Senator Edward Kennedy


The scale of the BBC's praise for the late Senator Edward Kennedy has been so lavish that it's a wonder they have not been calling for a National Day of Mourning. To me, he was a deeply flawed character.

Yes, he did a bit of good in terms of the Northern Ireland peace process. He started out, of course, as very much on the Republican side, and helping Republican fundraisers. But after one too many horrific IRA murders, just as the peace process was underway, he snubbed Jerry Adams on a visit to the US, and so might well have made the Republicans realize that they could not negotiate through the political process and support violence at the same time.

So give him credit for that. But balancing that small plus is the major minus of Chappaquiddick, where Kennedy seemed more intent on saving his own political skin than his unfortunate passenger's life. Perhaps it was in the genes. His brother Jack Kennedy had some of the same character flaws. But perhaps much of Ted Kennedy's prominence was due to his rich and famous relatives too. Apart from the Pitts and 'Bob's your uncle', we have not had many political dynasties in Britain. Perhaps our system is better at weeding out people who rise only because of family or wealth.

Of course, the BBC talks of Kennedy as a great 'liberal' – and liberal he was, in American terms. But it suggests that Kennedy was liberal in the European sense. One BBC News report even spoke of his liberalism in contrast to 'left and right'. But in the US, liberal and left-wing are the same. And boy, was Ted Kennedy a liberal. For decades he attempted to force a UK-style National Health Service on Americans, despite having no understanding or first-hand experience of how it actually works – or doesn't. American healthcare is rotten, sure enough – over-regulated, run by doctors and politicians, and therefore expensive – but America doesn't need to jump out of that frying pan into the fire of nationalized healthcare. Americans know that, and have turned up in their hundreds and indeed thousands to protest against Obama's healthcare plans in the 'town meetings' that politicians have been calling to try to promote the idea. The plans are getting watered down by the day. I like to think of myself as a liberal. And I resent how American politicians have hijacked the terms to mean the opposite. Even more, I resent how our metropolitan state broadcaster are trying to shoehorn the same usage into the British political debate. Time they were privatized and exposed to some real competition.