There was a fair of fuss here in Australia recently when an aging radio talk-show host called Alan Jones suggested that the recently-deceased father of the prime minister had died of shame for her repeated lying. It was a dumb thing to say. Fathers are usually rather proud of their daughters, however unattractive they are, and John Gillard appears to have been no exception. And of course, it was crass and personally offensive to intrude on any person’s grief in this way. I always rather admired Tony Benn’s stance on this: how heated a political argument, it is always best to avoid personal insult.
The left have reacted violently, characterising Jones’ remarks as “disgusting” and seeking to blame the leader of the opposition for them. Not for the first time, they have rather over-egged the pudding. For a start, Jones is a Shock Jock: it is his role in life to say provocative things, and his comments do not deserve the attention that they have been getting. But more importantly, the record of the left is just as bad, or perhaps rather worse, than that of the right in this respect, and those who live in glass houses are well-advised not to throw stones.
And this point was very evident this week, when the Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper (appointed by the Labor Party) was revealed as having referred to a political opponent as an “ignorant bitch” and having compared female genitalia with a particular sort of shellfish in a way that really was rather disgusting. Curiously, all the more so for the fact that he misspelled the offensive language. Unsurprisingly, Mr Slipper has now resigned, and so the government has been forced to nominate someone else, thereby potentially losing another vote. The very slender majority of the Australian government now rests a small collection of people with markedly unattractive qualities, standing guilty (or at least accused) of fraud, sexual predation, extreme misogyny and/or betrayal of electoral promises. Unedifying. An election would be welcome, if only to clear the air. There must be better candidates for political office than this lot, both from the left and the right.