As you may have noticed from my posts following the recent deaths of two particularly malignant political activists, Bob Crowe and Tony Benn, I have no hesitation in speaking ill of the dead which is why I make no complaint concerning those who slagged off 'that woman' when she died. If you choose to stand upon a public platform and seek election as a representative of 'The People' (dread words!) then you must expect the brickbats and the rotten veg and the mere fact that you have the misfortune to die should not alter that condition.
However, Ms. Martha Gill, writing in The Telegraph (although she was formerly on the payroll at the New Statesman) disagrees and in one respect I find her argument surprisingly conservative (small 'c') and therefore probably correct:
No one likes a cliché, [...] but there are times at which clichés are actually appropriate. And these times are fairly easy to spot: they’re usually marked by a religious ceremony. Imagine what would happen if these rules were cast aside at weddings, for example:
I’ll hold my hands up, I’ve never liked either the bride or the groom, and I’m not going to change my tune now just because they’re married. A toast!
… or christenings:
The baby is cute, sure. But what we are forgetting here amid this frankly silly gushing, is that it looks exactly like every other baby. It is an average baby. Some perspective, please.
Occasionally, very occasionally, respect and tradition are more important than bald truth. So let’s get this straight before another famous person kicks the bucket. Balance is irrelevant right after someone has died. You should have got your criticism in when they were still alive, and preferably, while they still had some power. We don’t speak ill of the dead because it’s not just distasteful: it’s cowardly.
She is absolutely right in a personal context but I made it quite clear in my posts that I was attacking their politics not their personal lives. Matthew Parris in The Spectator (£) agrees with my approach even if he has taken a bit of a kicking from people who think he over-stepped the boundaries of good taste:
He achieved (I wrote) little. He made a splash, but as the waves subside we've been able to see that he was wrong about almost everything, preached a creed that would have been disasterous if followed, and was ruthless and guileful in shin-kicking and privately wounding Labour comrades who tried to teach a more realistic view of politics. On the whole polite to enemies outside his circle, he was merciless towards colleagues within it and often less than straightforward in his dealings with them.
In other words, politically-speaking, he was an A1 shit of the first order - just like most of the rest of them, really!