An impressive Alan Rusbridger faces down MPs inept questions

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger speaking to MPs. Photo:

I don't share Jeremy Paxman's view of politicians - in fact, by and large, far from it - but it sure is difficult to sustain a more elevated notion sometimes when listening to select committees. Whatever the issue, you can be reasonably sure that some members of the relevant committee will overplay their hands as they try to convince us all that they can out Paxman Paxman (is this yet a verb? I don't know, but how nice to have had such an impact on our public discourse).

And so it was today for Alan Rusbridger's appearance in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee to talk about the Snowden leaks. Now, I don't really know Mr Rusbridger, who is the long-serving Editor of the Guardian. He doesn't put himself out there all that much and I think we have met only once (when I interviewed him about the nameless officials who oversaw the destruction of hard drives in his basement). Which is all a way of saying that I have no particular skin in this game when I say that he was rather impressive this afternoon.

You can argue that Mr Rusbridger was right to publish the Snowden leaks, or that he was wrong, but some of the name calling strikes me as rather childish. He was asked in all seriousness if he loved his country or whether, in the Second World War, he would have considered tipping off the Nazis that we had broken the Enigma codes. I mean, come on.

It is perhaps time to give some people in public life a bit of a history lesson. The war against the Nazis was a battle for national survival. It was an epic quest to make sure that the very idea of civilization survived. My grandfather was one of many who lost his life, sunk on a miserable night in a very short time in the middle of the English Channel. I have no idea what his politics were and I don't care; this was an episode in our nation's history when people of all political persuasions and none united against a common enemy.

So it might be a good idea for people to stop making cheap political points about it.