Sunday, February 15, 2009

For the time being the last word

Given the number of words both my colleague and I have expended on the Geert Wilders case, it would probably be seemly to call a halt on it. And so I shall, at least temporarily because the story is not about to go away, after this posting in which I should like to raise one or two issues.

My colleague on EUReferendum has already written about the Conservative Party’s ridiculous reaction but there have been some developments there as chronicled by ToryBoyBlog, a.k.a. Conservative Home.

At first the Conservatives, laughably known as Her Majesty’s Opposition, kept quiet on the matter of a Dutch parliamentarian being stopped from taking up an invitation by two members of the House of Lords to explain his political views because another member of the House of Lords, who is waiting to be sentenced for dangerous driving that resulted in a death, was threatening violence. The threats were unlikely to have turned into reality but that is a separate issue. They were made.

Then, just as the questions of where were the Tories started to reach a noisy crescendo, a very quiet and understated statement was made by Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary (I think).
We have consistently called on the Government to tackle extremists. If Geert Wilders has expressed views that represent a threat to public security, then we support the ban. But people like Ibrahim Moussawi, a spokesman for the terrorist organisation Hizbollah, have not been banned. The Government must apply the criteria governing entry into the UK consistently.
In other words, the whole issue was made into a discussion of equivalence. Before making the statement Mr Grayling or one of his gifted researchers ought to have found out what exactly it is that Mr Wilders has said and what views he has expressed. They might have found that, though some of the views are debatable, many of his policies are free-market ones (and that maybe what our political class dislikes en masse) while others make a good deal of sense.

For instance, the idea of a five-year moratorium on immigration in a small, heavily populated country, which is finding it hard to “digest” a large group of people who are not prepared to become part of its society is not actually stupid or particularly offensive. The fact that they are not prepared to become part of that society is evidenced by the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the constant protection under which Geert Wilders has to live.

As for his call to ban the Koran in the Netherlands, just as “Mein Kampf” is banned, clearly that is one of the debatable points. In my opinion, neither should be banned and, in any case, how difficult is it to buy a copy of Hitler’s intolerably boring magnum opus and taking it to Amsterdam?

The point that Mr Grayling seems to be missing is that political views that might be controversial (and God forbid that any Conservative politician should have those) are not quite the same as calls for violence and terrorism. Nobody has produced a single example of Mr Wilders doing that. The person who has threatened violence is Lord Ahmed.

A little while later the Tory leadership woke up to the fact that their stand on the issue, which consisted of fence-sitting of the first order, was not particularly popular. Even on ConHome most of the comments were angry.

So up popped little Georgie-Porgy Osborne, who clearly does not have enough to do as Shadow Chancellor in the midst of a financial crisis, and told the Manchester Evening News, which has not, so far as I know, been bought by a Russian oligarch:
My personal view is by banning him [Wilders] in such a public way, he has been
given far more publicity than would havebeen the case. I am not sure how thought-through this really was.
Still somewhat feeble and giving the further impression that the Conservative Front Bench is incapable of agreeing on anything of any importance. Furthermore, what Mr Osborne seems to object to is the backfiring of the stupid ban rather than its existence.

Some of the comments (most of which were still negative) suggested that the Conservatives are trying hard to win the Muslim vote or some of it and that is why they are not speaking out in favour of free speech. I can’t help thinking that this is a ridiculous calculation.

There is a greater tendency in the Muslim community than in others to vote en bloc, often at the instructions of the local imam or some other “community leader”. This tendency has been exacerbated by the loosening of rules on postal voting, about which the Electoral Commission refuses to do anything. This may or may not help the Labour Party but it is not going to give the Conservatives anything.

The only Muslim votes they are likely to get are from people who are trying to break away from the unhealthy stifling of political opinion that exists in those circumstances. Those Muslims are very unlikely to be impressed by this cravenness that supports a trampling of their rights as well as anybody else’s.

The second point I want to make is rather more serious than the well-being or otherwise of the Conservative Party. We are witnessing yet another example of a deliberate erosion of moral responsibility in public discourse.

“Violence”, according to this attitude, is a purely passive phenomenon. It is bad but it just happens. Nobody is responsible and everybody involved, the perpetrator and the threatener as well as the putative victim is equally guilty. Therefore, it does not matter who is punished, the one who threatens violence or the one who wants to have an open discussion. Since it is clearly easier to punish the latter, that is what we do.

We can see similar attitudes in various rather knotty international problems, whose solution remains unreachable because of this muddle in thinking and moral judgement, a muddle that has now completely overtaken our entire political class.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The three last paragraphs should be required reading foe every MP and MEP - until they can recite it by heart.

Great analysis, excellent writing!

/Mikgen

Helen said...

You are assuming they can read, Mikgen. I have seen no evidence of this.

Tim said...

Even more worrying than the case of Mr Wilders was the case of the embarrassing Mr Toben, who last autumn was taken off a connecting flight at Heathrow to be imprisoned pending extradition to Germany for holocaust denial.

He was held for a month, despite having broken no English law, and without being accused of breaking one.

The only MP who said anything against Mr Toben's predicament was Chris Huhne.

The Conservative party averted its gaze and kept mute.

Helen said...

I wouldn't call it even more worrying. That was part of the European Arrest Warrant scam. I wrote about it on EURef. http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2008/10/sooner-or-later-this-was-going-to.html

Sandy said...

Yes it is a good analysis, but unfortunately it is from a feminist point of view, namely "This is Wrong so sort it". Unfortunately like party politics itself it offers no room for solution.
Consensus destroys, because consensus that flowers in good times enforces the tyranny of the majority. By definition when the environment changes (AGW?!) the majority cannot handle the disturbances.
It is cold and the banks have failed, who do you trust? And who do you follow?

Helen said...

Really, Sandy, what on earth has your bugbear feminism, the weather or bankers have to do with it? I suggest you stay with the Umbrella forum, where your wit is appreciated. I have some hopes of turning this into a real discussion forum.

creakypavillion said...

*Sandy's comment seems to be generated by a robot.

Sandy said...

I shall be most interested to see how you define 'a real discussion'.

Let me put my last point more simply. It is impossible to lead from the front and at the same time be in the consensus. Thus the consensus among our political parties leave them totally incapable of handling new crises, like AGW and the credit crunch, which will require principled stands and backbone.

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