I rate Dan Hannan, the Conservative MEP. I don't always agree with him, but his writing and speaking style is clear and precise - and invariably well argued. He wrote this thought provoking article in yesterday's Telegraph. Provoked me anyway. But then I agree with the content. Lets consider this extract.
On why politicians give evasive answers ... "Ninety nine times out of a hundred, its because their opinion diverges from the party line. And so, not wanting to tell a lie, they effect to misunderstand the interviewer, or answer a different question to the one that was put, or use a lawyerly formulation.........because of the wretched, and relatively recent doctrine that no two members of a party can reasonably disagree" ... This describes the idiocy to which our political discourse has descended. I'm always insulted when someone with whom I'm involved in conversation refers to my having given a 'politician's answer'. Its something I try never to do. The flawed assumption on which all this is based is that the politician represents 'the party' rather than 'the constituency'.
Over the last few weeks, Dan Hannan has been big in the news as a result of expressing his opinion - honestly. He's repeated his long held opinion that the British system of delivering health care is in need of reform, and he's expressed his admiration for Enoch Powell. What on earth is wrong with that. But the Labour Party sought to make a big public issue of it. And, shamefully, the media, and the BBC in particular ran these stories as if they were news - using its dominance of the news agenda, financed by the 'poll tax' subsidy of the licence fee, to stick legs on a tiddler. Thankfully, the public seems to have seen this dishonesty and sycophancy for what it is.
Because I'm a parliamentary candidate, I do think about what sort of Parliamentarian I'd like to be. First and foremost, I would want to be a 'constituency MP'. I accept that where a three line whip is imposed, I would have to 'follow orders', except in extreme circumstances. But I would not be prepared to stifle my opinions. I would want the freedom to make clear my disagreement with party policy if I thought it wrong. I realise that sometimes I would have to accept a majority opinion of my party that I disagreed with. But I could not survive without the freedom to argue my case.
Next week, David Davies, MP for Monmouth is coming to Montgomeryshire to speak at one of our events. Haven't spoken to David for a while, but I suspect there are policy areas where we disagree. There always have been. But he's a much valued friend and colleague. We are both committed to the Conservative Party, we both have a tendency to say what we think, but we both accept that in the end the majority view of the party will prevail. That's how Dan Hannan sees politics. And so do I.