The news is currently filled with stories about Conservative M.E.P. Daniel Hannan and his praise of Enoch Powell. Why does this come as a shock to anyone? Surely nobody actually bought all that hogwash that was spouted about the Tories having changed their ways? A new caring and compassionate Conservative party that believes strongly in things like welfare, social care, the plight of the common man and so forth. All of that flannel with Cameron riding to parliament on a pushbike, getting a wind-powered generator fitted to his house, that cringingly chummy “Web Cam-eron” thing, was just that; flannel. They are still the party led by Eton educated, old boy network, old school Tories.
In 2007, another candidate was forthright in his praise of Enoch Powell. David Cameron publicly criticised the person who made the remarks and he was left in a position where resignation was his only option. In 2009, with the party sporting a healthy lead in the polls, Mr Hannan has publicly declared the NHS “A 60 year joke” that he “wouldn’t wish on anyone”, followed by effusive praise of Enoch Powell, the man responsible for one of the most racially inflammatory speeches ever given by a member of a major party in the post-war era, in the space of just 10 days. What’s next on his agenda? Informing the world how he can’t wait to disband the pension and welfare systems, to get all of those scrounging codgers and cripples off the public teat?
His party have once again done the political equivalent of chuckling and saying “What a card, eh? Bless his cotton socks.” As the lead in the polls increases, the carefully constructed mask of “Caring Conservatives” slips a little further from the public face of the party, allowing the public more frequent glimpses of what lies beneath.
In the interests of fairness, I should point out that Mr Hannan stopped short of praising Mr Powell’s stance on immigration. His quote was that Enoch Powell “understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small-government Conservative.” That may all seem innocuous enough, but look at the content of the quote. In essence, he praised Enoch Powell for his Euroskepticism, his belief in a free market economy (look how well that’s doing us so far) and the old Tory fascination for slashing public services. Since he admires those stances, he could just as easily picked Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson, Michael Heseltine or indeed any old school Tory you or he might care to name…
He chose to name-check Enoch Powell, a man whose name is -rightly or wrongly- still synonymous with knee-jerk, reactionary grandstanding and the far right wing of British politics, wherein you can find such charming people as Robert Kilroy-Silk and Nick Griffin.
At best, it was the typical buffoonery you find whenever a Brit travels abroad and mistakenly believe that what happens abroad stays abroad (Mr Hannan was in the U.S. when he made the remarks), at worst it was a peek into the mind of a typical Tory backbencher, or M.E.P.. Whichever it was, the lack of disciplinary action from the Conservative whips shows just what the current Tory front bench think in secret, even if they aren’t willing to voice it publicly yet.