FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

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FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

In the sorry mess that is Brexit, I’ve seldom thought anything else apart from shaking my head in disbelief at people’s (everybody’s practically) bad behaviour and stirrings of alarm (faint as yet) at the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal.

On the day that Parliament voted so decisively against Mrs May’s proposal, I was interested in comparing the style of the two closing speeches – Michael Gove for the government, and Tom Watson (Labour) for the opposition. Both were very good speeches but they were utterly different in style.

Dealing first with Gove, I was quite amazed that he could deliver so effective a speech. I had him down as what in Scotland would be called a ‘nyaff’ – generally ‘a wee nyaff’ – which loosely translated means an annoying, useless, worthless person. Someone who has irritated you but you’re not going to take any action against him because he’s ‘just a wee nyaff’. Gove’s speech was like an attack by a wasp – a series of fast action taunts against Corbyn which were designed to annoy him and damage his reputation. He did get annoyed but there was no external acknowledgement of this. He listened without comment to the end.

Watson was altogether a more dangerous opponent. He spoke calmly and quietly and he began in praise of Theresa May. He said he accepted that she acted in what she believed to be the country’s best interests in all her decision making and arguments; that she had put a great deal of her strength and energy into securing a vote in our favour. His brief account of things painted a picture of a fine servant of the country and he in common with many others admired her energy and commitment she brought to every task she undertook. At this point the camera briefly scanned Theresa May’s face; she looked as if she was about to cry, so that I said, ‘Don’t cry, Theresa, don’t cry.’ She didn’t cry and he went on to describe how the country was sympathetic to her. He himself had sympathy with her, listing some of her difficulties. Then in the same calm voice he said that however good her intentions, she had failed. She had not succeeded in building a consensus on anything; she was inflexible; she had decided the course of action she was recommending was the correct one and although he did not say so it was clear that he thought the rabid right wing of the Tory party were dominating the actions being approved. She had failed and she alone was to blame for this state of affairs.

At this point one had to pause and think about what was being said.

I myself (never a Tory sympathiser) have some sympathy for Mrs May. But Watson’s speech with its generous acknowledgement of the Prime Minister’s strength and drive; her capacity to hold to her position no matter who was the challenger made you realise that some of Mrs May’s finest qualities are also a weakness and make her unable to take any view or plan apart from her own seriously.

I could dismiss Gove’s remarks as mere propaganda and malicious spin because they were – not outright lies, but details from his history which could be mendaciously spun. The history of the English in Ireland is capable of different interpretations, and to have sympathy for the cause of a united Ireland does not make one a terrorist sympathiser any more than to believe the time has come for an alteration in the government of our component nations makes one any less British. Nor does a desire to terminate the monarchy mean one cannot be a patriot, or that to sympathise with the difficulties of the Palestinians means one is anti Jewish. These are differences of opinion and there should be room for them all in a democratic country.

But with Watson’s remarks you felt that every word was true; and that he had examined her strengths and weaknesses with shrewdness, insight, wisdom and tolerance and was kind in his remarks and fair in his judgement.

He made me reflect that Theresa May on finding herself still Prime Minister but with a reduced majority just carried on as if everything was quite normal. Whereas we are having the greatest constitutional crisis since the Abdication, she has attempted the impossible, and tried to ‘fix’ the differences within her own party, scrabble up a few loose ends in other parties and win a majority in favour of her preferred solution.

She failed to recognise that the crisis demanded that she set up a cross party group, comprising MPs of all parties and other interested parties (Farage to be invited also). It would have had to be headed up by a Leave person. Also there would have to be whoever available to the government was recognised as an ace negotiator. (Theresa May certainly doesn’t seem to be one of those.) She and the cabinet should have carried on running the country and this special group should have been negotiating with Europe.

It’s probably too late for this approach now. Goodness knows what the outcome will be.

Tom Watson gave a good speech. He shone light in a dark corner.

 

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

2 Responses to FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

  1. Jack Paterson says:

    Well said. Thank you.

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