by Theodore Dalrymple
The demagogic statement by the Shadow Chancellor, Mr McDonnell, that the residents of Grenfell Tower were murdered by political decisions, is proof that he is unfit for public office. It was a grossly inflammatory, as well as erroneous, thing to say; no doubt he would defend it in his own mind as conducing to a Leninist heightening the contradictions.
As it happens, Mr McDonnell has, in his career, been at the very least equivocal on the subject of political murdermurdering. It is a subject that he would be well-advised to leave alone in future.
But murder in any case does not cover the case of Grenfell Tower, because murder is the unlawful killing of someone with malice aforethought. To murder, one must either intend to kill, or at least seriously to injure, the person thus injured subsequently (within a year and a day) dying of the injuries inflicted.
Therefore, even if the deaths occasioned by the fire in Grenfell Tower were the result of bad decisions taken (incidentally, made by the very officialdom in whose honesty and competence many people appear to have such faith), they were not murder – unless it is maintained that there was actually a design to kill or seriously to injure the residents. If anyone believes that, he needs to see a psychiatrist.
Needless to say, however, Mr McDonnell was not aiming at truth in his statement, but at a kind of incitement: an incitement to a gratifying sense of moral outrage among his audience that would assist his accession to power. He was appealing to an uncritical mob mentality, and it appears that at Glastonbury, where he spoke, he found one.
What is alarming about this is that the Glastonbury mob was probably above average both in intelligence and educational attainment, as well as in long-term economic prospects. In other words, a mob mentality is gaining ground in this country, and all that stands between the rest of us and it is Teresa May, a nullity’s nullity; and even if she were replaced by palace coup, it would only be, most likely, by another nullity.
Our choice then, is between people who do not even have the courage of their lack of convictions and dangerous demagogues: not a happy choice, perhaps, but I know on which side I stand.
First published in Salisbury Review.