Hanson goes?

By skepticlawyer

I was unaware until this morning that I had been quoted at length over at LP on the Pauline Hanson issue: not about her leaving the country, but about Tony Abbott’s shenanigans when he set up ‘Australians for Honest Politics’, which to my mind is a black mark equivalent to his behaviour over RU 486. I made the remark in comments on another thread, and Mercurius has made a post out of it, along with the opposing view. The thread has now developed into a lively debate on the right way to manage extremist political parties, with people holding forth — particularly — on the difference between Britain and Australia.

In short, Britain is managing its extremist groups far less successfully than Australia, and I argue that this is because in Australia (with the exception of Tony Abbott’s appalling behaviour), we exposed One Nation’s policies to the disinfecting light of day. In Britain, the default position seems to be an attempt to exclude the BNP and UKIP from ‘polite discourse’. It is — as should be reasonably obvious — not working. I made a comment to that effect, which I’ll include here so it is at least in context and people can see why I am making the points I do.

Brought across from LP:

I have only just found this thread, so apologies for my failure to appear earlier. I agree with Daryl Rosin, and suggest that people who think that Hanson deserved to go to gaol read the linked case he has provided.

Now, we lawyers are very seldom accused of having our heads in the clouds and being muzzy-minded idealists, but what Abbott did is not on. Why is it not on? Because the end does not justify the means. Go and re-read A Man for all Seasons, where St Thomas More points out that knocking down every law in England in order to get at the devil will have very nasty consequences when the devil turns on you and all the laws are gone.

Like sg [the main proponent of the ends justified the means approach], I have spent a significant amount of time in the UK. Indeedy, I am still here (completing my DPhil at Oxford University). Yes, I am one of those Australians at Oxbridge on a scholarship (not Rhodes, however, I was too old to apply for it). I have long felt — Tony Abbott’s reprehensible behaviour aside — that Australia has handled its far right parties far more successfully than the UK, precisely because it admitted them to the political process and took their arguments on.

In the UK, every time Nick Griffin turns up anywhere (even on that great British redoubt, BBC Question Time), there are a gaggle of demonstrators outside who are not only the great unwashed but are so comically stupid they actually drive people into the arms of both the BNP and UKIP. I watched the anti-fascists attempt to trash the Oxford Union in 2007 when it hosted Nick Griffin for a debate. This culminated in a bunch of idiots breaking into the Oxford Union building (a Grade 1 heritage site) and shouting over and over (so the entire city of Oxford was treated to the chant) ‘Kill Tryl’, the reference being to Luke Tryl, the then President of the Oxford Union, who extended the invitation. Lefties, believe me when I say the anti-fascists are not on your side.

There is a persistent trope over here that excluding these people (BNP, UKIP) from political discourse will make them go away. It doesn’t, because their policies never see the disinfecting light of day. Instead, they get elected to local councils and now the European Parliament (whose members are paid more than members of the House of Commons, with a more generous allowance). It is only a matter of time — even with Britain’s first past the post voting system — before they do make it into the Commons.

And no-one knows what they stand for, apart from the most diffuse understanding that the BNP doesn’t like brown people very much and that UKIP articulates the Tory Euroskeptic position that Margaret Thatcher rejected. Go and look at the BNP’s economic policies — I dare you. Go to their website and see that they advocate North Korean style economic autarky. How widely known is this in Britain? Not very, because no-one has ever fought the BNP ‘fair’. The BNP would lose in a fair fight, but it wins in foul fights, because the people who fight foully (as Abbott did against Hanson) are oftentimes foul people. Sometimes they are even fouler than that which they fight against.

And that is why — Abbott aside — Australia did the right thing when it came to One Nation. Britain is still going wrong, wrong and wrong. No wonder Hanson is on her way over here. Once again I will be bending people’s ears among my Tory friends (I am on the libertarian right, which means supporting the ‘Thatcher’ wing of the Conservative Party), but it seems Britain needs to blunder into the spider’s web and get bitten a few times before it learns from the Australian experience.


  1. Posted February 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s a choice between light of day (which I’d imagine requires a national stage) or oxygen.

    It is only a matter of time before they do make it into the Commons.

    I reckon there’s a lot to be said for ostracism – with the whole nation as a single electorate – and the politician voted out being banned from elected office or the likes of ambassadorships (not exiled) for 5 to 10 years. Preferably preferential, and preferably mid term. (And a state as a single electorate for state politicians).

    It was invented at the birth of democracy, and seemed effective at controlling discord.

    It’d tone down the biggest idiots on both sides of politics. And I reckon the “campaign” season would see leaks everywhere (good for governance) and be great fun overall – except for the “winner”.

  2. Posted February 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    dang… can someone fix the blockquote? It should only be a single line (“It is only a matter of time…”).

  3. Posted February 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Point of information: Tony Abbott’s actions flowed from a deep sense of personal betrayal, since David Oldfield helped organise One Nation while working as his staffer.

    Apart from that minor proviso, agree entirely. If mainstream politics will not engage with concerns people have, then that leaves an opening for non-mainstream politics. Elementary really–except for those for whom their sense of their own status will not let them do so, since disagreement on totemic issues is “evil” and the only answer is “just shout no”. Thereby, of course, proving you aren’t listening and apparently won’t listen.

  4. Posted February 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    You are quite right, Lorenzo, and to be fair another commenter on LP also raised the point that one reason Hanson is leaving is the ongoing bad blood between her and Abbott, and Abbott is now prominent in Australian politics. Not everything is politics: sometimes it’s personal, too.

    Dave: I think I’ve fixed it.

    BTW the debate over at LP is ongoing…

  5. Peter Patton
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    OK, I have definitely got the scoop for any die-hard climate change skeptics/deniers.

    In todays Crikey, under the “Politics’ heading, is a link to blog which discusses the imminent departure of The Pauline Formerly Known as an Australian, called

    Why we still haven’t moved on from Pauline Hanson politics

    The post starts off very reasonably by quoting the PM’s response to a question from Mel and Kochie:

    Kochie: Pauline Hanson says she’ll never run in an election again, what do you think about that?

    Rudd: Matter for Pauline. She’s had a colourful political career, obviously I don’t agree with her political standpoint, but she’s had a rough trot from time to time. I think she’s just decided to move on and I think, frankly, the Australian body politic wants to move on as well.

    K Rudd on Sunrise 12 February

    Regardless of what anybody thinks of Pauline, it was quite a deft soft-ball response from the PM. Except our erstwhile Crikey-linked blogger cannot let such a blase attitude go unchallenged, so starts its long post with this corker.

    No doubt the Australian body politic does want to move on, but it can’t. Because the forces that brought Hanson to prominence are back. Except this time it’s not in the language of anti-immigration, but climate change skepticism.

    Some mothers do ‘ave ’em!

  6. Posted February 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Which no doubt accounts for why, for example, the IPA (which did its best to derail Hanson) and Tony Abbott (ditto) have been attacking the ETS …

    Talk about “all right-wingers are the same, they’re all EVIL!” political prejudice passing itself off as analysis.

One Trackback

  1. By Racist speech – Don’t ban it, expose it on April 9, 2010 at 9:22 am

    […] As embarrassing, awkward and uncomfortable as it may make people feel, racist speech which is not an imminent incitement to violence should not be banned. Rather than covering up the racism in our midst by gagging racists, those who value Australia’s diverse and multicultural society need to respond by exercising their own speech. To paraphase from a great post at Skepticlawyer, the best response to racists is not drive them underground and pretend everything is ok, but to expose their ideas to “the disinfecting light of day“. […]

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