At last, good old anger is back with us

Share
Related Topics
THE SHOCK is almost too much. On Wednesday afternoon, after a long period of the most anodyne politics I can recall in this country, normal service was suddenly resumed. A senior government minister took a decision that outraged the Leader of the Opposition, sent Baroness Thatcher into near-apoplexy and infuriated headline writers in what we used fondly to call "the Tory press". They all raged impotently but there was nothing they could do - short of hiring a helicopter and organising an Entebbe- style raid on Virginia Water, which would surely give pause even to Lady Thatcher - to prevent General Augusto Pinochet, late of the 1st Torturers, Santiago Division, being hauled before Belmarsh magistrates' court on Friday afternoon.

We have had too much of focus groups, consensus politics and not frightening the horses in recent years. One of Lady Thatcher's most baleful legacies has been an entrenched fear, among centrist and leftish politicians alike, of saying anything that might create dissent or alarm voters. Since New Labour came to power, the Government has worked hard to create an inclusive politics which would keep on board the rusting Iron Lady herself, Rupert Murdoch's newspapers and anyone to the right of Ken Livingstone. We have had to endure endless nonsense about "the Third Way", even about Labour eventually combining with the Lib Dems to create a coalition whose clammy embrace would be about as refreshing as someone else's used bath towel.

Until last week, the Government had shown itself hostile only to easy targets, such as Saddam Hussein and some of our European partners. Jack Straw, whose decision not to intervene in the extradition process has caused such thrilling uproar, hardly distinguished himself earlier this year when he acceded to a demand from the Sun to denounce the child-killer Mary Bell. Lady Thatcher revealed her admiration for Mr Blair, which is apparently reciprocated, and former Tory ministers such as Michael Heseltine, David Mellor and Chris Patten were given jobs by the new administration.

Even the far left was mesmerised by the supposed re-alignment of politics, talking grandly about the redundancy of old terms like left and right. Matters were not helped by the feeble performance of Her Majesty's Opposition, which provided few challenges to a coltishly nervous government.

It says something about the attachment of all three major parties to this determined avoidance of proper political debate that it took the arrival in Britain of someone as rebarbative as General Pinochet to break it apart. But it has finally happened and lots of us feel better for it - even, I suspect, on the right, which has something to get its teeth into for the first time in ages, although its response so far suggests that the old gnashers are a bit stiff from lack of use. Lady Thatcher, for instance, complained last week about a failure of political leadership when the beauty of Mr Straw's decision is that a government minister has finally - perhaps to his own astonishment - done something bold and unequivocal.

I am not impressed by the argument that Mr Straw's decision was "quasi- legal" and not political. Does anyone seriously think that his predecessor, the revolting Michael Howard, would have arrived at an identical decision? But it has fallen to Barbara Amiel in the Daily Telegraph to expose the sclerosis currently afflicting right-wing commentators. In a joyous rant, Ms Amiel complains that other people have committed "similar and/or more severe crimes as those with which General Pinochet is charged, and we do nothing about them" - an argument for letting go the burglar who has been caught red-handed in your living-room because other miscreants have not been apprehended.

In a series of magnificent non-sequiturs, she suggests that in the spring of 1973 President Salvador Allende was plotting to overthrow the Chilean government - himself and his own ministers, as it happens - by means of a coup, so that General Pinochet's imposition of a brutal dictatorship in September actually came as a relief to the left. With me so far? Let us savour together another of Ms Amiel's sentences: "The Pinochet regime may well have developed into a regime un- necessarily harsher than the democratic Left anticipated." There speaks a woman who has never had electrodes attached to her pudenda, judiciously leaving open the question of whether Pinochet's regime was over-zealous when it murdered more than 3,000 people.

There could scarcely be more convincing proof that a lengthy period of consensus - of not having your ideas challenged, which is a more accurate description of what has happened to the right in Britain - is bad for the brain. General Pinochet can hardly have imagined, when he decided to pop over to London, see an old friend and dabble in a bit of arms dealing, that his holiday plans would play a dramatic role in revitalising political life here. But the result is so splendid that I'm almost tempted to wish the old brute a happy Christmas.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

C# .NET Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript HTML, CSS) Finance

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh-£260/day

£230 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: MI Analyst-Reporting-Bank-Edinburgh...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: The Hitch on Americans, literature, liberal intervention and language

John Rentoul
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment