Delingpole on Friday: Politics is the art of the possible. Says who?

At a UKIP hustings in Birmingham the other day I had a bit of nasty shock. Not having read my briefing notes as carefully as I might, I was under the impression that when my turn came at the rostrum the party executive on the bench beside me would hand me the topic for my speech and away I’d go.

“Right, are you ready? You’ve got five minutes,” said the local party chairman.

“All right,” I whispered back. “What’s my topic?”

“What do you mean? You’re supposed to be delivering your prepared speech on why you’re the best candidate to be a UKIP MEP,” came the reply.

“Oh,” I said, glancing at the expectant crowd of UKIP faithful (this was very much a closed, members-only evening) and hoping my fear didn’t show.

Then, with zero time to prepare, zero time even to think what I was going to say, I launched into what turned out to be maybe the best speech I’ve ever given.

It worked because it came straight from the heart.

I talked about how the last thing I wanted to be was a politician. Politics, I said, was the problem not the solution. It was politics, I argued, which had created the “Westminster bubble” where – whether you voted for a blue rosette, a red rosette or, God forbid, an orange rosette – you still ended up with the same old bunch of politicians pushing the same old, samey anti-democratic stitch up of a worthless agenda.

This seemed to go down well with the audience and differed, I subsequently gathered, quite markedly from the speeches given by the other candidates. Most, though not all, used their time to list their life achievements so far and explained why this rendered them suitable for the esteemed office of Euro MP.

To be honest, I find this less a comfort than a cause for guilt. Here were decent, hard-working, committed candidates who’d absolutely set their hearts on a stint in Brussels. And here was I, half stealing the show with my semi-celebrity (a lot of them were fans of my Telegraph blog) in order to campaign for a post about which I remain extremely ambivalent.

I’m only really interested in politics as a chance to destroy the system, not prop it up, let alone endorse it. Sure sitting on one EU sub-committee or another might afford the party the illusion of having a certain democratic oversight over the whole corrupt EU process. But ultimately it’s the EU commissioners who make the crazy decisions, not the members. Almost all their bad ideas get through – the olive oil ludicrousness was a rare exception – regardless of the resistance put up by UKIP and its allies.

Not for the first time I find myself asking: am I really cut out for being a politician?

One thing that would suggest I’m not is that I’m continuing to write pieces like this. Were I really serious about my candidacy, you might argue, I would mask my thoughts and intentions more carefully. Even Boris manages this to a degree.

Here’s the irony, though: the reason I connected with the party faithful in Birmingham is precisely because I’m incapable of censoring myself and because I tell it like it is. Perhaps for some deep-seated psychological reason, perhaps because it has proved an effective journalistic schtick over the years, I’ve always been something of a compulsive truth teller. It gets me into an awful lot of trouble sometimes and can occasionally give offence. But these, I’ve found, are small prices to pay for the alternative which is to go around, feeling shit about yourself for having compromised your own integrity.

My friend Toby Young would no doubt see this as a sign of my political immaturity. You’ll hear him suggest as much on the podcast we recently recorded for the Telegraph on whether the Conservatives deserve to win the next election. Toby describes how, in his younger days, he entertained a radicalism similar to my own. (Actually he goes further than that: he says basically mine are the views of his “14 year old anarchist” self) But what he’d learned from creating his Hammersmith free school was that the state, far from being our overbearing enemy, is a wonderful “enabling mechanism.”

What  Grandpa is telling me, in other words, is that politics is the art of the possible.

I’ve heard this line before somewhere. Quite often in fact. But as with that other cliché “elections are won in the centre ground” just because a phrase is repeated ad nauseam doesn’t necessarily make it so.

“Politics is the art of the possible” led to the focus groups and cynical triangulation of Tony Blair. “Politics is the art of the possible,” gave birth to Cameron’s love affair with Nick Clegg.

But “politics is the art of the possible” had nothing whatsoever with the revolutionary spirit with which Margaret Thatcher rescued Britain from its supposedly inevitable “managed decline” in the early Eighties, in defiance of what all the proto-Toby-Youngs out there were saying at the time.

Nor, I think we can safely say, does “politics is the art of the possible” have anything to do with UKIP.

If it does, I’m with the wrong party.

9 comments on “Delingpole on Friday: Politics is the art of the possible. Says who?

  1. Peter Maidstone
    July 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Good on you. I only wish you were considering standing in the South East. Keep telling it like it is. It is the only solution to our present circumsances,

    • right_writes
      July 20, 2013 at 9:38 am #

      I hope he doesn’t Peter, my son is attempting to stand there and he doesn’t have JD’s charisma…

      He has the heart though!

  2. silverminer
    July 19, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    And me. Stick to your guns Delingpole. This is not a time for “consensus politics”. Ideological clarity is what we need. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

  3. The Austrian Way
    July 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    You’ve got my vote!

  4. Brian the Rhetaur
    July 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Standing up and speaking ‘from here’ is a very effective technique. Most, though, find it hugely difficult. Politicians regard it as suicide – and that’s why we have the current shower.
    I am bound to say that without underpinning it with just a little infra-structure it is very risky…

  5. Simon Roberts
    July 20, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    I was shocked by Toby Young in that discussion. He has gone completely native. For a supposed Conservative to describe a state sector that employs seven million people and sucks the very life out of the economy as “enabling” demonstrates perfectly why the political establishment desparately needs to be replaced.

    Toby Young was effectively saying that within the constraints of the Westminster system, X, Y and Z are possible, anything else remains an unrealistic pipe-dream.

    What I was expecting James to say was “No Tobes, it’s the other way round. The reality is that you are imposing the limits of what is possible within the Westminster system on politics. The likes of UKIP wish to break that system and to make all good things possible, not just the things that are acceptable to those in the Westminster bubble”.

    And James could have added: “And by the way Tobes, I hope you realise that you yourself are part of that Westminster bubble. Citing Michael Gove’s educational policies as a triumph means that you are lauding him for not actively obstructing the creation of Free Schools. You are speaking as though no action should take place unless approved by Westminster”.

    • right_writes
      July 20, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      YesToby…

      UKIP want to get OUR country back not just from the EU…. but more importantly we want it back from Westminster and the local town halls, and the quango’s and the “cherities”, and all the other millstones that we currently have to drag everywhere.

      Well said Simon.

    • blingmun
      July 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

      Indeed. There’s a very important lesson that you should ALWAYS remember when debating lefties. Never attempt to argue that the State is entirely useless when it comes to improving society. When the budget runs to hundreds of billions it is almost impossible that no good will be done. Your opponent will then bore anyone listening with endless examples of things the State does that do indeed provide very well for the general benefit of society. You will be reduced to carping about the cost to the taxpayer and the inefficiency of organising things in this way blah blah.

      This is the trap Toby has walked into. He obviously started life believing that no good could come of State involvement. But now he’s seen what can be done with other people’s money he’s been converted and, like any other socialist, forgotten all the iniquity, social costs and coercion required to make this possible.

  6. btsmith
    July 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    What’s possible is what we say is possible!

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