From Irish Political Review: June 2007

Tally Ho Ho Hoey!

It's another case of the unspeakable Kate Hoey MP in pursuit of something rather inedible, but not a fox this time. Ms. Hoey, who opposes the ban on hunting and has ridden with the Duke of Beaufort's Hunt, was being interviewed on BBC Northern Ireland's Hearts & Minds (Thursday, 10th. May) about Blair's legacy and the coming election for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

The interviewer, Noel Thompson, asked her if she agreed with Ian Paisley's remark that Blair's willingness to conciliate Republicans had delayed the bright dawn of a brave new day in this part of the world and Ms Hoey did, in her forthright way, kind of, like, sort of, agree, if you know what I mean, like, kind of thing:

"Well I think there certainly were times when I felt that there was being too, it wasn't so even handed as I perhaps had thought it should have been. But you know, whatever has happened in the past the reality is, as Alf (Dubs, former NIO minister) has said, he did stick to it and I remember being also in Northern Ireland in the very early days when he (Tony Blair) made it very clear that he was not in favour of what had been the Labour Party policy that a United Ireland was what the Labour Party was campaigning for and that was changed in the whole way of bringing in consent was very very important because it gave people in Northern Ireland some confidence that they weren't going to be sold out. And in the end you know that has worked out that at least what has happened now has been a result of the people of Northern Ireland voting for the parties that in the end have delivered a back to the assembly."

After rubbishing current Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain's candidacy in the election for Deputy Leader Ms. Tally Hoey then had this to say:

"There is no doubt about it, there has been a feeling in the Labour Party that the leadership has kind of left the membership behind and Parliament itself I think has been, there's been a feeling that Parliament has been ignored. So I think we'll see all the candidates. I personally won't be supporting Peter Hain and I'm hoping that those small number of people in Northern Ireland who are allowed to join the Labour Party and of course that's been something that has changed. Membership can now happen in Northern Ireland and, indeed, in a week or two, we'll see some announcements that will make it even more possible for people to become members and active members and I don't think many of them will probably be voting for Peter Hain."

Now then, what's to be said about this. First that Blair did not "bring in consent". Labour's position on Northern Ireland since the Fine Gael-led Coalition's declaration of an Irish Republic was that no change to its constitution could be enacted without the consent of its Parliament. The abolition of Stormont made that formulation redundant and Labour's Irish policy for some years was an occasional Troops Out crescendo played against the background of a fugue. Long before Blair that dissonance was cleared up when Labour committed itself to campaign for "Unity by consent". That is the position now. Labour is committed to campaigning for Ireland to be united, with the consent of a majority in the North. And that will be the position a month from now when Mr. Blair undergoes his apotheosis (or perhaps his apocolocyntosis, with Brown's election marking the pumpkinification of New Labour).

In any event, while Ms. Hoey clearly looks forward to the establishment of British Labour in Northern Ireland as yet another small u unionist party, no announcements of the next week or two can accomplish that. British Government policy these days is made and changed whimsically, on the backs of Lottery tickets, at the drop of a stetson. Labour Party policy is still subject to conference. British Labour in Northern Ireland may soon attain the status of a Forum Group along the lines of the Irish Labour Party organisation. It is possible. But that, and any other formal arrangement, will leave it committed to working for unification.

In recent years Ms. Hoey has been voting against Blairite measures, against Foundation Hospitals and against Top-up Fees. A certain leftist fantasy has had Gordon Brown, who voted for all of that, conspiratorially at the back of the back-bench revolts. In which case Ms. Hoey may find herself well-regarded by the Pumpkin and his friends. It's possible. But then she voted against the abolition of hunting. So it's not very likely.

Tally ho, hounds away!

Note on 'apocolocyntosis': Philosophers generally have had little enough sense; usually just enough to keep out of politics. Those who haven't kept out of politics have often come to a bad end. One thinks of Socrates and Boethius. Also Seneca.

Seneca was a philosophical and literary senator of the early Roman Empire. The emperor Clau Clau Claudius took Seneca under his wing and promoted the hypocritical lickspittle well beyond his merits. He became tutor to Claudius' adopted son and heir Nero and part of the plot which arranged the assassination of the one and succession of the other.

So far so good and pretty much par for the course. But Seneca then set the seal on his treachery by writing the Apocolocyntosis—a satirical skit on the Pumpkinification rather than the Deification (apotheosis) of Claudius in which the former emperor joins Julius and Augustus not as a fellow God but as an eternal pumpkin. Having helped murder his benefactor the philosopher had set about ridiculing him.

Seneca lasted a few years after that as a rather ineffectual eminence grise. Then tiring of him Nero gave him the option of a good death or a bad one. So Seneca finished by cutting his veins in a nice warm bath. Another glorious martyr for the noble cause of philosophy, or so some very silly classical scholars would have us believe.

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