It's been reported (by the Mail on Sunday) that Bill Etheridge (an MEP) advised UKIP candidates to learn from the speaking style of Adolf Hitler.
What's “unbelievable” and “truly disgusting” about this is that Labour's Mike Gapes (who used the words “unbelievable” and “truly disgusting” about Etheridge's remarks) has used these comments to make outrageous claims about UKip.
Mr Gapes said:
"I thought nothing could surprise me any more, but this just goes to show that Farage has completely failed to clean up his party.
"One of his MEPs training young candidates to speak like Hitler? Simply unbelievable."
This UKip MEP was talking to prospective candidates at a public speaking seminar at the Young Independence Conference in Birmingham... Yes, the clue's in the words “public speaking seminar”.
The thing is that Mike Gapes (MP) knows full well that Bill Etheridge wasn't endorsing Adolf Hitler's actual views because Etheridge also told his audience to learn from other “great speakers of the past”: such as “Churchill, Blair, Martin Luther King”.
So does this mean that Bill Etheridge is some kind of surreal amalgam of a old Conservative, a New Labourite and a black civil rights activist? According to the shallow and opportunistic Mike Gapes, that's exactly what it means.
The fact is that Hitler was a “great speaker”. (Although what “great speaker” means would need to be spelt out... though not by me.)
And just to show what a political opportunist Mike Gapes really is: I'm fully prepared to say that none other than George Galloway - the serial exhibitionist and Mike Gapes' fellow political opportunist - is also a great speaker. Indeed many people who despise both the man and his politics have said admiring things about Galloway's speaking skills and his truly poetic turns of phrase.
Clearly we can easily distinguish between style and content. Or, more precisely, we can distinguish the oratorical skills of a political speaker from his ideological beliefs. For example, when you read Galloway's words on paper (or on the Internet), they loose much of their appeal. Indeed they can quickly be seen to be almost devoid of argumentation and even fact. (Galloway, like Hitler, "thinks with the blood".)
So if many people can distinguish style and content in the case of George Galloway, then surely Bill Etheridge can do that in the case of Adolf Hitler. In fact there are a whole host of effective political performers whose political content we can happily disagree with: Tony Benn, Arthur Scargill, Lenin and so on.
Yes, Hitler was indeed a “magnetic and forceful” performer. That's partly why he gained so much support. And, yes, he “achieved a great deal”. (For a start, he became the Fuhrer of Germany.) Bill Etheridge never said that Hitler achieved a great deal that was good. He said that he “achieved a great deal”. Now that is simply an historical fact.