23 JUNE 1973, Page 6

Spectator's Notebook.

Next week's elections for the new Northern Ireland assembly possess a very great potential for good or evil. They may turn out to be typical elections, in that they will change nothing much but a few faces and a few labels: but this is most unlikely. Most elections do nothing but shunt events a little one way or the other. The change in men is more dramatic than the change in measures — but . even when one comes to look at the new Tory fellows, say, and compare them with the new Labour chaps, it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart: they speak the same, dress the same, very largely think the satne, and possess almost entirely the same concerns, chief among which is their own advancement.

The last chance

I hesitate to place in advance too great emphasis upon next week's Irish vote which, after all, is for an assembly with ill-defined and meagre powers which may never successfully assemble and which is to elect representative politicians who in many cases may choose to ignore their representative responsibilities. The election will not be about particular policies nor even, given the cross-voting allowed under limited proportional representation allowed, about particular sets of men.

But — and this is the point — it may be the last chance. If the election does not produce an assembly capable itself of producing a workable colonial-style legislative council, then it may be that Northern Ireland will de jure as well as de facto become democratically ungovernable. How long, under such circumstances, would the British public support continued direct rule backed by British armed forces? Not indefinitely. How long, likewise, would the Labour Party restrain itself from demanding that the troops be brought home? Not for long. In such events, Ireland would once again be a matter of violent partisan division in Great Britain, which would be bad enough, and could . slide perilously into general civil war, which would be worse. Such a civil war, most probably confined to the north with a Protestant UDI as the most probable outcome would bring about very bloody days indeed. The intelligence I receive from Dublin suggests forcibly that there would be the greatest reluctance, in the event of the withdrawal of British troops, to send in troops from the Republic, which would be far more likely instead to stand idly by. And demand to withdraw British troops, even if couched in the form of a timetable, would be a repudiation of responsibility. The Government must stand firm, even should the opposition, or public opinion, wobble.

Slender hope

To consider these possibilities — none of which are remote — is sufficient to establish the importance of the British Government's attempt, having rightly and necessarily disbanded Stormont and replaced it with direct rule, to find a way of setting up new and untainted representative institutions which do not have the effect of so disaffecting the minority that members of that minority offer safe haven to terrorists whose argument is the gun and the bomb. Only when ordinary people are unwilling to offer refuge, and are protected from being intimidated into providing sanctuary, can any skilled terrorist organisation be contained. The hope, however slender, must be that the Northern Ireland elections will result in a political situation not only reassuring to the great majority who desire peace, but — and this is the crux — able to produce in due time local police forces fit to be given and to exercise responsibility for the protection of life, limb and property..

Anger among friends

There was a rather heated argument last week following upon the suggestion in Enoch Powell's recent utterances that, if faced with a Labour Party determined to take us out of the Common Market and a Conservative; Party determined to take us in, the obvious course of action for anyone convinced that the Common Market policy was disastrous should vote Labour, and vice versa. John Braine declared that nothing on earth would induce him to vote Labour. He seemed unaware of the force of the argument that the present Government's policies were in many respects at least as socialist as Harold Wilson's. Tony Hartley, who is an arch-marketeer, thought it was outside the bounds of political possibility that any Labour Government, whatever it might say, would in fact take Britain out. It is strange to find intelligent men so naively committed to the belief that already we are inextricably in, and that the Market is a permanent and irremovable feature of the map.

And what about Nixon?

Another question I find otten separating me from people I like whose opinions I tend to think more often sound than not is Nixon's remaining in office. Robert Conquest and Bernard Levin,. for instance, both think he should stay, and also tend to get rather excited when people who they thinic on their side say he should go. It is not, as we've said here more than once, a moral question. N. whatever William Res-Mogg • might 5 in the timorous squeaky editor columns of the once mighty Thunde and in Washington speeches, is \ really to do with the trial by press and t due process of the law and all th kind of thing. Presidents are not presidents a be protected by due process of law; they 3 presidents to ensure that their subjects ft, ceive due process and are treated legally lit freely. Whatever the original rights all, WE wrongs, it is surely undeniable that Presideot•tvi Nixon is very gravely weakened by thor Watergate affair. It may not be entirely fault that he is thus weakened, but that is 11.; to the point. A soldier with both his legs shot! till is not told to fix his bayonet, jump out ol trench and charge towards the enemy WIill even if it wasn't his fault that he'd had II` ta legs shot off. You do not ask a blind man 1, show you the way or a deaf man to listen 1` the news. 41 And who are Liberals? to The wretched academics, including a Pr°. fessor of philosophy, at Sussex Univel who have defended the antics of a bunch students in preventing a visiting Americii Si

professor from giving a lecture are not think, to be senior members of any unive',

s•ityanywhere; although I concede that th, justification they sometimes advance mighi not debar them from academic status in s01, ficiently censorious and closed totalitana.' states. Professor Roy Edgley has argued "1! aware of the considerations about freedoni speech and opinion, and the special respoet bilities of universities in these areas. 1311, there are limits to all liberties, and in my vie; 'Huntingdon has gone well beyond what', tolerable." Edgley is entitled to his vie° In my view, Edgley, by allying togt, self with those who sought to dell, Huntingdon freedom to speak at Susse". has also gone well beyond what ! philosophically and academically procie It is the restriction of freedom of sPeel which is intolerable to liberals, and eisentile to all — whether they are members of th Sussex Ind&China Solidarity Committee. professors of philosophy, members je , communist and fascist parties, ;at fenders of President Nixon agairis, the iniquities of the. American press. quisitors, censors, sensibleP eor like Bernard Levin and Bob Conquest on 0. days, Plato, Streicher, Lord Longford, MaP, Whitehouse and all others whose earnest et!, sire it is, for•whatever noble or ignoble re°, son to advance their own notions of rality by silencing the views of those who dl5r agree with them. I have no philosophical academic objection to someone declaring ,e. am not a liberal" and then behaving or o fending those who behave like thugs; l'1/ such a man has no business calling himself e liberal, or affecting his awareness "of Old considerations about freedom of speech all opinion."

Boyle and the rot

Edward Boyle, I regret to say, started 0, the rot with his disgusting behaviour over to, honorary degree business with Professo, Shockley. The people who howled Profe1 Eysenck down at the LSE, although mail, identified, are apparently not being punishe4 It is obvious to me that students who preve"5 free speech are themselves guilty of perils'', the worst of all academic offences, and theYr — and the senior members who support tolerate then — are certainly unfit to rems. members of a university which takes its filar tion seriously.