The problem with Marcus Fysh’s ‘Nazi Germany’ apology

You should only ever cite the experience of Nazi Germany in the context of genocide, and whatever you think of Plan B, it isn’t that

Sean O'Grady
Wednesday 15 December 2021 14:45 GMT
Tory MP Marcus Fysh says Covid passes are 'like Nazi Germany'

So there I was mooching around on Twitter, like you do, and thinking of some wisecrack to make about Marcus Fysh, Conservative member of parliament for Yeovil, after his crass and offensive remarks about Plan B turning Britain into Nazi Germany.

Unkindly, I thought I’d make some cheap jibe about his obvious lack of education, which I found soon enough on Wikipedia. Oh dear. There it was: “Alma Mater: Corpus Christi College, Oxford”. My college. I wasn’t that surprised, in fact, because in my experience there were a surprising number of, shall we say, less than bright people who went there – we can’t all be as super-intelligent as the Miliband brothers – but it was still galling.

Usually, these people tended to have been the product of a fine old public school, which knew how to play the British exam system and win at the Oxbridge entrance game, so I was at least gratified to see that old Marcus, not the smartest fish in the barrel, also went to Winchester.

In any case, his expensive education didn’t stop him telling BBC Radio 5 Live the other day that: “We are not a ‘papers please’ society. This is not Nazi Germany […] It’s the thin edge of an authoritarian wedge, and that’s why we will resist.” Of course, showing you’ve had a double vaccination or had a negative Covid test in order to get into a nightclub isn’t really a violation of your human rights, and, borrowing the cliche, these sorts of measures cannot be the thin end of any wedge if they are reversed once the peak of a wave of infections passes and they are repealed, as they have been on and off since the pandemic hit us all.

Even if Fysh had a point, though, and some people do find bureaucracy irksome, it would still have been the wrong thing to say because you should only ever cite the experience of Nazi Germany in the context of genocide, and whatever you think of Plan B, it isn’t that and it isn’t ever going to be that. Steve Baker, another libertarian with a bit more nous, has made vague and silly noises about Britain going to hell, but that isn’t going to upset anyone whose relatives were sent to a death camp.

Fysh was excoriated. Finding himself in a hole, he just kept digging. It must have seemed a smart, appropriate move to issue an apology in the form of a personal article for the Jewish Chronicle. This might have turned out to be the profound apology his behaviour demanded; and a moving reflection on how foolishly and casually the Hitler era is used and abused in public debate, and especially on social media. But no. His mea culpa was actually one of those squirming non-apologies that arrogant politicians are prone to: Marcus Fysh is someone who can’t even say sorry properly.

His piece got off to a dismal start when he stated that “the Holocaust was one of the most horrible things to have happened in human history and we can and never should forget it”. Words usually fail to describe the Holocaust, but “one of the most horrible things in history” has a rather child-like quality to it, like how a 10-year old might try to process something beyond their comprehension. For me, it doesn’t really suggest that an adult writer with a degree to his name actually gets the true scale of it. Unwisely, Fysh immediately boasts that “I know much about the Holocaust”. You have to wonder about that.

Of course, Fysh says sorry, but I feel it gives the impression of insincerity. It’s a classic politician’s apologia, and maybe he thinks his readers won’t notice the qualifications added to it. In full, to be fair, this is the apologetic para: “I am sorry that during a debate about the current Covid impositions being proposed I put forward my argument about what right a majority of people might have – in my view in a state of fear – to limit the fundamental rights of others, by saying that we are not Nazi Germany.”

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That’s OK, and he should have stopped right there. Yet he couldn’t help himself. He just had to qualify it. You see, in Marcus’s world, it wasn’t actually that he’d been wrong, but merely that he hadn’t added context, and nasty people had misrepresented him. It’s all about perception. Except there is no context that could justify his original offhand statement and he was quoted in context and accurately – which is why he said sorry. Sort of. Here’s the clumsy codicil: “It was a mistake for me to say this without being able to ensure full context and explanation, allowing my comment to be presented differently to what I meant and be hurtful to people.”

So if he’d added some spurious references, say, to the Nuremberg Race Laws or Kristallnacht when he was on 5 Live, it would have been alright then, would it, Marcus?

Fysh finishes up with a sort of parody of a sermon: “Above all, we must never forget we are all human, and the pinnacle that we can see as of now in God’s creation. Freedom is something we deserve, and have a responsibility to ensure persists for all creation.” This, indeed, from a man who voted for the Nationalities and Borders Bill that seeks to make life more difficult for, erm, people fleeing persecution.

Honestly, I’m not just ashamed to have been to the same college as Fysh but to be on the same planet. The people of Yeovil, and the Tory party for that matter, deserve better.

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