Delingpole on Friday: Matthew Parris’s Spectator column on UKIP is really shite

 

 

Because I recently had to take the quite stringent test you have to do to be considered as a UKIP parliamentary candidate, I’m reasonably familiar with the party’s manifesto. It’s not perfect: definitely a work in progress, I’d say, rather than the finished product, as you can see from its mild confusion or contradictions on issues like high speed rail and GM crops. But one criticism you’d be seriously hard-pushed to level at it is that it is any way extreme.

 

Obviously your definition of “extreme” may differ slightly from mine. I think, though, we could agree more or less on the sort of policies which might qualify. Executing people who tried to change their religion, might be one. Hanging women who’ve committed the adulterous act of being gang raped, might be another. Burying people under a wall for being homosexual would be another. None of these is in the UKIP manifesto.

 

Perhaps though, I’m setting the bar of extremism too high. No modern political manifesto would include policies as radical as I’ve just described. (Well, not outside the Umma, at any rate.) So let me borrow James Cameron’s mini-sub and try to lower the bar if I can. Let me try and imagine what an “extremist” manifesto might look like from the perspective of, say, a spineless, lily-livered, gag-inducingly politically correct, faux-Tory, ideology-lite centrist. Someone, perhaps, not altogether unlike my Spectator colleague Matthew Parris.

 

Matthew and I go back a long way. (Well, maybe 10 years-ish: we first met on a Radio 4 programme he used to host called Off The Page). So I’m sure when I call him a spineless, lily-livered, gag-inducingly politically correct, faux-Tory, ideology-lite centrist he’ll take it in the friendly spirit in which it’s meant.

 

Even so, I’ll be honest: when I call Matthew a spineless, lily-livered, gag-inducingly politically correct, faux-Tory, ideology-lite centrist, I cannot pretend that there isn’t a note of gentle criticism lurking beneath the matey bonhomie. Which is to say I’ve just read his latest piece in the Spectator – Why UKIP is a party of extremists – and I think it’s shit. Really shit. By some margin the lamest, most crassly prejudiced, most intellectually dishonest, and thoroughly ill-supported piece that the always-readable and often-brilliant Parris has ever written. Or at least that I’ve ever read.

 

To spare you the bother of reading it (and seriously: DON’T. It’ll be the best five minutes of life you’ve ever not wasted) let me tell you how it goes. About half of it comprises a shambling, dull, feebly self-justificatory letter Matthew wrote in response to “a friend (we’ll call him Ronald)” who had questioned Matthew’s use of the description “extremist” with reference to UKIP.

 

And Matthew’s defence is? Well having read his letter three times I’m still not exactly sure. Partly, it seems that he’s read the comments below his Times column and the ones from UKIP sympathisers do sound, well, he thinks, pretty “extreme.” Partly, it appears to be something to do with its “spirit”, which he characterises as “paranoid” and based on a “single-cause, single-prism, single-root-explanation way of interpreting the world and its sorrows.”

 

Presumably the single thing he’s referring to is the EU. This would come as a surprise to most of the UKIP members I’ve met recently – and also to the ones who’ve given their views in recent polls. Though it wouldn’t quite be fair to say that they’re “relaxed” about Europe, it would be even less fair to say that they’re obsessed with it to the exclusion of all else. UKIP-ers are worried, to varying degrees, about all sorts of things – from immigration to energy to the excessive size of government. Some place more importance on one issue, others on another: they’re not, as the caricature version might have it, a bunch of closest racist, blazer-wearing exiles from the more swivel-eyed extremes of the Tory party who only know how to bang on about Europe. Some are disgruntled conservatives; some would self-describe as libertarians; some, I know, would consider themselves traditional labour-voters who’ve been ignored as their natural party has become not the party of the workers but the party of the welfare and quango classes.

 

So what I hope you’ll realise it’s that it’s not the wounded amour-propre of a UKIP member (and possible candidate) which prompts me to declare Matthew’s piece the most unutterable shite. Rather, I’m saying it’s unutterable shite because it fails one of the most basic tests of opinion journalism, viz, that if you’re going to treat the world to your tuppeny ha’penny’s worth on a given subject, at least try to make sure it’s grounded in some manner of evidential reality.

 

For example, if you’re going to claim in a piece – as Matthew does elsewhere – that the UKIP manifesto is “lunatic”, you really need to show your workings. The bit where it says it doesn’t want to scrap the NHS: is that lunatic? The bit where it says the decision on fox-hunting should be devolved locally: is that lunatic? The bit where it says it wants a 31 per cent flat tax: is that lunatic?

 

Oh – but fuck! Here I am doing EXACTLY what I promised myself I wouldn’t be doing when I launched into this piece. For my deepest objection to Matthew’s (did I mention this already?) utterly rubbish article has nothing whatsoever to do with his half-baked views on UKIP, its policies and its membership. As far as I’m concerned, he can spend every column he writes for the rest of his life slagging off UKIP and I won’t begrudge him for it one teeny tiny bit.

 

No, what really does make me so cross about the piece is the arrogance of the mindset it betrays. It’s the mindset which gripped the Tory party during the dog days of Jim Prior when the prevailing wisdom was that Britain’s best hope, even under a Conservative administration, was “managed decline”. It’s the mindset that led to the moribund, grandee socialism of Harold Macmillan and to the damp-rag ineptitude and pusillanimity of Ted Heath. It’s the mindset that prompted the wets like Heseltine to stab Margaret Thatcher in the back. It’s David Cameron’s mindset too.

 

What that mindset says is that politics is far too complex a business to be handled by anyone but the political class. “Sure,” it says, “You might have some perfectly justifiable gripes about how bad things are presently and some bright-sounding ideas about how to make things better. But the reason you think that way is because you’re either a zealot or a bumpkin who just doesn’t understand that politics is the art of the possible; and that the reason you’re in the shit is because, frankly, my dear fellow, is your natural place.”

 

Matthew has been writing in this vein quite a lot of late. His response to the failure of Cameronism has not been to question, let alone criticise, the false thinking that underpins it, but rather to become ever more vicious in his assaults on those who do. Some might say that Matthew’s aggressive centrism is taking on a rather unpleasant quality you might almost call extremist. But I wouldn’t because I know that, despite everything, Matthew Parris is a big sweetie who means well, he really does.

27 comments on “Delingpole on Friday: Matthew Parris’s Spectator column on UKIP is really shite

  1. grumpydenier
    May 31, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    I used to find Matthew entertaining and still enjoy Great Lives – on the odd occasion I catch it on the ‘wireless’ – but he does seem to be going through some sort of crisis.

    He’s a bit like some trolls I could name over at your DT blogs; they have so much intellectual baggage invested in a particular point of view that they lose the ability to conduct rational debate.

    You need to take him off somewhere and stick a few G&Ts into him and let him chip away at his own cult-type thinking a piece at a time.

    • Chris
      May 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Why not name them?

    • blingmun
      June 1, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      I ignored your advice and made the mistake of reading his article. As you say, what a load of shite. 100% smuggish cuntary.

      • yaosxx
        June 2, 2013 at 11:14 am #

        We seem to be living in the age of the “Stepford Wives” where politicians (and their “useful idiot” commentators such as Parris) just cannot fathom why we don’t just obediently lie back and ” let it happen to us” in an unconcerned manner. You’d never have guessed we’d just left the 20th century where so much changed but I guess they probably think that’s all old hat, and time to make a concious (or unconcious) retrograde step into consummate, unquestioning obedience!

  2. lucy
    May 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    made me laugh

  3. Chris
    May 31, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    Matthew Parris is your metro liberal professional who thinks he is above everyone else in the intellectual stakes. Having seen him recently on the Daily Politics, discussing gay marriage, you could see him sneering at the Tory MP who was against it.

    He has an inflated view of his intellect and skill as a journalist.

    He’s the Tory version of Dan Hodges. Another fool, who has on a number of occasions, deleted my comments, along with others, because I dared to criticise him, by calling his work drivel.

  4. james cooper (@vicarjim4)
    May 31, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    you may get called a bitch for writing something like this, but a nice one?i

  5. George Igler
    May 31, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    “a note of gentle criticism lurking beneath the matey bonhomie”

    Nearly pissed myself.

  6. jazz606
    May 31, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    I’ve just re-read Parris’s article and yes it really is shite. I’m surprised that the Speccie accepted it.

  7. Simon Roberts
    June 1, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    The solutions to most problems are simple, but usually unpalatable as they require actions which will have a downside for someone.

    Much easier to obfuscate, over-complicate and justify your inaction as the country continues its downward spiral.

    We’ll be seeing a lot more of this as the main parties realise that the political landscape is changing.

    I wonder if Parris realises that his Alinsky-ite “play the man not the ball” approach is just the sort of thing that is turning voters away from the establishment?

  8. right_writes
    June 1, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    @Simon Roberts…

    “The solutions to most problems are simple…”

    Indeed they are and summed up in one line by that old “B” rated actor… Ronnie Raygun… When speaking to a hyperactive bureaucrat…

    “Don’t just do something… Stand there!”

  9. Ray Veysey (@rayveysey)
    June 1, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Well said Jim, Parris is past his cell by date, lock him up.

  10. Philip Foster
    June 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    As James Cooper says, “you may get called a bitch for writing something like this…”

    So JD, watch out lest old Parris gets the banns read someplace and you face a fate ‘worse than death’.

  11. Apparent bigot
    June 2, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Good call James

    As much as I used to enjoy MP’s writing, on this issue he is an apologiste for the cosy Westminster consensus failing us all. Poor from you MP – arise Bogpaper!

  12. foxbarn
    June 2, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Matthew Parris gets regularly clobbered by bloggers/commentators in his tedious column in The Times. He has fewer and fewer supporters for his spiteful little hissy fits. Representing Cameron’s ‘modern’ Tories, he is the high priest of their stupidity and represents perfectly why they are going down in flames, for good. He’s tried every possible attack on UKIP but the polls keep rising.

  13. Matthew Wilson
    June 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Have just been reading this month’s issue of Standpoint – the fifth birthday edition, incidentally – in which Tim Congdon raises the horrifying but difficult to dismiss question of what might happen if an In-Out referendum on the EU were held under a pro-In government (of whatever stripe, but using Cameron as an example) that resulted in an “Out” vote.

    Here’s Congdon’s question: “How would UKIP’s rank and file feel if they had worked hard to obtain a “no to the EU” vote in a bitter and exhausting referendum campaign, only for Cameron and his associates to betray the vote?”

    • Simon Roberts
      June 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

      My guess is that would be the point at which the Military would step in.

      I don’t believe there is a constitutional precedent so everyone would have to make it up as they went along.

      Cameron has been busy denuding the armed forces so I don’t think they would feel any particular loyalty to him. Whether or not HM would actually ask them to clear the Commons is anyone’s guess.

      I know that people will just dismiss this idea out of hand but we have actually come quite close to this on a couple of occasions in recent decades. Lots of people know about Wilson of course, but there was also the “secret” meeting between Alan Clarke and the defence chiefs in the 1990’s (I forget the year).

      • Matthew Wilson
        June 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

        Wilson rings a bell but I didn’t know about Mr Toad. (Time for me to do some googling…)

        Maybe they should just cut to the chase and put the Army on the ballot paper at the next general election?

  14. Matthew Wilson
    June 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    I have to admit I hadn’t previously budgeted for the possibility raised by Mr Congdon. The main check on politicians in recent times has been the fourth estate, but can that be guaranteed post-Leveson?

    It would seem bizarre for a government to hold a referendum on the issue of EU membership without agreeing to be bound by the result – otherwise the whole thing would be a pointless waste of time, effort and money. But since this is what politicians specialise in, you wouldn’t want to put it past them, would you?

  15. Matthew Wilson
    June 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Just been reading Spectator readers’ comments on Parris’s article. They are an utter joy. Particularly liked this one:

    HarryTheHornyHippo • 3 days ago

    Extraordinary! Two weeks ago we have an article on the ‘wheat and chaff’ of online comments, the gist being that 90% is chaff, now Matthew Parris wants to use that same chaff as the basis of for an attack on UKIP.

    For anyone who’s interested, the Tim Congdon article I mentioned previouslly can be found here:

    http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/5012

    • Noa
      June 3, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      Richard North, commenting on the Congden article, points out that UKIP has no EU exit strategy and needs to get its finger out…

      http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=83985

      • Simon Roberts
        June 5, 2013 at 8:32 am #

        Richard North has had a bee in his bonnet about UKIP since a falling-out a few years ago. His articles on the topic now seem a little coloured by emotion.

        The “exit strategy” is to repeal the European Communities Act (1972). There’s no need for Brussels’ agreement beforehand, they will be forced into accepting a new relationship between the UK and the EU.

  16. Barry
    June 6, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Good and accurate review.

    Frankly, if an article doesn’t offend somebody it probably isn’t worth reading anyway. That’s why much of the MSM isn’t worth bothering with.

  17. Immigration Advicers Wandsworth
    July 26, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    These are actually great ideas in about blogging.
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