I’m a big fan of George, not least because a party called Respect names the right virtue for a complicated life, and politics is as complicated as it gets. And, being a small independent, you can be fairly sure George is genuinely true to his expressed principles. Trust and respect – a great combination.
Much twittering around the personally dismissive straw-man Dave threw back at George in response to his PMQ – about hypocrisy in which Islamic regimes we support and which we don’t. Now (see complicated, above) there is always a level of “hypocrisy” between actions and justifying reasons, and even with open debate before the Mali action, I doubt the outcome of supporting the French in Saharan Africa would have been different. Even with principles, in practice you always need to choose your battle-grounds, fighting where you might expect a positive result, pulling punches where …. life’s complicated.
George is a first class rhetorician, and an ace orator in steadily enunciating his whole question amid the house heckling, and ultimately in resisting the impulse to react to the personal insult he received for his troubles. In fact you might say he’s too good; hoist by his own petard even. His own use of rhetoric, right from the off with the euphemistic “adumbrate”, followed by a string of emotive venom-loaded barbs within the basic question, meant the undoubted moral high-ground in the question, is largely eroded by the time we get to its end. In essence:
“Could the PM explain why his government chooses to support Regime X but not Regime Y?”
The PM is maybe entitled to respond to the rhetorical barbs, but he is not entitled to introduce a straw-man of George’s controversial personal history, nor is he entitled to use it as a deflector to avoid the actual question. Too many barbs let Dave off the hook. (Anyway – the follow-up is in writing.)
But of course the question was not framed to elicit an answer, it was framed as a sound bite to raise the debate in public. Too good ? Very good. Dave and George both knew it full well. It’s a tough high-stakes game, a rhetorical arms-race. Another case of “the medium is the message” when the medium is George – quite clear from the moment Bercow introduces George to speak.
[Post Note: Here in intelligent debate with Andrew Neil – very impressive. A side issue, but given my rhetorical comments above, interesting that Neil opens with the question of his PMQ leaving him open to the attack.]