Fascism is a bigger part of this election than most people realise. We know about the BNP already, but the growing force is Muslim extremism. The tactics are nasty. Look at the website of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) and you will see lists of MPs whom MPAC wishes to make the victims of what it calls ‘political jihad’. MPAC had to apologise for attacking Lorna Fitzsimons, the MP for Rochdale, for being Jewish (she isn’t, in fact), but this does not seem to have cramped its style. Its aim is to ‘eliminate all pro-Israeli, Zionist MPs from power’. An item against Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South, calls him a ‘Zionist Islamophobe’, a ‘Zionist warmonger’ and a ‘Zionist scumbag’, and describes his seat as ‘Tel Aviv South’. Early in the campaign came the throwing of missiles by Muslims (not MPAC, so far as I know) at Oona King, the half-black, half-Jewish MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and the Jewish ex-servicemen with her who were holding a remembrance ceremony in the East End. When Mosleyite anti-Semites fought in Cable Street nearby in the 1930s, the Left fought back, but today, when many anti-Semites are Muslim, it stays pretty quiet. Over in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, the fascism is deadlier. Gerry Adams has arranged for the tactical expulsion of two unnamed, low-level IRA men from Sinn Fein over the murder of Robert McCartney, while allowing approval to be shown for the more important suspects. George Bush has seen Mr McCartney’s sisters, but Tony Blair has not. In the republic the justice minister is calling for a ‘giant police bid’ to prevent an IRA criminal mini-state. In the North, our Prime Minister still will not countenance a policy which does not include these criminals in government. It is as if he wouldn’t allow the Greater London Authority to exist unless Stephen Lawrence’s killers had seats on it.
Last week I drove to Hastings to hear Michael Howard speak. As you enter the town a sign has long said: ‘Birthplace of television’ (John Logie Baird achieved his breakthrough there in 1924). Underneath, with no apparent sense of the technological or sociological connection, is now another sign: ‘Town centre cameras in 24-hour operation’.
The Howard meeting was in a small and crowded sports hall. Since its sole purpose was televisual, great efforts were made to surround Mr Howard with young, attractive mothers, children, etc. One woman, in her sixties and a hunt stalwart, needed a seat because of her very severe arthritis, but she was told that, in return for having one, she must take off her Day-Glo coat. She refused to do this, because of her condition, so she was seated in a corner beyond the cameras.
Mr Howard spoke well, as he almost always does. His problem is that he is more often right than he is persuasive, better at winning battles than wars. When I heard him in Hastings, he was ‘taking a stand’ (I think it is a George Bush phrase) against the dishonesty of Tony Blair. The metaphor is one of stasis, but surely one of movement would be better (that’s the skill of Labour’s ‘Forward, not back’). I long for a political leader who can rescue the word ‘liberal’, deployed this week by Brian Sedgemore. It should not mean spending lots of public money, or being soft on crime, or denigrating marriage. It means believing in freedom — a free economy, a free (independent) country, trial by jury, a smaller state, choice in health and schools, no ID cards, a bicameral legislature with real powers. Freedom is not the only thing a nation needs, but it is the necessary start. It is a word that Tony Blair avoids. I wish Mr Howard had come out more clearly as a liberal.
It would be wearisome to detail the bias of the BBC in this campaign — the usual determination to destroy the Conservatives whenever they raise immigration, and an anti-Blair obsession over the war in Iraq. The Corporation’s permanent soft-left slant has led it to give the Liberal Democrats a free pass in this election. No one seems to have noticed, however, the most electorally explosive BBC programme of the campaign. In last week’s episode of Dr Who, aliens, as is their wont, were trying to take over the world. Their plan was to persuade the United Nations to hand over nuclear weapons codes to them by terrifying them with the prospect of imminent attack by other aliens. One alien warned of ‘massively destructive weapons’ which could do their worst in ‘45 seconds’.
Until it banned hunting, Labour was at pains to insist that it did not intend to ban shooting or fishing, and said so in its 2001 manifesto. Now that the hunting ban is passed, that promise has been removed: the subject is not mentioned in the 2005 manifesto.
Sixty years this week since the death of Hitler, it is interesting to consider parallel lives. In April 1945 the future Pope Benedict XVI, just 18, had deserted from the German army and was captured by the Americans. Before he left home with his captors he grabbed a notebook and a pencil, and spent a good part of his six weeks of captivity composing Greek hexameters. On the same day that Hitler shot himself (30 April), Winston Churchill was at Chequers spending most of the day, as he often did, in bed. Absorbed in his reading, he did not notice that his cigar had set fire to his bedjacket from which, according to his secretary, ‘great puffs of smoke were rising’. An official said, ‘You’re on fire, Sir. May I put you out?’ ‘Yes, do,’ Churchill replied. I find this a satisfying contrast between the two national leaders.
Anti-smoking was part of Hitler’s fanaticism, and the first act of those in the bunker after he had announced his intention to kill himself was to light up. The F