Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charles Dickens explains why Lib Dem MPs can be bullies

I observed just before Christmas that, though ultimately it is right that the Nationalist parties should be excluded from the leaders' debates in the forthcoming general election, some Liberal Democrat bloggers did not show much generosity of spirit when discussing the point.

The same phenomenon could be seen in the Commons yesterday, where Nick Clegg was mercilessly barracked by both sides. So what did Liberal Democrat MPs do when an SNP member got up to ask a question? Did they listen to him in respectful silence to demonstrate our support for a plural, less partisan style of politics?

Did they bunnies!

As soon as Angus Robertson stood up the Lib Dem benches began a loud murmur of "Sean Connery, Sean Connery" - the point being that Connery is a major benefactor of the SNP but appears to have become something of a tax exile.

It was childish, which is par for the course in the Commons. Worse than that, it suggests we are no better than the other parties when given the chance to be the bullies.

As ever Charles Dickens was there first.

When Oliver Twist is apprenticed to Mr Sowerberry the undertaker he is put under the charge of Noah Claypole:
Noah was a charity-boy, but not a workhouse orphan. No chance-child was he, for he could trace his genealogy all the way back to his parents, who lived hard by; his mother being a washerwoman, and his father a drunken soldier, discharged with a wooden leg, and a diurnal pension of twopence-halfpenny and an unstateable fraction.
The shop-boys in the neighbourhood had long been in the habit of branding Noah in the public streets, with the ignominious epithets of "leathers," "charity," and the like; and Noah had borne them without reply.
But, now that fortune had cast in his way a nameless orphan, at whom even the meanest could point the finger of scorn, he retorted on him with interest. This affords charming food for contemplation.
Yesterday the Liberal Democrat MPs were playing Noah Claypole to the SNP's Oliver Twist.

Perhaps it was understandable, but as Dickens goes on to observe:
It shows us what a beautiful thing human nature may be made to be; and how impartially the same amiable qualities are developed in the finest lord and the dirtiest charity-boy.

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