Some of the best episodes of the much missed “The West Wing” featured the delectable Emily Proctor as Ainsley Hayes, a smart and sassy Republican who was willing to challenge the liberal orthodoxies of the Bartlet White House without becoming a gay bashing poor grinding GOP ogre. Often, her arguments rang true, and forced the Bartlet liberals to confront uncomfortable realities.
As a pro-European, and someone for whom the word federalist is not a filthy swearword, I have the same feeling about British eurosceptics Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan, Tory MP and MEP respectively. Admittedly, neither would look as good in a cocktail dress as Ainsley Hayes, although maybe that’s because they just don’t try hard enough. And I disagree with them on the fundamentals (both advocate withdrawal from the EU) but nevertheless, both are worth pro-Europeans listening to if only to confront our own demons. Hannan has done a striking job pointing out the Orwellian attitude of the European Parliament to euroscepticism, an attitude which does not like the reality that euroscepticism is far more prevalent amongst the peoples of Europe than it is in the EP. But what’s more interesting about both men is that they are not your traditional hang-em-and-flog-em Tories. If anything, both are radical libertarians (Carswell, almost unique amongst Tories, supports PR) and their book, “The Plan” is the cornerstone of a thoughtful agenda about where power should reside in a society.
I don’t always agree with them. But I do believe that progress in a society involves listening occasionally to the other side, and to their reasons as to why they have reached the conclusions they have.
After all, fire was not necessarily a bad thing just because the other people in the other cave had it when we didn’t.