3 December 2015

Hilary Benn is worth ten Alex Salmonds


The Scottish Nationalists are excelling themselves over the Syria vote, I see. Mhairi Black tweeted of an allegedly dark night in parliament after MPs backed British involvement: “Will never forget the noise of some Labour and Tory cheering together at the idea of bombs falling.”

That is, as we people from Paisley say, “utter garbage.” There was no pleasure in those cheers in the Commons; many people who voted for action did so with heavy hearts in the knowledge that others are being put in harms way. The West is trying to defeat a death cult that aims to enslave and destroy us.

Yes, there was a rush of emotion in particular when Hilary Benn sat down having closed the debate for Labour. But he was cheered because he had just delivered a stunningly brilliant speech. The final two minutes or so are as good as anything delivered in the Commons in my lifetime.

It has provoked the most undignified and small minded response from the hard left, and from some Scottish Nationalists too. I suspect there is an element of jealousy involved. Remember, some Nationalists have fallen for their own hype about their 56 MPs, sorry 54 now the police are investigating two, transforming parliament and being brilliant. And here was old Hilary Benn, from the party the Nationalists are obsessed with destroying, Labour, getting all the plaudits and showing them how it should be done.

Rather than calming down overnight, Alex Salmond even went on radio today to say that Tony Benn would be “birling” (Scottish for spinning) in his grave over Hilary’s speech

This only proved beyond doubt that Hilary Benn is worth ten of Alex Salmond. Indeed, the former SNP leader is devaluing himself at such a rapid rate that one Hilary Benn will soon be worth twenty Alex Salmonds.

One person it is safe to say would have been extremely proud of Hilary Benn is his father. The pair disagreed on a great deal politically, but the love and paternal pride Tony Benn had for his son shines through in his diaries. Incidentally, one hears a lot of rubbish talked about Tony Benn by his fans. He was, they tweet, “always opposed to war.” That is untrue. He was very much in favour of fighting the Second World War to defeat fascism and he was in the RAF. It was later that he shifted, after initially supporting the Korean War.

As for Salmond’s behaviour, it is becoming increasingly odd. His television performances have taken on a frenzied quality. He looks ever more furious and tired.

It need not have been this way. There was a moment in the days after the Scottish referendum in 2014 when he might have retired graciously. What an audaciously successful career, in nationalist terms, he had had, conning Labour into devolution and then putting together a threadbare economic prospectus that got him to within five points of breaking apart one of the most successful countries on earth. If he had retired then, had a proper holiday and toured the world, he would have had a very nice time and been respected even by opponents. Instead, he couldn’t help himself, possibly because he is addicted to the limelight. Salmond had to come back for another go, raging, raging “against the dying of the light.”

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX