As published in the Yorkshire Post:
Bill Carmichael: A telling contrast in public reaction
It has been fascinating over recent days to compare and contrast public reaction to the deaths of Tony Benn and Bob Crow on the one hand, and Baroness Thatcher on the other.
Whatever your views of Margaret Thatcher, she was without doubt a major historical figure – not only Britain’s first female premier, but one who led the Conservatives to three resounding election victories. She was also an elderly and sick lady by the time she died.
But that didn’t stop the astonishing wave of bile and hatred that spewed forth after her death. Reaction on the Left was positively unhinged; there was, quite literally, dancing in the streets, alcohol-fuelled parties, and a tsunami of vile, misogynist abuse from people who normally throw up their hands in horror at the merest hint of sexism. It was quite simply embarrassing to watch.
The contrast with the death of RMT leader Bob Crow couldn’t be starker. Crow was an old-style Communist bruiser whose only claim to fame is that he inflicted misery on ordinary working people and did untold damage to the capital’s economy. Outside his immediate family, he will be entirely forgotten within months.
Yet, within days of his death, he was beatified as Saint Bob of the Picket Line and to suggest he was anything less than the saviour of the working classes was to invite abuse from Twitter’s unsleeping army of gibbering idiots.
Normally sensible commentators fell over themselves to offer up saccharine praise, with even Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and London mayor Boris Johnson, who sees himself as a future Conservative leader, pouring on buckets of syrup.
Unlike Crow, at least Tony Benn has a solid claim to historical significance – but only because his entire career was one of unrelenting failure, and he managed to be on the wrong side of every political debate he contributed to.
In many ways Benn was a comic figure – a toff who believed a pipe and a mug of tea made him an honorary member of the working classes, but the damage he inflicted on British society, and the Labour Party in particular, was no laughing matter.
Reaction on the Right to Benn’s passing has been respectful and warm, with Yorkshire MP David Davis offering a particularly touching tribute.
But I was struck how often commentators mentioned Benn’s courage’. In fact the opposite was true. There were indomitable characters, such as Denis Healey, who fought bravely against the Trotskyist fanatics who set out to destroy the Labour Party. But Benn’s response to the entryists of the loony left was unconditional surrender.
As a result, Benn was largely responsible for making the Labour Party unelectable for a generation. It is ironic that without the wounds inflicted on the Left by Benn, Margaret Thatcher would not have been so successful and Tony Blair would probably have never risen to the leadership of a chastened Labour Party.
The instinct not to speak ill of the dead is a good one. Every death is a tragedy for the immediate family and respect at such times is a matter of common decency, and we should be able to offer honest criticism without descending into juvenile abuse.
But I was struggling to understand the widely contrasting reactions to the deaths of Thatcher, Crow and Benn when a simple thought suddenly struck me – perhaps conservatives are simply nicer people than those on the Left?
Only one winner
THE situation in Ukraine unfolds much as some of us expected.
US president Barack Obama has cranked up the empty bluster to histrionic levels.
Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin smiles quietly to himself and takes not the slightest bit of notice.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrings his hands on the sidelines.
With Russian tanks on Ukraine’s borders there is only going to be one winner – and I am afraid it isn’t going to be liberty and independence.