The Spectator's Notes

Is it Islamophobic to disagree with Baroness Warsi?

13 April 2019

9:00 AM

13 April 2019

9:00 AM

In his famous speech to both Houses of Parliament in March 1960, General De Gaulle praised Britain: ‘Although, since 1940, you have gone through the hardest vicissitudes in your history, only four statesmen [Churchill, Attlee, Eden and Macmillan] have guided your affairs in these extraordinary years. Thus, lacking meticulously worked-out constitutional texts, but by virtue of an unchallengeable general consent, you find the means on each occasion to ensure the efficient functioning of democracy.’ De Gaulle admired us and disliked us, and concluded that we threatened France if we joined the EEC. So he blocked our entry. He was right about us, wrong about the effect of our joining. By joining, we sacrificed that ‘unchallengeable general consent’, and submitted ourselves increasingly to ‘meticulously worked-out constitutional rules’, imposed by other people, thus giving France (and Germany) the power to break us. In 2016, our citizens understood this and voted to leave. Our leaders did not, and still don’t, so now France (and Germany) are trying to exercise that power. In 1960, our prime minister, Harold Macmillan, was begging to join. This week, Theresa May was in Paris, begging to leave. In a way, though, it is the same: both letting Europe define the terms, both supplicants.

***

The People’s Vote campaign was so called to conceal the fact that its supporters hated the result of the people’s vote. Change UK, the political party arising from the Independent Group, is so named because it does not want the UK to change, but to remain in the EU.

***

The government is introducing reforms to make divorce far easier, so there will be less acrimony. At the same time, it is working flat out to make divorce from the EU far harder, and more acrimonious.


***

These divorce reforms seem to break new ground in our law, since they forbid any spouse to contest a divorce. To be married without your consent is forced marriage, and is a crime committed by the person doing the forcing. To be divorced without your consent, i.e. forced divorce, however, is now being promoted as the mark of a civilised society. Is this a moral advance? The non-consenting spouse (of either sex) will soon become like the woman in traditional Islamic divorce, who has no recourse when the man says ‘I divorce thee’ three times. Marriage thus becomes an unusual, even unique contract: you can break it without penalty. I am just old enough to remember when the previous reform of the divorce law was introduced 50 years ago. It was constantly sold (I recall Jeremy Thorpe doing this) as taking the fault concept, and therefore the sting, out of divorce. It did not succeed, of course — and nor will these reforms — because both ignore the way most human beings behave when love dies and money and/or children have to be allocated.

***

Sad news of the death of Ian McDonald, who was whatever one calls the opposite of a spin doctor. As the Ministry of Defence spokesman during the Falklands war in 1982, in a conflict in which news was very tightly held, McDonald was the public’s first source of information. Rather like second world war newsreaders such as Alvar Lidell, he became legendary precisely because he conveyed absolutely no view about anything (other than an underlying humanity) and made no attempt to persuade. His manner was lugubrious, his diction slow and precise and his pronunciation very faintly Scottish, so the words ‘Goose Green’ had less of an ‘oo’ than a southern tongue would give them. Some viewers complained that he was frightening, but most of us thought he was marvellous, because he put no ego into what he did. Despite his apparent grimness, there was somehow a cosy Ealing comedy feeling to McDonald, which gave rise to the urban myth that he was, in real life, a screaming queen who wore make-up in his leisure hours. What he said was what he believed to be the truth to the extent he could ascertain it. No one who wants a successful career in the 24-hour news era has ever tried that simple formula.

***

This column noted last week that Lady Warsi, Islam’s Edwina Currie, devotes all her considerable energy to attacking her own party, the Conservatives, because of their ‘Islamophobia’. At the end of last month, she disappointed fans by tweeting that she had agreed with the CEO of the Conservative party that she would ‘cease public comment re cases of Islamophobia for one month’ to give the Tories a chance to tackle the problem, as if she were their commander. One week later, however, she could contain herself no longer, chattering to the Guardian on ‘The Tories and their Islamophobia problem’. One difficulty with the word ‘Islamophobia’ is the question of who has the authority to define it. Lady Warsi passionately believes that the answer is ‘Baroness Warsi’. Is it Islamophobic to disagree?

***

There was publicity last weekend for a report (Generation Why?) by Onward, the think tank of semi-young ‘mainstream’ Tories. Its survey seemed to confirm the widespread belief that hardly anyone young supports the Tories, which may not matter quite as much as Onward thinks, since it also showed that the young have astonishing difficulty in working out how to get to a polling station and write a cross on a ballot paper. Although the results collected by Hanbury Strategy were obtained via ‘an online smartphone poll’ of 10,031 voters, I found myself losing confidence on page 46. There it was stated that ‘In our poll younger people seemed to be less supportive of the idea that abortion should be legal — although this appears to be an aberration driven by confusion between “illegal” and “legal”. For this reason we have excluded this result from our aggregate measure of social conservatism.’ If Generation Y has a problem in distinguishing the difference between the words ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’, it might be unwise to build anything much on what it thinks it thinks about anything.

Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free


Show comments
Close