Thursday, 19 November 2009
Politicians I have liked and not shot
I know I cannot be a revolutionary because I am perfectly capable of liking those I disagree with and disliking those I agree with. The basis of such likes is not to do with opinion, it is with the way opinion is delivered. It is to do with intangibles. It is not to do with wanting them as friends or desiring to spend time with them, particularly not on any desert island with only one of them for company, but simply admitting them to the personal cast of the human race.
I have chiefly liked them because they seemed to talk like people. Not in any special way, just as themselves. They weren't presentations. Among Labour politicians, for example, I have particularly liked Neil Kinnock, Dennis Healey, Michael Foot, Robin Cook, Dennis Skinner, Shirley Williams and even 'Doctor Death', David Owen. I had respect for John Prescott at an earlier stage. These people seemed to be who they were as characters. Of the Liberals Paddy Ashdown was far above the rest. Charlie Kennedy was as he was.
The interesting case is the Tories. I cannot help liking Kenneth Clarke. I had a soft spot for Chris Patten. I even like and respect Norman Tebbitt though I think he is wrong about almost everything. I always thought John Major a decent man. Gillian Shepherd was probably OK. Carrington, though a toff, was an honourable toff.
It may simply be that I detected a spot of not much more than reasonableness and honesty in them.
I cannot see anyone in any party that I like as a person. The persons are kept back at some distance. All tan and no skin. I am open to offers of likability, but in any case, the liking has no political effect. When it came to a political decision, I would smile and say, 'Sorry, X, I like you but I am voting against you.'
A British Council representative once told me, 'I have friends among them but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them turned up one day with a gun, saying, "You're a good man, X, but too bad," and, giving a sad smile, shot me.'