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Sir John Mortimer, RIP

TheFatBigot Opines: Sir John Mortimer, a good hypocrite, RIP.

Sir John Mortimer was (and I think this is the best that can be said of anyone) a kind but flawed human. On civil liberties, he was 100% sound. If our political leaders felt in their hearts one-tenth of the reverence for "the golden thread" so beloved by Rumpole our country would not be in the mess it is today. I knew I would never be a Conservative again when John Major cut that thread by abolishing the right to silence, thus moving the onus of proof towards the accused. History will record him as a villain for that.

Yes, Mortimer was a Socialist. The FatBigot excuses him that because he thinks he was an hypocrite. In making his point, he sums up some of my own frustrations;

He was wedded to socialism as his religion of choice. That's the way life is and the way people are. No matter how much evidence accumulates that state control of an economy is a certain recipe for stagnation and bankruptcy, if you continue to believe in the theory you will dismiss the evidence as proof that the theory was not put into practice the right way. No matter how much evidence accumulates of social engineering leading to the poorest being trapped forever at the bottom of the heap and the able from modest backgrounds being prevented from achieving their potential, if you believe in the theory you will call for more of the same.

I have met - and liked - many of Sir John's ilk. He grew up in comfort. Being a nice man, he felt guilty that people around him had fewer chances. Socialism offered a vision of a world in which he would not have to feel guilty. Having committed to it when his intellect was young and flexible, it would have caused too much embarrassment, not least to his family and his circle of like-minded friends, to renege.

I doubt such an intelligent man failed to notice the evidence of his doctrine's devastating global failure during the last quarter of his life. I am sure he must have harboured doubts. But then I once spent a vodka-soaked Sunday with an old Polish soldier who drove a Red Army tank to crush the Prague Spring. He had little choice but to believe he had done right either. It takes more of a hero than most of us can be to admit one's life was lived in service of a lie. To Mortimer's credit, though a Labour man to the end, he more effectively opposed New Labour's onslaught on civil liberties than HM Opposition has managed.

I can perfectly understand people lucky enough to live at a distance from the consequences using their support for Labour as a tick box for "caring," thus avoiding the need to do anything more practical to assuage their guilt about their own success. They are not nearly such hypocrites as the machine Socialists who make suckers of each new generation of such kindly optimists.

These are the politicians who score salaries and benefits the market would never provide to those of such limited talent. Not to mention "expenses" so egregious that they must be exempted from the Freedom of Information rules lest their ripped-off electors find out. These are the trade union bosses living in apartments provided - all unknowing - by members of their union or another. These are the people in jobs funded at taxpayers expense to reward political allegiance These are also the educationalists who rise in their own careers by destroying social mobility. To provide a continued supply of mug Labour voters, they cut off kids like I once was from all hope of fulfilling their potential (and not just financially). These corrupt and cynical people, not the gentle souls like John Mortimer, are the hypocrites. In this I must respectfully demur from m'learned friend's otherwise excellent commentary.

I heard an anecdote over dinner last year, which puts this all neatly in context. I have been trying to substantiate it ever since because I would love to name the odious name in question. Recently I learned that the originator doesn't want the hassle of putting his name to it. I understand that perfectly. There is no legal aid for libel and the cost of defending court proceedings by a wealthy "man of the people" would be too high a high price to pay for me (merely a friend of a friend) to have a good story to post. I am sure he doesn't want the destruction of his private life either. So (unless some reader was present and prepared to substantiate it) this (naming no names) is what I was told allegedly happened. Contrary to my usual liberal comments policy, I will delete any speculation as to the identity of the villain.

Many years ago, a merchant ship was sailing from to California with a cargo of luxury foodstuffs. There was a strike at their destination port and the ship was not allowed to dock. Anchored in the offing, the officers and crew ran out of food. They broke open the cargo and ate some of it. When the crew learned that their employer proposed to deduct the costs from their wages they were understandably furious, especially as they suspected that the officers had taken more of the cargo than was necessary with a view to personal gain. They called in the union. A young official flew in from the UK. He retired with the officers to negotiate and hours later emerged, well-oiled and clutching bags of goodies. He told the men "Sorry lads, there's nothing we can do." Said "lads" threw him bodily, loot and all, into the Pacific. Sadly, he could swim.

Whether true, embroidered or a mere fable, this story represents the real Labour Party to me - the Labour Party behind whose lines I grew up and which I detest with all my being. It has nothing to do with hypocrisy or misguided kindness. It is a racket, preying upon the weak; actively promoting victimhood for political gain. That some befuddled middle-class types salve their social consciences by misguidedly aiding and abetting the racketeers is to be regretted. But then Barbara Windsor probably shouldn't have hung out with the Krays either. Perhaps she was struck by the false glamour and their freedom with their ill-gotten gains, but that doesn't make her an accomplice to their crimes. John Mortimer was a good man and I shall miss him about the place.


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William Gruff

That 'man of the people' sounds like a two-faced bar steward to me.


A kind but flawed human. On civil liberties, he was 100% sound.

I would ask nothing more on my tombstone.

Having watched his TV Obit last night, it came through in spades what he thought of Nu Labour.

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