No politician can hope to command universal admiration. So it is no surprise that, among the generous and thoughtful tributes to former Labour leader Michael Foot, there would be an amount of petty, mean spirited and occasionally downright abusive dross. All these attributes are commanded by the blogger who styles himself Devil’s Kitchen, in a sneering, intemperate and all too typical post last Wednesday.
Devil’s Kitchen asserts that Foot “was one of those people who believed that the wider community (represented by the state) had the right [to] enslave the individual”, which is total drivel. As any fule kno, Foot was passionate about freedom, and no-one who has seen his defence of the press – fortunately preserved and freely available to view – could believe otherwise.
But this attack is no more than the parading of dogma politics: the use of the term “enslave” reveals the regurgitation of a libertarian creed that is as pure as it is divorced from reality. Therefore, the appreciation that politics is inevitably the art of the possible does not enter. Instead, there is a puerile attempt to equate Foot with Stalin and Hitler – Glenn Beck would no doubt have approved – while conveniently forgetting that Foot stood unequivocally against both.
Fortunately, when the dogma of libertarianism places itself before the electorate – that convocation of beings who exist within the real world – it is routinely relegated to deposit-losing ignominy. So, in deriving amusement and satisfaction from another wingnut faction getting their come-uppance, am I a supporter of what Foot stood for? Generally, no: many of his views were anathema to me. But that does not stop me having a respect for a man of principle and pragmatism.
For Devil’s Kitchen, though, there is only the principle of sneering abuse: here is a vacuous nobody, a self-important “keyboard hero”, an apostle of unreality. I was going to say that he didn’t reach up to Foot’s ankles, but that would have insulted the memory of a great public figure by equating him with someone whose intellectual reach extends only to substituting expletive-strewn abuse for reasoned debate.