So sad to hear a broken Norman Tebbit on the radio tonight. I mean it. His voice is soft and weak, his anger still all-consuming. Injured in the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing – his wife was paralysed for life – you can hear in his voice that time is running out. I loathed Tebbit the politician, who was an integral part of Thatcher’s repellent Tory government of the 1980s that changed Britain forever, and not in a good way, but I feel nothing but pity now for this frail old man.
Just because I hated the politician – and he still makes me froth at the mouth every time I see and hear him – his elevation to the top tier of politics was entirely down to us, the electorate. And just because I detested the way government to which he belonged almost killed off the NHS, made the country far more unequal, destroyed the public sector and much of the manufacturing sector and made Gordon Gekko our national role model couldn’t undo the fact that we elected them to do just that. Norman Tebbit did not deserve to have his life ruined just because he was an unpleasant right wing bigot. The fact is he was a democratically elected unpleasant right wing bigot.
There is a place for hate. We can pretend that we should love everyone and forgive everyone who commits even the most horrible atrocity, but real life ain’t that way. There are plenty of people I truly hate: Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher (still), people who kill beautiful wild animals for fun, Nigel Farage, certain Daily Mail columnists and their editor, Rupert Murdoch and everyone who ever hurt a child. Oh, and Nigel Farage. I don’t see why Tebbit shouldn’t hate someone, not least a mass murderer who never admitted his crimes, nor repented.
The BBC has judged the public mood beautifully. No fawning to a peacemaker who also murdered people, everyone allowed to speak their mind. Families of those murdered by the Birmingham pub bombers, the friends of McGuinness who see him in a very different way than I do and the incredible Colin Parry whose 12 year old son was murdered by the IRA, the sons of Ian Paisley whose affection for McGuinness was qualified, but only just. It was a roller coaster through “the troubles” and it was, at once, gripping, heartbreaking, sick-making and every other emotion under the sun.
But the contribution which moved me most came from Tebbit. And it was Tebbit because of the enslaving effects of old age. No more the bully-boy, controversial Chingford Skinhead who poured scorn on the unemployed from his privileged seat at the top table of government. Just a shrivelled old man late in life, seeing out his days with the love of his life confined to a wheelchair. I’d be bitter too, to see the quality of my life snatched away in a heartbeat by evil, cowardly terrorists.
Only someone with a heart of stone would not feel some sympathy with the old boy, regardless of his politics. I loathe everything he stands for, but I don’t have a heart of stone.
When told of the death of McGuinness, Tebbit said,”The world is a sweeter place today.” That’s pretty well how I felt when I heard the news of Margaret Thatcher’s death. So I am not going to criticise him for that, am I?