Sport is “all about winning”, they say. But even in a brutal sport like boxing, there are rules. If the boxer you support, hits below the belt or bites off a part of the opponent’s ear, then only the most tunnel-visioned fan would celebrate their “victory”.
Politics is a brutal game too but again there are rules. However, there is no referee. The rules are supposed in theory to be enforced in this country by “civil society”. A vital part of a properly functioning civil society is a media which should expose breaches of the rules and through its immense power of communication enforce compliance.
Last week, the prime minister flagrantly breached the rules of acceptable behaviour in our democracy by calling those who opposed his plan to bomb in Syria, “terrorist sympathisers”. He refused many times to apologise on the floor of the Commons. Such an accusation goes well beyond the normal, robust hurling of political insults.
David Cameron’s comment is reminiscent of those of the vile, bullying Senator Joseph McCarthy, who - together with his followers - accused those who opposed him of being “Communist sympathisers”.
McCarthy operated during the Cold War. Cameron uses his McCarthyite slur during the War on Terror. When a powerful person accused opponents of sympathising with enemies of the State, they are telling others that they should discount arguments of those opponents because they are made from traitorous motives.
Very few in our media seem to grasp how destructive to our political system Cameron’s remarks are. They seem to be quite unable to view politics other than through the prism of party politics.
After five long years of McCarthy striking fear throughout American society in the early 1950s, it was a TV journalist, Edward R Murrow who played a crucial role in his downfall. That took moral courage of a high order. McCarthy had destroyed many people’s careers and worse.
Where in our media do we see a Murrow today?
Cameron has disgracefully and dangerously broken the rules of the political game and it is difficult to see who there is in our civil society who will do anything about it.
The situation is both depressing and very troubling.
Some things in politics are much more important than party politics.