Politics: the long view, or: what do you really think of Oliver Cromwell?

Everyone says it’s going to be ugly–the election, I mean. Already the claws are bared: “What about those speaking fees, Mr. Huckabee?” “Who’s your hairstylist Mr. Edwards?” “Who paid for that trip to Long Island 10 years ago Mr. Guiliani?” Et cetera, et cetera.


Well, that’s politics. It was ever thus, and in fact it’s generally a lot milder in America than elsewhere. Forget about sites of mayhem and violence like Pakistan. Even Merry England has been distinctly unmerry at certain times. And the memory of such bitterness lingers, as these two disparate items from the London Times‘s “In Memoriam ” column on 3 September 1969 remind us (Thanks to John Julius Norwich’s first volume of Christmas Crackers for this tidbit):

Oliver Cromwell, 25th April, 1599 – 3rd September 1658. Lord Protector, 1653-1658. Statesman, General and Ruler.

“Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered.”

–Psalm 68, verse I.

In honoured remembrance.

Cromwell. — To the eternal condemnation of Oliver, Seditionist, Traitor, Regicide, Racialist, proto-Fascist and Blasphemous Bigot. God save England from his like. –Hugo Ball.

I won’t conceal that my sympathies are firmly with Mr. Ball (obviously not the Dadaist Hugo Ball) in this matter. But it is useful to witness the heat of the partisanship, for and against: it seems slightly comic when one hasn’t, so to speak, a dog in the race. How unfunny it seems when one does!


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