When I first learned about Athenian democracy as a teenager I was baffled that they could have decided government positions by lottery; what was to stop someone totally unsuitable and useless from ending up in control? But then I look at the current Labour front bench and think, how bad could it be?
I’m thinking in particular of Shadow Leader of the House Angela Eagle, whose performance on Question Time last night was a perfect illustration of how low the tone of so much political debate is – especially that involving manufactured outrage.
The outrage in question was over Lord Freud’s comments about the disabled and the minimum wage, which Labour cooked up in an attempt to make their opponents look like the nasty party. Freud had merely answered a question from a man who had a disabled family member who was unable to find work at the minimum wage. Would it not be sensible therefore, he asked Freud, to allow firms to pay less and have the government top up the difference; as is done in numerous countries and which disability campaigners have called for in the past. Freud said he’d think about ways to increase the number of disabled people in work, because some are ‘not worth the full [minimum] wage’.
Out of this Ed Miliband managed to cook up some totally artificial anger and the Conservatives, with the moral cowardice that is their trademark, apologised rather than telling Miliband to grow up and try dealing with the world how it is, not how it should be.
Manufactured outrage is not a joke. Since the totalitarian-lite ideology of political correctness was born on American campuses after the Second World War it’s been used to snuff out unpopular ideas and legitimate lines of scientific inquiry; it’s a sub-rational style of argument that has no more place in a mature democracy than flag-waving ultra-nationalism or religious fundamentalism.