The former leader of the Liberal Democrats, former special forces soldier, Paddy Ashdown has compared the UK today with Nazi Germany. Is he right, or should he be forced to goose-step off for questioning?
Maybe there were two lessons of the EU referendum – don’t believe opinion polls, and don’t mention the Nazis, or indeed Hitler. Boris Johnson did – saying that the EU wants a super state just like Hitler did, and people weren’t impressed.
But then in the US, so did President Trumps press man Sean Spicer, and in the most ridiculous way, saying that unlike Assad, Hitler did not use chemical weapons – err except he did, of course.
Ken Livingstone’s career seemed to be in tatters, after making what he claims was a factual comment about Hitler.
It’s a no-go area.
But maybe Paddy Ashdown can get away it – he is after-all – writing a book about German resistance to the Nazis, and what’s the point of studying history if we do not apply its lesson to today?
Speaking at the Hay festival in Wales, he said: “Mt next book is about the German resistance to Hitler, so I’m knee-deep into research of the 1930s and I am horrified by the parallels. I’m horrified.
“The way that we have retreated from internationalism to ugly nationalism in Britain. The way that we have retreated from international trade to protectionism. The sense that somehow or other democracy is failing.
“The habit of lying in our public discourse. What was it Goebbels said? Tell it often, tell it big ... stick it on the side of a bus perhaps and drive it around the country. I’m not saying Hitler is around the corner, of course I’m not, although you might conclude the conditions for something like that to emerge are there.”
He also slated Theresa May’s decision not to participate in a live debate on TV with the leaders of other political parties. He said: “We are the only advanced democracy in the world in which the leader of our nation can get away with not turning up to have a proper debate with the opposition. I think it is extraordinary and we don’t seem to be kicking up a fuss about it.”
There is something curious going on at the moment – not so much with politicians, but with the public discourse. In an age, when most of us carry around with us the greatest encyclopaedia ever – namely our smart phones – and we can truth check anything anyone says within seconds, a quest for objective reasoning seems to be elusive – instead, the media cater to our biases, and we lap it up.
That is indeed the stuff that political extremism is made of.