Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Sceptical about Europhiles From Sir Stephen Hastings

Sir: What a pity that John Major followed his admirable analysis of the weaknesses and dangers of New Labour with such confused advice to William Hague ('You can't win on the right, William', I January).

Most of what he recommends as Conservative policy is neither exceptionable nor new, although his support for the government over General Pinochet has surely little to do with the British interest.

The confusion arises over his use of terminology. What he writes indicates that he has swallowed Alastair Campbell's long-running Goebbels-like assertion that the Tory party has 'lurched to the right'. He pins the blame for this on what he calls 'Tory servants of ideology', and he extols the pragmatic approach as the true Conservative alternative.

Of course his disagreement with Mr Hague turns on the European question as it does for Messrs Heseltine and Clarke. 'Ideologues' and 'extremists' are the terms used to describe those of us who are concerned about what is happening in Europe.

Now the Oxford English Dictionary defines ideology as 'the system of ideas as the basis of an economic or political theory' and, alternatively, as 'visionary speculation'. It seems to me that neither of these definitions remotely describes the Eurosceptic position. Both, on the other hand, apply precisely to that of the Europhile.

Blair and his Conservative adherents, among whom, at least to some degree, we must now sadly include John Major, are attempting, as many propagandists have before them, to persuade simply by turning the meaning of language on its head.

By no stretch of the imagination can the Eurosceptic be described as captive to any ideology. Every Europhile is inevitably indulging in 'visionary speculation', and that has more in common with the punter on the racecourse than it does with pragmatism.

Is it extreme to question whether our long-evolved traditions and security should be sacrificed? It is not. It is what John Major says he wants -'thinking scepticism'.

Stephen Hastings

Wansford, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Afflictions of ...

From Sally Bedell Smith

Sir: I am fascinated that in her review of my book (11 December), Diana: The Life of a Troubled Princess, Julie Burchill resorted to a hackneyed stunt by pulling pejorative citations about Diana, Princess of Wales out of the index ('bitterness of', 'immaturity of', 'instability of', 'interests lacked by'). Two can play this game, so let the record show that the index also includes the following entries, which evidently were uncongenial to Burchill's tendentious thesis: 'beauty of', "charisma of', 'charity work of', 'compassion and empathy of', 'energy of', 'helpfulness of', 'humour of', 'intelligence of'.

Burchill is, to put it mildly, a writer with an agenda (quite apart from a book of her own she'd like to keep afloat). Years ago she hijacked Diana as a feminist icon - a notion difficult to sustain when Diana began adulthood wanting a husband who would (in Diana's words) 'look after me ... be a father figure'. Unencumbered by the facts, Burchill cranked out a paean to the Princess on the first anniversary of Diana's death, which was enthusiastically dismissed by the critics as ,schoolgirl crush gush', 'self-aggrandising opinion masquerading as journalism', 'hagiography which in its hysterical adulation and partisan vulgarity is an insult to its beloved subject'.

One crucial aspect of the Diana phenomenon is the deep emotional investment of women like Burchill in the mythology of Diana. These are the women who fulminate in Internet chat rooms and continue to put Diana on a pedestal. But behind this idolatry ties prejudice as well: an unwillingness to acknowledge, despite Diana's own statements and actions, that she suffered from persistent and severe symptoms of mental illness including depression, self-mutilation, bulimia, suicide attempts and fear of abandonment. …

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