that means for the governance of Britain.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 8-14 april 2016.

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IMAGE | Med monoton regelbundenhet dyker det upp artiklar och böcker som hävdar att det nu är dags att slå håll på ”myten” Winston Churchill.

New Statesman 9-15 January 2014

Alla dessa försök till historierevidering innehåller nästan alltid några gemensamma komponenter.

Författaren försöker t.ex. alltid antyda att ingen tidigare har gett den ”sanna” och ”oförfalskade” bilden av Churchill. Tydligen har sanningen om mannen, politikern och statsmannen alltför länge varit dold bakom den officiella bilden av Churchill – en bild som ingen vågar ifrågasätta.

Detta sätt att argumentera håller inte för en närmare granskning. Få politiker har nämligen varit lika kontroversiella som Churchill. Han var ifrågasatt under hela sin politiska karriär.

En annan ingrediens i dessa försök att förändra bilden av Churchill är att framhäva, inte bara hans politiska felberäkningar och misslyckanden, utan även att hans politiska åsikter inte längre ligger i linje med dagens etablerade konsensus.

Att studera Churchills politiska åsikter är naturligtvis historiskt intressant men ganska missvisande när man skall bedöma hans samlade insatser.

Med tanke på att Churchill var född 1874 (!) borde det inte förvåna någon att hans åsikter inte låg i linje med vad vi tycker idag. Det omvända skulle ha varit betydligt mer uppseendeväckande.

Churchill skulle knappast varit mer än en historisk kuriositet om hans åsikter hade överensstämt med dagens politikers.

Frågan är om han ens hade varit en identifierbar historisk person om han hade avviket alltför mycket från sin egen tid. Hade vi då ens kunnat finna några historiska spår av honom i dokument och arkiv? Sannolikt hade han aldrig blivit vare sig parlamentsledamot eller premiärminister om han haft åsikter som inte gjort honom valbar.

Många gånger liknar kritiken av Churchill vad man idag kallar ”virtue signalling” Poängen är att visa, d.v.s. signalera, vilken god människa man själv är. ”One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous”, skriver mannen som myntade begreppet.

Ett exempel på detta är Simon Heffers artikel ”Why it’s time to debunk the myth of Churchill” i New Statesman. Rubriken säger allt. (I papperstidningen: ”The Churchill myth”.)

Ingenting av det som Heffer skriver om i artikeln är överhuvudtaget nytt för den som studerat ämnet. Alla exemplen beskrivs i de flesta historiska verk och politisk biografier om Churchill som publicerats under de senaste femtio åren.

He had an unfortunate knack of finding himself on the wrong side of too many arguments, over things that usually did not require the benefit of hindsight to be understood.


At the khaki election of 1900 he began his political career, as a Tory. He left for the Liberal Party in 1904 when the Tories, under the influence of Joseph Chamberlain, who had left the Liberals in protest against the Irish home rule bill, started to move towards protectionism. That was fair enough: but moving back to the Tories after the collapse of the coalition in 1922, when the Liberal Party had divided, imploded and been eclipsed by Labour, was widely regarded as an act of outrageous cynicism, not least by those whom he was rejoining. Churchill deployed his considerable wit to gloss over this episode – “Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat” – but a bad smell lingered in the Tory party for some time because of it.


Once the Conservatives were pushed out of office in 1929 he began his “wilderness years”, and adopted resistance to Indian self-government as one of his main causes. It was at this stage that he described Gandhi as “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace . . . to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor”. Such rhetoric turned Baldwin against him and ensured he did not serve in the National Government that Baldwin formed with Ramsay MacDonald in 1931.


Despite a record of failure and misjudgement that in any other politician would offset even the most considerable achievements, Churchill in death has become largely untouchable by all, apart from those who are dismissed as mavericks and sectarians. The myth keeps us from an honest interpretation of our history in the first half of the 20th century. The false and romanticised picture we have of him, created by his reputation from 1940-45, is a huge obstacle to true understanding.

In one aspect of his life, when the man met the hour, he was as outstanding as anyone in British history has been. In all others he was just another politician on the make, firing out opinions at random in the hope that one, now and again, would hit the target. He had a bellicosity that in all circumstances other than 1940-45 could be intensely dangerous, and that had its downside even in the fight against Hitler.

But we would best understand his indisputable greatness, and our enduring debt to him, by realising how his achievements came in spite of, not because of, his parti­cular character. The myth is too much. It is more important than ever to examine the reality of his life and works, and to try to get him in a true perspective.

Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 9-15 januari 2014.

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