No doubt everyone will have read about Manish Sood today, the Labour Party candidate for North West Norfolk who stuck something of a spoke in the wheels of the election campaign by denouncing Gordon Brown as the worst Prime Minster this country has ever had and maintaining that he ought to apologise to both Queen and country for the mess we find ourselves in.
Now, politically speaking, this chap is clearly bonkers. He has strayed so far from normative procedural practice that he couldn’t realistically expect anything better than to be written off as a hopeless eccentric, or worse. And yet, one cannot help but wonder if this is precisely his strength, even if those increasingly despised robots walking round Westminster rigidly observing the established rules of the political game fail to see it. Undoubtedly, some of the things Sood says appear wholly daft, other things completely absurd, and his proclamation that we should aspire to live back in the 70s, for example, just sounds bizarre. But then, at the same time, by saying such a thing what is Sood really doing but expressing that deep and often buried truth that so many instinctively feel, even if they’re taught from an early age to always think otherwise – that things were better in the past, even the not-so-distant past, the past of our fathers and grandfathers before us. Perhaps then the man should have been a poet rather than a politician – though it is a shame that a politician can no longer be a poet.
So what did he say? Well, amongst various other things, some of them refreshingly bonkers, and for that reason containing an important nugget of truth, his basic argument seemed to be based on nothing more complicated than this: ‘The loss of social values is the basic problem, and this is not what the Labour Party is about’.
To which I would heartily agree. As would many working-class voters who Labour presume to think it still has a moral right to represent, despite it largely despising them nowadays. Of course, such utterances are enough to have one thrown out of the contemporary Labour establishment as a dangerous heretic; the modern Labour Party is no broad church, and anybody who thinks its social programme to be anything other than wholly enlightened must clearly be either a) a Tory dinosaur or b) a bigoted monster, which in New Labour minds is roughly the same thing.
Accordingly, all those people who might have historically been Labour voters have suddenly found themselves unceremoniously dumped, told that they’re dreadfully right wing, most laughably by a cabal of charlatans whose right-wing individualism underpins their social doctrines and whose right-wing Thatcherism underpins their economic doctrines. Mr Sood, as one would expect, immediately suffered precisely this fate, with Sunder Katwala tweeting that he’s a muppet (what, not a ‘bigot’?), and Peter Mandelson describing him as a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. All in all a good response, I would say.
Sood, however is unrepentant, and if anything his views are becoming more robust. He says in the Independent,
‘I will stand by what I say because I know it’s the truth and nothing but the truth… If they are not going to listen, I’m going to carry on saying what I’m saying because they are damaging the country… My motive is to clean up the system, to make Great Britain the best country in the world… People have lost respect for being British and being part of this system and part of this country… What I am saying is the right truth and nothing but the truth and as a result people have become too spoiled, too used to the system and too used to the bureaucracy, the corruption. I’m trying to improve the system… I am a true staunch Labour Party member, my policies fit in very well with the party, it’s just they can’t accept it because they have been too used to the modern-day thinking… I have still got an uphill battle ahead of me but I never give up. I’m a freedom fighter and I will continue because I am proud of being British and I want my country to be the best country in the world.’
‘Proud of being British and I want my country to be the best country in the world.’ For all his evident eccentricity this man has been courageous enough to say those things the political classes absolutely refuse to countenance, even if the public at large speak of little else. From out of nowehere, two days before what could be an era-defining election, one man, claiming to be the true possessor of the Labour ideal, an Asian man, the son of immigrants, standing in Norfolk of all counties, offering a social conservatism that would have been perfectly orthodox only a generation ago, oozing patriotism and a royalist to boot; this man, this Labour man, attacked his metro-masters and did it in the name of his country and his party. He might be a fool, but he’s a patriot. He might be wrongheaded, but he is undoubtedly right-hearted. He may be hated by those in Westminster; but then so was Cobbett.
Or maybe I’m creating a myth of a man. Think of him what you will. Disagree with his ideas (and some of them I really do). Ridicule him, slander him, mock him and despise him. But don’t think he will pass wholly unnoticed. Even if his name never appears again, his influence will already have had an impact, thrusting yet another wedge into an already breached hull, emboldening others to pick up their tools and tear apart this rotting wreckage of a ship, so that another one might be built in its place, a much better one, one more in keeping with the mind of its creators. I mentioned in a previous blog post that maybe, just maybe, this election will prove the high-tide of the pernicious ‘progressive’ influence on the Labour party, and that perhaps a heavy defeat will encourage a return to those roots that have been so systematically abandoned. If it does, then it will win more than it loses. If it does not, it will sink, holed beneath the water line, fatally missing those once loyal and resilient crewmen who would have got below deck, plugged the holes and manned the buckets, all the while cursing the name of their prancing Captain, abandoning them as he did for a passing ship called ‘the LibDem’.