Stupid, ignorant or dishonest? You decide

As I’ve probably remarked before, much of what appears on New Labour wannabe Paul “The Thinker” Richards’ blog is stupid, though (to my shame) I find myself strangely gripped by what passes for his arguments and am unable to resist visiting his site from time to time to see what’s new.

Here he is, responding to the uncomfortable fact that Labour’s 2001 manifesto contained these not especially ambiguous words: “We will not introduce ‘top-up’ fees and have legislated to prevent them.” OK. Over to Paul “The Thinker” Richards:

The Labour Party 2001 manifesto is invoked by opponents of the tuition fees Bill and others as though it was some kind of legal contract. This is part of the mythology of the Labour party: that manifestos are sacrosanct and any deviation from the pledges therein is a betrayal of the Labour movement. The Tories never had this problem. Famously, privatisation didn’t appear in their 1979 manifesto – they just made it up as they went along once in office.
It’s stirring stuff… but it’s also stuff and nonsense. (Fittingly, his post is titled, “Manifesto Nonsense”).

I’ll let the general argument — that it’s OK for parties to do X in government even when the manifesto specifically promises not to do X — pass without critical examination. All I’m going to do here is quote a chunk of the Conservatives’ 1979 manifesto, to give a sense of the extent to which Paul “The Thinker” Richards writes without any regard for the truth whatsoever. Here’s a bit from the section on nationalisation:

“We will offer to sell back to private ownership the recently nationalised aerospace and shipbuilding concerns, giving their employees the opportunity to purchase shares.

“We aim to sell shares in the National Freight Corporation to the general public in order to achieve substantial private investment in it…”

So if the Tories “just made it up as they went along”, as Paul “The Thinker” Richards alleges — and it is true that in their first term the Tories sold off a few things not mentioned in the manifesto — it turns out that they made it up by following lines clearly laid down in the manifesto; and what is “famously” the case in the impoverished thoughtworld of Paul “The Thinker” Richards, turns out, in fact, to be false.

Whereas in the case of Labour on tuition fees…

I’ll stop there. It’s too easy.

The answer to the quiz question at the top of the page, by the way, is almost certainly Al Gore, so if you’d like Paul “The Thinker” Richards to buy you a drink and — who knows? — share some of his Thoughts with you, just make sure you’re the first to pop the answer onto his comments board. I’d rather chew my own toes off.

UPDATE [3.45pm, 22.1.2004]: OK: I was wrong about the last bit. Paul “The Thinker” Richards says it was Blair in a school production of his stupid play. If true (an important qualification which must stand in front of every claim made on his blog), then that’s a better answer than Gore, who took part in a performance at, I think, his teacher training college, which is only arguably perhaps a “school production”. Although given that Paul “The Thinker” Richards confuses Fidel Castro and Che Guevara a bit further down the page in his “Thoughts” on cigars, it may be that he’s mixing up Blair and Gore, too. Always a possibility.

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