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Freelance Journalist Marcus Stead

Why Did Labour Allow John O’Farrell To Stand For Public Office?

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WHY ARE those on the left and right of the political spectrum judged by different standards when it comes to attacking their opponents? Here are three unpleasant statements about my political opponents:

“I hope Gordon Brown goes blind in his remaining eye. It’d serve him right for screwing up the British economy.”

“I hope David Blunkett’s guide dog leads him off a cliff.”

“I hope Chris Smith’s HIV turns into full-blown AIDS and that he dies an extremely slow and painful death.”

John O'Farrell, the alleged 'comedian' and Labour candidate in Thursday's by-election in Eastleigh.

John O’Farrell, the alleged ‘comedian’ and Labour candidate in Thursday’s by-election in Eastleigh.

Not very nice, is it? And I don’t mean any of it. So why is it that John O’Farrell, the alleged ‘comedian’ and Labour candidate in Thursday’s by-election in Eastleigh, has been allowed to get away with comparable comments about Margaret Thatcher?

In 1998, O’Farrell, already in his mid-30s and old enough to take responsibility for his actions, wrote a book titled ‘Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter’ in which, referring to Margaret Thatcher and the IRA-planted Brighton Bomb during the Conservative Party Conference in October 1984, he wrote: ‘In October 1984, when the Brighton bomb went off, I felt a surge of excitement at the nearness of her demise and yet disappointment that such a chance had been missed. This was me…..wishing that they had got her. “Why did she have to leave the bathroom two minutes earlier?” I asked myself over and over again.” He goes on: “I just hated her so very, very much.”

Also in the book, O’Farrell states that he wishes Britain had lost the Falklands War, which is an appalling insult to the troops who fought, and in some cases died in battle, as well as to the inhabitants of the islands, who would have been subjected to the tyranny of General Galtieri had Argentina won.

Let’s be clear: O’Farrell didn’t write this as a throwaway remark. He was a mature adult, who had already established himself in fashionable left-wing literary circles and as a regular on the Thatcher-hating BBC, especially on snide panel quizzes. The book would have been proof-read, edited, and checked by lawyers, and he would have had numerous opportunities to amend or remove his remarks before publication.

It’s bad enough that he didn’t delete these remarks at the time out of shame and embarrassment, but far worse is the fact that he has, at no time, apologised for making them in the years since.

If someone from a right-wing perspective had made remarks about Labour politicians like those in my example, they would quite rightly face scorn and condemnation from the mainstream media. Apart from one interview conducted by Andrew Neil (a rare example of a genuinely impartial interviewer at the BBC) with Labour’s Sadiq Khan, who stated that O’Farrell’s remarks were ‘tongue in cheek’, very little has been said. O’Farrell’s comments should be leading TV news bulletins, and be front page news in all newspapers, including those on the left.

That principle clearly doesn’t work both ways. My remarks about Brown, Blunkett and Smith sound a lot less funny. The trendy left don’t regard Brown and Blunkett as anything other than ‘brave’ for forging political careers due to their disabilities, and Smith is treated as a victim. I’m not disputing any of these statuses, but there is an obvious moral inconsistency between what’s acceptable to mock, depending on one’s political beliefs.

What DOES require an explanation is why do so many on the left feel such hatred towards those who hold differing beliefs to themselves? I count a pro-EU Labour councillor among my friends, I am on good terms with several former and current Labour MPs, and members of my family hold vastly different views to mine. I do not wish them any personal harm, and am confident enough in my own beliefs to defeat their arguments through peaceful means. Why can’t the likes of O’Farrell feel the same way towards their opponents?

The Grand Hotel, Brighton, shortly after the bomb during the Conservative Party Conference in October 1984.

The Grand Hotel, Brighton, shortly after the bomb during the Conservative Party Conference in October 1984.

O’Farrell’s comments first came to my attention via Norman Tebbit’s blog. Tebbit suffered terrible injuries in the Brighton Bomb, and it left his wife permanently paralysed. Tebbit put his marital vows ‘for better, for worse’ before his political ambitions, and his time in politics was cut short as he became a full-time carer. If the bomb had never happened, Tebbit may well have gone on to become Prime Minister, and I, for one, believe that Britain today would be a far happier and safer country as a result.

Through his blog, Tebbit gives us occasional glimpses into what life is like as a full-time carer. Nowadays, his wife has the added problems of old age on top of her paralysis. Does O’Farrell take any pleasure from this? Or what about another former Cabinet minister, John Wakeham, whose first wife was killed in the bomb? Wakeham was able to continue his political career, but sustained terrible injuries to his legs. He still walks with a limp and receives on-going medical treatment. Is O’Farrell glad?

Only those hate-filled types on the left can answer these questions, but I have a more important one: What on earth was the Labour party thinking of in letting O’Farrell become their candidate in the first place? Why, at the very, very least, didn’t they demand O’Farrell offer a full and sincere apology for his crass comments before he continued his political career?

Fit to run the country? Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

Fit to run the country? Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

This tells us a great deal about the judgement, and quite possibly the mind-set, of Ed Miliband and those close to him. It’s worth remembering that Miliband had a very strange upbringing. His father, Ralph Miliband, was a Marxist academic who wanted to destroy British society. Where most young children are taught nursery rhymes and simple songs, the Miliband children were taught to quote Marx. Even as children, they were allowed to sit around the table as their father discussed Marxist politics with far-left figures.

Children do not always follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to shaping their political views, but it’s hard to imagine how such an abnormal upbringing didn’t have at least some impact on Ed Miliband’s thinking.

No right-wing political candidate would survive wishing personal harm on Brown, Blunkett and Smith. The entire mainstream media would rightly paint them as lacking in credibility and integrity. Why are the rules different for those on the left?

If Ed Miliband and Labour are so crass at managing its selection of candidates, why should we trust them with the far more complex task of running the country?

Written by Marcus Stead

February 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

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