The banter years.
I am not of course suggesting that the likes of Michael Fallon and George Osborne describing Zac Goldsmith's London mayoral campaign as being all part of the "rough and tumble" of politics makes them akin to racist murderers. It does though make you wonder exactly how far the rough and tumble of politics extends. Implying that Sadiq Khan is an extremist and refusing to say London will be safe in his hands is clearly perfectly permissible. Certainly not permissible, as we've learned, is the use of language Hadley Freeman considers to be antisemitic.
Where then exactly to draw the line? If you're Atul Hatwal, then the only problem with the Tories' campaign was that it was incompetent due to how Suliman Gani was more allied with the Tories than he was with Khan and Labour. On this basis, Labour could have spent the local election campaign proclaiming on how Cameron was a pig rapist. Sure, there's no evidence Cameron has raped a pig or any other barnyard animal, but the Ashcroft/Oakeshott book claims he did pork a severed hog's gob. Mostly everyone thinks it's a load of old toilet, but it's on about the same level of truthfulness as the various claims made about Khan.
Why then not go the whole way? After all, we've just gone through a period where it seemed perfectly acceptable to speculate on whether or not mostly deceased former politicians could have been not just paedophiles, but child murderers also. Most of these claims were made against former Tory MPs. Would it be just the rough and tumble of politics to describe the Conservatives as the party of choice for child abusers? Sure, the Met might have discontinued Operation Midland, yet why let a detail like that get in the way of the contact sport that is politics? It would just be natural rough and tumble, all a part of the game. If you whine about it not being fair, you're simply not cut out for being a true leader of men.
Atul Hatwal does admittedly have a point. Extremism should be called out. Generally though there needs to be actual evidence, and we all have different definitions of what extremism is. To some, Jeremy Corbyn's brand of old school socialism is extremist; to others, the Tories' naked contempt for welfare claimants and the state in general is beyond the pale. That much of politics and the whole of social media "politics" has descended into one great big condemnathon, where the sound and fury both signifies nothing and is also absolutely everything might well have made politics even more incomprehensible and alien to outsiders. It's just far too much trouble to try and turn back now.
Not that the Tories were ever going to admit that Goldsmith's campaign had backfired, not least as portraying Ed Miliband as so unprincipled he'd stab his country in the back for power worked last year. It's also how they intend to go on depicting Labour in general: as a threat to national and economic security. Bearing in mind a decent section of the parliamentary Labour party regard their own leader as an extremist, how could they not?
When it comes to today's EU clashes between Dave and Boris you see an almost mirror image of the extremist battle, only it's about power within a party, with the country coming a distant second in their concerns. If Cameron really feared Britain leaving the EU could destabilise the continent to the point of a return to war, he would have been irresponsible in the extreme to have set in a motion a process that was fundamentally about buying off his restive backbenchers. Likewise, if Boris Johnson truly believed that leaving the EU is the liberal cause of the day, it wouldn't matter as much that he's also using the referendum campaign as a springboard to his inevitable Tory leadership bid. That only two years ago he wrote in direct contradiction of what he said today about the EU and peace, and has no compunction about making a "liberal, cosmopolitan" case for leaving that at its heart involves further doom-mongering about immigration just sums up how infuriating our politics has become. We are it would seem firmly trapped in the banter years.