Opinion

I have the most unlikely heroes these days – and even found myself fanboy rushing Dominic Grieve at a party

At a Westminster party recently – in an immensely smart, oversized, Georgian house close to St James’s Park with the kind of crowd that features in Newsnight interviews – I saw one of my heroes. I fanboy rushed him and told him I agreed with everything he had been saying. He looked anxious, as careful lawyers do when people who haven’t been introduced to them start banging on. The subject of my new worship was Dominic Grieve.

Dominic Grieve! If you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have said I thought him a dry-stick bore (the sarky political sketch writer Quentin Letts once called him a fusspot). But now I see him as heroic for standing against his tribe – he’s one of the “outs” in the Tory party – in particular, for pushing against the former prime minister, Boris Johnson, to get the intelligence and security committee’s Russia report published.

I am seeing unlikely heroes like him all over the place now. People I would have probably disagreed with across a whole range of policies and hot-button culture war issues. But they have made brave – and career-destroying – choices when the time came. I had always thought of the political journalist Peter Oborne, for example, as a natural captain-of-cricket rightwinger. But – although he really is very keen on cricket – over the past decade he has left two extremely well-paid jobs at national newspapers on issues of principle. Leaving these platforms also saw him disappear from hosting BBC current affairs radio programmes. Then there’s Liz Cheney, the vice-chair of the January 6 House select committee in Washington, and daughter of the dreadful Dick Cheney, who has already been voted out from her Wyoming seat in Congress by Trump supporters for calling out their hero.

Is it me? Is the “Overton window” – what is seen as politically acceptable at any given time – opening wider? Or is it simply that when times are really tough, you see who’s got it.

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