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Monday, September 05, 2005
Gentleman Don

The media are jumping on the Don Brash is a Throw-back to the 19th century bandwagon, principly because of this, and Mr. Pitt is not happy.

I am the throwback to the 19th century around here, and I do not recognise Don as a fellow traveller. He is a social liberal, down with Civil Unions, voted-for Prostitution and supportive of gay adoption. Not characteristics one associates with even the Liberal Party of the 19th century, let alone the Tory.

The 19th century equivalent of The Gay Express was a dirty book printed in a back-street in Amsterdam, and left until called for in a shady book-shop in Paris which was watched by the Police. Really. I just finished a biography of Oscar Wilde, and I am not kidding.

I would give my eye-teeth for Dr. Brash to really be a throw-back to the 19th century, that is someone of the calibre of the Duke of Wellington, Burke, Pitt, Wilberforce or Lord Shaftesbury. I'd settle for Disraeli. Hell, I'd even settle for a Liberal like Gladstone, in a pinch. But alas, the philosophical descendants of Paine rule us in rebellion, and there is no health in us.

It is amazingly ironic that the media have picked on basic manners as the hall-mark of a return to slavery. Vote Brash and women will return to the kitchen, Africans to their chains, poor minority children to the gutter, and we will have civil debate. How shocking-Men must be allowed the basic human right of shouting at women. It is my right to foam at the mouth, gnash my teeth and scream like a banshee at the nearest female.

The "Back to the Future" brigade also pick on a radio interview in which Dr. Brash wondered whether having a powhiri, or Maori welcome, as the sole means of welcoming foreign dignitaries was a good idea. He thought some foreign visitors were uncomfortable with a half-naked man sticking his tongue out at them, and said perhaps we ought to have alternative ways of greeting dignitaries as well.

At the last National Party meeting I attended, Brash was unfailingly courteous. He made sure everyone was able to speak. He went down the back to hear the question of a wheel-chair bound and elderly woman, and leant down so that he could be sure of answering it properly. He's a gent.

At the back of this controversy is a crucial difference of world-view. Dr. Brash and his conservative fellow-travellers (The one holding the battle-standard in the front is me) assume that there are certain over-arching rules of conduct, and over-arching rules of moral order. One ought not to shout at a woman. It is more than a question of "appropriateness", it is a matter of moral order which is reflected in manners. One ought to honour HM The Queen, one ought to consider one's guests, one ought to tell the truth. Dr. Brash is revealing, in a very endearing way, his Manse child-hood. He has left the faith behind, as has his post-modern-liberal-Presbyterian-Moderator father, Dr. Alan Brash, but he retains the shadow of respect. I like that.

Liberals tend to be impatient with the Conservative obsession with manners. They would see turning one's back on The Queen as a minor breach of manners, if that. (John Campbell would probably regard it as an affirmation of nationhood). I see it as a sacrilege. They would shout at a woman or not, depending on appropriate context. Dr. Brash, I am relieved to find, will not. Conservatives believe in eternal verities. In permanent things. We believe what we do here matters, and more, how we do it also matters. It relieves my mind that, on this issue, Brash is a real Tory. He even wants knighthoods back. M'Lud, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Gentleman Don.

.I shall tell you frankly that if he had been going to pick something designed to reassure me I am doing the right thing in endorsing him, refusing to yell at a woman is it. I have other misgivings about Dr. Brash, but his moral character is now not one of them. I am content. And I am doing the right thing in voting for the Gentleman over the well, shall we say-unfortunate modernist.

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