Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition

The constitutional role of the opposition is a central part of the Westminster system. It is important that politicians are allowed to oppose the Government of the day without being considered unpatriotic, or 'disloyal'. It is a convention that has not always taken particularly well in the countries to which it has been exported - witness Zimbabwe for an extreme example. The freedom of the opposition to oppose is complemented by the freedom of the press to oppose, to expose and to vilify without being shut down. In countries without these established freedoms, a favourite tactic has been to portray opponents of the government as mad or bad or both.
Polly Toynbee is not, inshallah, an emanation of the state. Her writings are not policy, her opinions not hugely important. But have a look at the language she is using to describe people who disparage the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The Times, rabid yesterday...
The Tories hunt for a hint of taint...
The malevolent Andrew Turnbull...
The overbearing power of the rightwing media...
The enemy's one aim is to destroy Labour's best asset...
The words used are very revealing. Others have speculated, somewhat graphically, on the reason that Polly is so defensive over the Chancellor. I'll leave it by saying that viewing the political opposition as an evil 'other' is damaging, and believing that while writing columns that perpetually seek to defend Gordon Brown from any slight, however, trivial, you somehow represent a saintly left-wing press that refuses to be as doggedly partisan and tribal as the right-wing press is spectacularly self-deluded.

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