Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 15 June 2005

Obituary (Professor Peter Campbell) R.I.P.

Professor Peter Campbell appears in an obituary in today's Telegraph, although he died a couple of months ago, aged 78 (17 June 1926 - 21 April 2005); I am surmising, but I wonder if its appearance today is because his name was flagged up a couple of days in advance of what would have been his 79th birthday, only for it to be realised that he had already died.

Why am I writing about him? Well, his life and recent death seem an appropriate 'handle' on which to base a post about the current Conservative Party discussions on who will become its next Leader. Professor Campbell was the founding head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Reading University, as well as being openly homosexual and a loyal member of the Conservative Party. Naturally this brought him into conflict with various 'factions' within the Party from time to time, although it would appear that his unfailing civility and precision tended to see him 'best' his opponents in an argument. This example, taken from the obituary linked to above, is revealing:

He was a studious letter-writer. In 1982, for example, when Peregrine Worsthorne, referring to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts, denounced Roy Jenkins's efforts on behalf of "queers" in an article in The Sunday Telegraph, Campbell responded with a pained but patient letter setting out the reasons why homosexual acts should not be criminal in circumstances in which heterosexual acts are not criminal (Worsthorne responded: "I regret having given offence.")

Of course, against this, the obituary notes also that his letters to the then Party Chairman, Norman (now Lord) Tebbit, remained largely unanswered. It observes, again quite accurately, that within certain parts of the 'gay rights movement' it was (and perhaps remains?) unnacceptable for homosexuals to confess to being Conservative - prejudice is certainly not restricted to the right-wing of British politics!

Obviously I had read Rachel Sylvester's article in last Friday's Telegraph about a potential bid by Alan Duncan MP to become Leader, but my own assessment was that the likelihood of him succeeding was about as likely as a snowball surviving for more than a milisecond in Hell. On the other hand, until Mrs Thatcher's election as Leader there were many in the Party, and elsewhere, who considered it very unlikely that a woman could become Leader - Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher is on record as believing this herself, too. The Conservative Party has a long history of introducing radical changes, reinventing itself if you will; this has been its strength for two centuries. So, stranger things have happened. Whether Mr Duncan is suited for leadership, if his homosexuality was not inevitably a factor, is perhaps not absolutely certain, although in my opinion he is most certainly no less eligible than, for example, Dr Liam Fox or Sir Malcolm Rifkind. It is naive, though, to ignore the fact that there are younger Conservatives who confound the supposition that prejudice and plain nastiness (for recent random examples see here and here) is solely a factor of the Party's aged membership profile - in fact the terms 'prejudice' and 'plain nastiness' are valid, in my view, for each of those two posts. Luckily, not all of those who profess Conservative leanings of a younger generation are so generally distasteful - for example here; even when writing about controversial subjects, he does seem to contrive to make his arguments in a pretty civilised manner - and possibly by writing that I might have forever damned him in the eyes of some more traditional Conservatives (if anyone cares what I think, and they probably don't).

I don't plan to write again about the interminable Conservative leadership issue until after the summer, unless there is definite movement before then - there are many more productive uses of my time, as this lady seemed to be implying here.

UPDATE: (Wednesday 15JUN05 20.25 BST) Convervative MPs voted today to, effectively, ditch the system put in place by former Leader William Hague MP by stripping the Party's 'grassroots' membership of a direct say in electing a Leader - this is certainly a step in the right direction if the lack of wisdom that grassroots demonstrated in selecting the disastrous Iain Duncan Smith MP as Leader is a guide.

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