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March 04, 2010


The Silent Sceptic

I find the concept of 'conviction politicians' a bit disturbing, because it suggests a person who will stick to their conviction in the face of any amount of opposing evidence.

David Cameron is often claimed 'not to believe in anything', which in some ways sounds very good, because it could open the door to effective evidence based policy. What it actually opens the door to is aimless attempts to appeal to whatever current cause celebre is most likely to win a few more votes.

So it would seem that you just can't win.

Michael Fitchett

I quite agree with you Chris. There was nothing 'heroic' about Labour politicians being more afraid of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain than they were of Adolf Hitler. and there was nothing heroic about the 1960s.
The only point I might disagree with you is the exchange rate: we didn't think it was trivial in 1965.


The 1930s perhaps seems an heroic age to politicians as it was the last peace-time period when Britain was a Superpower, or at least the foremost Great Power, and the warblings of Westminster were heard around the world.

T Mob

How was Tom Driberg corrupt?

James Hamilton

Great post, Chris. My thoughts exactly, but you put them better than I ever could have managed.


@ T Mob - he was a KGB agent and a friend of the Kray twins, and he did use his friends in the media to suppress stories about him.

Ian Leslie

Great post. But is the "ruling class" any more ignoble, stupid etc than the rest of us? Or are you really describing human nature?

Phil Beesley

@Chris Have you read the Driberg biography by Francis Wheen? Wheen is nobody's idea of a fool and his work on Driberg contradicts many of the stories about the subject (esp. KGB involvement). I agree that Driberg was able to influence journalists to prevent exposure of his private life. But cottaging and homosexuality should never be news stories anyway.


Listening to focus groups may reflect voters’ concerns and it may also ensure greater political stability moderation, but you can’t help feeling that it diminishes politics and politicians.

People like Foot and Powell entered politics on the basis of their convictions and their careers were devoted to the pursuit of these convictions often in the face of public and media opposition. This is much more difficult to do today because of the influence of the media and PR men.

Consequently, there are fewer greater men and women in the House of Commons today than 30 or 50 years ago, which may be one of the reasons for the general disenchantment with politics.

The involvement of the public in politics by means of of focus groups seems to have the effect of reducing their interest and involvment in other parts of the political process


Michael Foot and his two brothers were known as "the three feet".

harry h

Of the many epithets you might choose to describe Enoch Powell, 'crass' should not be one of them.

ex RAF

With reference to that "heroic age in politics" Michael Foot took no active, military part in either the Spanish Civil War nor World War 2. I doubt that it was due to any physical disability as he was never short of breath when delivering his interminable speeches.He also used to walk miles every day up until recent years. And he had a good innings surviving to the age of 96. He was a windbag.

Alfred Burke

With all due respect, it was the Eye that christened Ted Heath the Grocer, for no more sinister reason than that they fancied he looked like a village grocer!

Agree with Phil Beesley, viz: cottaging and homosexuality should never be news stories anyway.


So Powell pandered to the worst racism of the mob. Check what he actually said. Most of it has come to pass. All he did was tell the truth. Can't think of any modern MP that would stoop so low as that.

alanm crisps

I saw Foot once in a pub after Fulham v Plymouth.

He unconsiously sat down at a different table to his pals. None of them said anything, they just got up and moved to where he had sat.

Matthew Stiles

ex raf is an ignoramus. Foot volunteered for military service but was rejected because of his chronic asthma. Chris makes good points but even so Foot was a great man. I loved this quote “We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer ‘To hell with them.’ The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.”


Great post.

I would forgive the Labour Govt that obsession with the trade balance, owing to the system of the day, but not their failure to notice the long term productivity decline.

I also think at lower levels of income a concern with the grocer's bill is more rational - them all being stuck at the bottom of Maslow's pyramid as it were.

I suspect there may be a literal defn of 'Heroic' in the same sense as a heroic figure of history: someone who can change the course of events by their actions. There must have been a time when speeches in the Commons made a difference. But was it Foot's period? His speeches - did they change the world?

Gladstone and Disraeli might have, Pitt surely. But as late as the well-whipped 1960s, I doubt


@ Ian Leslie: "Great post. But is the "ruling class" any more ignoble, stupid etc than the rest of us?"

Well, more ignoble, yes; more grubby, yes; but perhaps not more stupid. It is "we" who allow ourselves to be ruled by such people who are stupid!

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