As Harry Callahan memorably observed when one of his adversaries overreached himself, “A man’s got to know his limitations”. Some of those who have been allowed to scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet have clearly not taken heed of these wise words, and one of them is Tim Montgomerie, former ConHome stalwart and now permitted to write leaders for the Murdoch Times.
Monty, whose reaction to the unfolding saga of Phonehackgate was to utter the unfortunate “It is a desperate attempt by Labour to get revenge for the ousting of Damian McBride” was fortunate to opine in the same article that “Rupert Murdoch has been an overwhelming force for good in this country’s life and politics”. This was total crap, but at least it was career-advancing crap.
But now that he is at the Times, Monty’s limitations are all too apparent, especially when it comes to analysing the conflict in Gaza. Rather than accept that Israeli politicians and the IDF have been indulging in disproportionate response and collective punishment, he has scratched around for evidence to make the numbers of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side look less bad.
“How many of those killed in Gaza were terrorist operatives? Half? Hard to be sure but MSM need to do more explaining” he suggested, citing one Israeli source and by implication ignoring the UN, because, well, he doesn’t like their figures. And don’t even mention Peter Oborne: “Another [Oborne] moan about the pro-Israel lobby in the Tory Party. Why does he never write about the anti-Israel lobby inside Labour?”
Oborne was making a factual assessment, and whining that he should “look over there” at some other lobby which Monty imagines in his nightmares does not invalidate it. Then he sells the pass and shows his inadequacy by venturing “I make zero apology for noting in my Op-Ed that British Muslims are actively lobbying MPs to criticise Israel. Mainly because they are”.
What is so wrong with Muslims, or indeed anyone, lobbying their MP? Those of all faiths, and of none, may do this. That is what MPs are there for. But on he ploughs: “Britons of all faiths and none are concerned at Gaza but opinions are particularly strong within UK mosques”. Have I got news for Monty: they’re strong across the board. That is why Ed Miliband is getting traction by breaking with party precedent.
And on he goes: “Pundits regularly scrutinise the ‘Christian right’ or ‘Israel lobby’. Is it only the Muslim vote that is off limits?” There is no such thing as one “Muslim vote”. Then, without a hint of irony, he tells “Hamas bears principal responsibility for events in Gaza: senior Tories from [Conservative Friends of Israel] write to [The Times]”. That would be lobbying. But by those with whom Monty sympathises.
Send a clueless Tory cheerleader to do a journalist’s job, and that’s what you get.