I’m just back from seeing friends in Minneapolis and participating in a crime writers’ convention in Indiana that I’ve been involved in for two decades — where I spoke about David Trimble, who was to have been International Guest of Honour.

Published: 8 November 2022

Along the way, people asked me to explain what was going on in British politics, and though I conceded how ridiculous seemed some recent events, I also pointed out that one of the great virtues of our parliamentary democracy is we can ditch failing leaders rapidly.

Everyone got my point.

I’ve been to America often, frequently around the time of the mid-term elections that are being held today, but I’ve never seen such anger and polarisation.

In Minneapolis, the lunatics are gradually taking over the asylum, with the adoption of the concept of racial equity rather than equality.

Among other insanities, this requires educators to ensure that each race achieves exam identical results in direct proportion to their numbers. Those marking the exams will be held responsible if this does not happen.

People who have never cared much about politics have been radicalised at every level: parents and educators are at war over a vast range of issues including identity politics.

It was astonishing to drive through residential areas and see the forest of election posters for humble school boards.

Iain Martin, editor of Reaction, that comprehensive and dispassionate website, summed up the US political scene.

“Biden’s team has behaved appallingly, winning in 2020 by appealing to centrists to stop Trump and since then siding with the ‘defund the police’ unmoored from reality far left that has taken over the Democratic Party, just as Trump populists have taken over the Republican Party. The American centre has been hollowed out.”

And this is happening when both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, having been in power far too long, have succumbed to the madness that afflicts absolute rulers. As Martin added: “At some point in this existential struggle, against totalitarian states with nuclear weapons, it might help if the dominant power in the cause of freedom produced a new President capable of leading convincingly. American friends, please hurry up.”

It was against this backdrop that I was speaking about Trimble to a gathering of crime writers and fans, several of whom I’ve known for years, who come from right across America, have widely differing backgrounds, avoid political disputes and just enjoy each other’s company.

Trimble was no stranger to Indiana, where he was appreciated for his “thirst for knowledge and understanding” — as the distinguished historian of Russia, Professor Robert Service, recently put it.

Service was paying tribute to Trimble’s fine contribution twelve years ago as a visiting parliamentary fellow at Oxford’s St Anthony’s College – a globally famous centre for the study of international relations.

“What also came across to the regular audience”, said Service, “was his essential decency in encouraging a wide-ranging debate with nothing being off limits – he disproved his own reputation as a crusty sectarian.”

I talked a little about David’s extraordinary career, his physical and moral courage, and the honesty and humility that made him such an unusual politician and contributed along with his shyness to his being undervalued, especially in his own country.

And I quoted liberally from his superb 1998 Nobel speech, written in collaboration with one of his admirers from the Catholic nationalist tribe, Eoghan Harris.

“None of us are entirely innocent”, it ended. “But thanks to our strong sense of civil society, thanks to our religious recognition that none of us are perfect, thanks to the thousands of people from both sides who made countless acts of good authority, thanks to a tradition of parliamentary democracy which meant that paramilitarism never displaced politics, thanks to all these specific, concrete circumstances we, thank God, stopped short of that abyss that engulfed Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia and Rwanda.

“There are two traditions in Northern Ireland. There are two main religious denominations. But there is only one true moral denomination. And it wants peace.”

His words moved the audience, as they will move future generations long after the squalid lies of IRA apologists have been revealed.

In the meantime, we must pray that America mends its politics.

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