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

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor