Thursday, August 02, 2007

An unpopular choice

I don't need to bang about the delights of the intertubes and how it allows you to keep tabs on/catch up with old acquaintances. But I've experienced a particularly fine example of it this week, when I learned that someone I knew fairly well at university is now the Conservative PPC for Cheadle.

It would, of course, be quite wrong of me to repeat the many amusing anecdotes about Ben Jeffreys from his college days (I have a horrible feeling he is precisely the sort of person who did not indulge in any sort of drug-taking at university) and the Lib Dems really don't need encouraging when it comes to dirty, underhand tactics.

But there are worrying signs from the man's short bio. He's a teacher (you know what I've said about them entering politics), but there's also this gem:

Ben is also a descendent of the legendary ‘Hanging Judge’ Jeffreys - how would the Judge have tackled local anti-social behaviour?!

So much wrongness in one sentence. It's hard to know where to start. The use of the exclamation mark is damning enough. As is the dog-whistle law and order stuff. But trying to claim the mantle of Judge Jeffreys is plain crazy. To remind you, this was a man who was unpleasant even by the standards of the legal profession; a blood-crazed bully; a Stuart lickspittle and a craven, corrupt wretch.

It was said of Jeffreys:

His behaviour was beyond anything that was ever heard of in a civilized nation. He was perpetually either drunk or in a rage, liker a fury than the zeal of a judge. He required the prisoners to plead guilty. And in that case he gave them some hope of favour if they gave him no trouble... This made many plead guilty who had a great defence in law. But he shewed no mercy. He ordered a great many to be hanged up immediately.

He died ignominiously in the Tower. As Macaulay wrote:

The hatred of which Jeffreys was the object was without a parallel in our history, and partook but too largely of the savageness of his own nature. The people, where he was concerned, were as cruel as himself, and exulted in his misery as he had been accustomed to exult in the misery of convicts listening to the sentence of death, and of families clad in mourning... Hanging would be too mild a death for him: a grave under the gibbet too respectable a resting place: he ought to be whipped to death at the cart's tail: he ought to be tortured like an Indian: he ought to be devoured alive... Nay, the rage of his enemies was such that, in language seldom heard in England, they proclaimed their wish that he might go to the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, to the worm that never dies, to the fire that is never quenched.

Later in the passage we encounter one of the first recorded uses of the "I was only obeying orders" defence:

'I served my master,' said Jeffreys: 'I was bound in conscience to do so.' 'Where was your conscience,' said Tutchin, ` When you passed that sentence on me at Dorchester?' `'It was set down in my instructions,' answered Jeffreys, fawningly, 'that I was to show no mercy to men like you, men of parts and courage. When I went back to court I was reprimanded for my lenity.'

As a teacher, and member of the Conservative History Practitioners' Group, one assumes the judge's descendant knows all this and has concluded these are the qualities needed in an MP. I predict a Lib Dem hold.



Blogger Quink said...

Yeah, but a significant proportion of voters (especially those aged 18-35) won't have a clue about Judge Jeffreys - he didn't come over with the Normans and he wasn't in the Second World War.

8:13 am  
Blogger bill said...

A significant proportion of 18-35s don't vote. (And those who do might be the sort who know who Judge Jeffreys was).

Anyway, enough serious commentary please. Local politics demands levity.

11:21 am  
Anonymous the MAN FROM the daily mail said...

Has the cunt replied yet? (perhpas in a johann hari fashion) I presume he has the wherewithal to find out that you've linked to him.

God as much as I despise the Lib Dems the old-fashioned (non-Essex-aspirational-sort) of Tories are absolute scum too

5:09 pm  

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