My MA thesis was entitled “Midlothian and Gladstone”. Here is an extract from one of Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign speeches, in Dalkeith, while the Second Afghan War was raging.
Those hill tribes had committed no real offence against us. We, in the pursuit of our political objects, chose to establish military positions in their country. If they resisted, would not you have done the same? … The meaning of the burning of the village is, that the women and the children were driven forth to perish in the snows of winter … Is that not a fact ?” for such, I fear, it must be reckoned to be ?” which does appeal to your hearts as women … which does rouse in you a sentiment of horror and grief, to think that the name of England, under no political necessity, but for a war as frivolous as ever was waged in the history of man, should be associated with consequences such as these?
There could be no clearer indication of how far we have diminished as a nation. Remember, Gladstone was campaigning in opposition to become PM again, for a third time. No senior politician would ever dare today to say:
If they resisted, would not you have done the same?
Anyone who suggested today that the Afghans have a right to resist foreign occupation would be drowned out in screams of “Wooton Basset” and the false, flatulent patriotism of newspaper proprietors and editors sat on their well-padded arses in comfortable offices,
Gladstone won both Midlothian and the general election. But there are no politicians of anything approaching his stature today. Charlie Kennedy actually understood what Liberalism is; Nick Clegg has neither courage nor prinicple.