Why I’m no longer talking to liberals about Islam

Photo: Andrew Smith / Forbury Gardens, Reading

Long read (18 minutes)

In November, Libyan refugee Khairi Saadallah pleaded guilty to murdering three men during a stabbing spree at a Reading park last June. He also admitted three further charges of attempted murder. Yet it was not until yesterday, two months later, that he has been sentenced to life in prison. The prosecution contended that this was a terror attack, but Saadallah claimed he was not motivated by an ideological cause. A new hearing was deemed necessary to decide whether or not he was motivated by a religious or ideological cause.

Following the attack, Saadallah was heard by witnesses to shout “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “victory on infidels”. The OED defines “Allahu Akbar” as meaning “‘God is (most) great’: the declaration of the Takbīr, used in Islamic liturgical forms and prayers, and by Muslims as a general exclamation of faith, thanksgiving, etc.” The judge ruled yesterday that Saadallah had committed a terrorist attack motivated by his Islamist extremist ideology. It would, of course, be jumping to conclusions to suggest that Saadallah was a Muslim. When interviewed, he described himself as “part Muslim and part Catholic”, a claim which did not fool the prosecution. The BBC News report on the sentencing does not explicitly identify the perpetrator’s faith or ideological cause; we are left to read between the lines.

Saadallah arrived in the UK in 2012, and when applying for asylum, he told officials at the Home Office that he had been in the violent Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia, claiming, “I did not shoot or use any weapons. I just helped them, plus guarded some hospitals.” So that’s okay then. A fully signed up member of a group whose name, translated from Arabic, literally means “Supporters of Islamic Law” was refused asylum twice, before being granted leave to remain for five years in 2018.

A year after this, he came to the attention of MI5, but according to the BBC, “when the information was further investigated, no genuine threat or immediate risk was identified and no case file was opened.” In the years since his arrival, Saadallah had spent time in prison for “a range of violent offences”, and he had been released just days before the Reading attack took place. Prior to this, Home Secretary Priti Patel had decided that his deportation was “conducive to the public good”, but, due to conditions in Libya, it was not legally possible.

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Saadallah’s actions do not represent all Muslims, but nor do they exist in a vacuum. We have been conditioned to accept these occurrences as normal, instead of asking ourselves why jihadists have made Britain their home. Following the horrific murder of teacher Samuel Paty – beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed as part of a lesson on freedom of speech – in France last October, a large group of angry protestors gathered at the French embassy in London, and had to be broken up by police. Their anger was not about the murder; it was directed at French President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of free speech, and part of violent global uprisings by Muslims in opposition to Macron.

But none of this was any reason for concern, because November was Islamophobia Awareness Month. Just one month? I thought it was all-year round. It certainly feels like it. The previous month, the government was “criticised by its own Islamophobia adviser” for not publishing the evidence behind Matt Hancock’s statement that July’s northern England lockdown was due to an “increasing rate of transmission in parts of northern England […] largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing”.

Qari Asim is the deputy chair of a government taskforce on anti-Muslim hatred, and he says that Hancock’s words contributed to “hateful narratives”, giving “the impression that Muslim communities were not social distancing and were ignoring the government guidelines”. Hancock made this comment on Twitter, giving three hours’ notice that new restrictions would be imposed on Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Leicester from midnight on 30 July.

To add to the sense of victimhood, the announcement came at the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. It was like “cancelling Christmas”. In December, 16.4m people in London, the South East and East of England were no longer allowed to mix in other households, cancelling Christmas plans for many. This was a far higher figure than the 4.8m people affected by the aforementioned July lockdown, and given that Christmas is celebrated as both a religious and secular festival, a potentially bigger blow for many.

Hancock can hardly be blamed for pointing out that people in these areas, which may have large Muslim populations, were not following social distancing guidelines. But in case he dares to stray in future, his Conservative government has appointed someone to provide “expert advice” on a definition of “Islamophobia”: Imam Asim, who is Deputy Chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. A statement on this appointment read: “The government agrees there needs to be a formal definition of Islamophobia to help strengthen our efforts against anti-Muslim hatred.  But there are questions around the APPG definition, as concerns have been raised that the APPG definition could unintentionally undermine freedom of speech, and prevent legitimate criticism of Islamist extremism, or of unacceptable cultural practices.”

The government has spent millions in the past few years on tackling anti-Muslim hatred, including £2.5 million for the third-party reporting organisation Tell Mama, to “raise awareness on anti-Muslim hatred and to increase reporting of hate crimes.” “Raising awareness” seems to have a strong whiff of that now-familiar refrain to “educate yourself”. Targeting money to increase reporting of hate crimes means you’re looking for a problem; the desired outcome will also create a new problem for lobbying groups to get on their soapbox about. Both will perpetuate a sense of victimhood, and help the grievance industry to flourish.

In addition, the Conservative government has also ensured that for the first time, police forces are “required to disaggregate religious hate crime data to allow us to better identify Islamophobia”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a phobia as a “fear, horror, strong dislike, or aversion; esp. an extreme or irrational fear or dread aroused by a particular object or circumstance.” What happened in Reading may not have been classed as a “hate crime”, but the three murdered men were all gay. Perhaps if they had any fear of Islam, it was just “irrational”.

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In any case, a group of gay men would have had enough reasons to be fearful when going about their lives. Labour MP Afzal Khan, the chair of the Labour Muslim Network, claimed in his Islamophobia Awareness Month propaganda sermon that “once again Home Office figures show that the highest number of hate crime offences committed this year were against Muslims”. When compared to other religions, he is correct. But when compared to all hate crime strands, ‘Race’ is the strand responsible for the vast majority of hate crimes recorded by the police from 2019 to 2020. This is followed by ‘Sexual orientation’, then ‘Disability’, then ‘Religion’. ‘Transgender’ is behind ‘Religion’, in last place. The only category with a falling rate was ‘Religion’, which saw a 5% decrease.

The biggest increase was in ‘Sexual orientation’, which has had a disturbing 19% increase. Sexual orientation was responsible for more than double the number of offences compared to those attributed to religion.

Despite protestations to the contrary, Islam is a religion, not a race. In December, a 29-year old white British man named Daniel Horton was jailed for an attack on a mosque’s prayer leader. The attack took place on 20 February 2020, in that strange time just before Covid-19 changed everything. Commenting at the time of the attack, Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: “Whilst we await the full facts, one thing is clear Islamophobia is real and a threat to cohesive communities.” Yet on 14 December, in a report on the sentencing, it turned out that Horton had converted to Islam, and worshipped at the mosque. Horton and the victim were known to one another, because Horton, who was homeless when the incident occurred, “had been attending the mosque for a number of years.”

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The figures for hate crime offences based on religion encompass nine categories: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, ‘other’, ‘no religion’ and ‘unknown’. Once you take these into account, anti-Muslim hate crime is responsible for 50% of the ‘Religion’ strand, which leaves it trailing all other categories except ‘Transgender’ for offences recorded. Offences based on disability or sexual orientation vastly outnumber those which target Muslims. So why are we not hearing about those forms of discrimination on a regular basis? Why has the liberal left not taken up their cause recently? I suspect it is because of the power of Muslims as a voting bloc, which explains why the Conservative government is also keen to placate them.

I somehow think that heterosexuals face little discrimination throughout England and Wales (where the figures come from), so it’s clear that ‘sexual orientation’ can be largely read as meaning gay, lesbian or bisexual. It is perhaps no coincidence that Islam is deeply antipathetic to homosexuality, as evidenced by the troubling protests against LGBT lessons at schools in Birmingham and Nottingham, which were led by Muslim parents of primary school pupils. They weren’t homophobic, you see, they just didn’t want their children to learn that “it’s okay to be gay” – despite the fact this is essentially the law of the land.

Naturally, the MPs representing those Birmingham schools are all Labour. With the honourable exception of Jess Phillips, the other MPs appeased the protestors, whose votes they rely on; one even supported them (Roger Godsiff, who was then barred from standing as a Labour candidate).

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During the last Labour leadership election, all of the candidates signed up to the Muslim Council of Britain’s “Ten Key Pledges to Support Muslim Communities”. This included adopting the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia – “defining Islamophobia as being rooted in racism” – across the UK; encouraging the resettlement of refugees across the UK (presumably giving preference to the believers?); ensuring all counter-terror legislation is “non-discriminatory”; and “a fair approach to educational provision for all children, with a syllabus that reflects the diversity of communities, with appropriate parent involvement”. All these pledges require us to read between the lines, and look beyond the seemingly harmless platitudes. A syllabus that “reflects the diversity of communities” is a step towards removing any reference to those distasteful things like gay parents. Such kowtowing to a religious minority is a concerning move for our official opposition party; its leader – who could one day become prime minister – Sir Keir Starmer, was one of those candidates who signed up to the MCB pledges.

Not that this has placated Muslims, since 55% of respondents to the Labour Muslim Network’s Islamophobia survey said that they do not “trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively”; 44% do not believe the party takes the issue of Islamophobia seriously; and 48% of Muslim party members and supporters do not have confidence in the party’s complaints procedures to deal with Islamophobia effectively. According to 5 Pillars UK, the “most consistent trend informing this position was the belief that there exists a hierarchy of racism in the Labour Party”. The report made several recommendations, including that Labour should adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia.

However, the party has already adopted that definition of Islamophobia, seemingly without fuss. “No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party,” the Labour Party Rule Book states. This includes any incident which could be seen to “demonstrate hostility or prejudice” based on “religion or belief”, and refers to “incidents involving […] Islamophobia”. Elsewhere, it says that “The Labour Party is an anti-racist party, committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia” and “Any behaviour or use of language which targets or intimidates members of ethnic or religious communities, or incites racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, or undermines Labour’s ability to campaign against any form of racism, is unacceptable conduct within the Labour Party.”

But what if it’s your honest belief that Islam itself is deeply problematic? Well, I suppose you better keep your mouth shut, or accept that Labour is not the party for those who value free speech or real liberalism. Because there is nothing liberal about an ideology which rejects free love, or which pressures girls and women to wear a headscarf covering their hair or faces (not to mention children going hungry in the name of their faith, otherwise known as “fasting”). Perhaps the left might want to think about the indoctrination of young children in terms of child abuse, or the fact that it is near-impossible to be openly gay in such communities. Unlike Labour Party members, Muslims cannot just fill out a form and cancel their direct debits.

This could, of course, apply to any fundamentalist religion, but there is only one which stands out above all in the UK, and whose adherents walk around advertising their 7th century beliefs. It is richly ironic for an organiser of the Birmingham protests to object to the aforementioned lessons on the grounds that it is “proselytising a homosexual way of life”. Amir Ahmed also complained that it was about “indoctrination and recruitment”, claiming that “you can condition them [children] to accept this as being a normal way of life”. The protestors carried placards exclaiming “let kids be kids”. Are they letting their kids be kids? The protests succeeded, once again, in making Muslims and Islam the centre of attention. The main organiser of the protests, Shakeel Afsar, said that “the behaviour of the school and towards parents is coming across as Islamophobic”. There’s that word again. The real issue, which got lost in all this, is the right of children to grow up free from shame and guilt. Owing to the coronavirus, the requirement to teach Relationships and Sex Education in schools has now been delayed until next summer, so perhaps we’ll see more protests then, though it would be stirring up “hateful narratives” to speculate on the areas where they might occur. I would be willing to bet against the Cotswolds being one of them, though.

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Meanwhile, despite the Equalities and Human Rights Commission wisely deciding that the issue of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party did not warrant an investigation, the ever-reliable HOPE not hate has wasted no time in polling Conservative Party members to interrogate their views on Muslims. Amongst the “alarming” results, it found that “57% of party members had a negative attitude towards Muslims”. One wonders what proportion of party members would have a negative attitude towards Labour supporters – or, for that matter, how many Labour members would have a negative attitude towards Tories. The latter’s ideology is only about 800 years younger, but the free market is nearly as sacred as anything in the Quran. Yet even they eventually dropped their outdated clothing and learned to embrace women in positions of power. In other “depressing” findings, 47% of Conservative Party members believe that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life”. I want a second vote on that (although, encouragingly, just 27% think it is “compatible”, with the rest being “neither”, “don’t know” or “prefer not to say”; for the British population at large, only 32% think it is “compatible”).

When left-wing activists write “no Tories” on their dating site profiles, and shout “Tory scum” on demonstrations, it’s fine; if those statements were about Muslims, they would rightly be deemed offensive. Both are political ideologies, yet there is a curious double-standard at play on the left. Religion – particularly Islam – gets a free pass, simply because it has been around a lot longer. That’s a strong argument against the 2010 Equality Act covering religion as a “protected characteristic”. The Liberal Democrats are a minor but long-established ideological grouping; perhaps they need protecting from jokes about wearing socks with sandals.

Not that Labour is without sin in this regard. In April 2020, an internal report into how the party handles anti-Semitism, entitled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014–2019” was leaked, to widespread consternation. The dossier included several alleged examples of Islamophobia, such as that of a staffer in Labour’s policy unit sharing a video featuring author and Spectator columnist Douglas Murray.

Following the Manchester terror attack in 2017, James McBride at Labour’s Policy Unit shared a clip of Murray on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme, in which Murray commented “our politicians, I think, from all parties, are very reluctant to even name the ideology in question… we don’t want to recognise where it comes from… it comes from the religion, it is the worst possible interpretation of the religion, but it comes from it, and we are very reluctant in our society to face up to that”.

In a WhatsApp conversation for staff, McBride commented on this by saying “find it difficult to disagree with this”, noting that the terrorist ideology behind such attacks derived from the same ideology as Islam. He claimed that “Western liberal ideology is reluctant to take it on” and “expose its roots”, as it would inevitably involve “hard questions – even for so-called moderate Islam”. MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) – an NGO which lobbies for Britain’s Muslim community, and has promoted Islamophobia Awareness Month in parliament – naturally seized on this angle of the Labour dossier story. Murray has been an articulate and intelligent critic of Islam, yet was traduced as a “notorious Islamophobe” by MEND.

This minor part of the report into how Labour had dealt with complaints of anti-Semitism – one page amongst 851 – was also homed in on by the hard-left Morning Star and Novara Media; the latter said it was “holding Muslims to a level of collective responsibility that, under Labour’s later adopted IHRA definition, would be considered racist if applied [to] Jewish people”. The clear difference is that Muslims – that is, those who actually practice the religion – adhere to a set of collective beliefs. Ethnic Jews do not: there are Jews who are highly observant of Judaism; atheist Jews; Zionist Jews; and anti-Zionist Jews, to give just a few examples. Yet those who have stayed in the Labour Party did have to suffer the implicit accusation of “collective responsibility”, particularly from other Jews outside the party who wondered how on earth they could stay. But surely anyone committed to a political party or religion should be able to answer questions about their choice.

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But this is small fry for opponents of our prime minister. The anti-Islamophobia industry spends copious amounts of time dredging up past comments made by Boris Johnson – chiefly, the fact that he made some light-hearted comments about the choices of clothing made by Muslim women. A garment like the burka (or niqab, which is what he meant) leaves only the eyes on display, and is alien to British culture, but Johnson’s point was that he opposed a ban, as implemented elsewhere (including parts of the Muslim world). You see, he’s really a wet liberal Tory at heart. But it doesn’t stop the liberal left trying to portray him as “far right”. As soon as he became party leader, Tan Dhesi, the Labour MP for Slough wasted no time in reeling off these remarks at Johnson’s first Prime Minister’s Questions. In an unusual break with Commons convention, Dhesi’s grandstanding was met by rapturous applause from the Labour benches. This moral posturing and attack on free speech was a sure sign that the party was on its way to a drubbing at the next General Election.

So much time is spent dwelling on the offence caused to a small minority of the population – most of whom are relatively new to these shores – that too little time is spent considering the offence taken by the established native population when its values and traditions are openly disrespected. When your community changes beyond recognition, your neighbourhood is taken over by people who don’t speak your language, and you are surrounded by women wearing the hijab, you will naturally feel a sense of cultural dislocation. You may wonder what country you are living in, and find you have no one to talk to.

What is forgotten is that these changes largely impact the white working-class, who have been made to feel outsiders in the towns and cities they considered their home. The middle-class Anywheres (as David Goodhart would put it) can sell up and move to a new area which more closely resembles the England of days gone by. The working-class Somewheres tend not to have this luxury, but more importantly, they have an attachment to place, and do not see why they should have to move from their roots. For the liberal left, it is perfectly acceptable for Muslims to live together in close proximity by clustering in urban ghettoes, protecting their way of life; for the native British to wish to protect theirs leads to the charge of “Islamophobia”.

But let’s remember that Islamophobia can easily be directed at those who aren’t even Muslim: the APPG definition says it “is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. Those from Muslim backgrounds who reject their faith, or who simply have Muslim names, will suffer from the assumption that they hold certain views and behave in a particular way. The issue of Islamophobia – so often used to shut down any legitimate criticism of the religion – is effectively used to normalise Islam in the UK, and advance the interests of Muslims. They do not care one jot about a gay ex-Muslim called Mohammed who might experience discrimination because of his name. He is an apostate, and their homophobia is holy. To object to their moral values or belief systems is to be Islamophobic. If you find it scary that your local streets are filled with women dressed from head to toe in black gowns, whose eyes peer out at you under a cloak of anonymity, you are Islamophobic. If you feel more comfortable around people who share your cultural background, then you are Islamophobic. Except if you’re Muslim, that is, in which case it is to be celebrated.

So I’m no longer talking to liberals about Islam – because the truth is, they’re no longer liberal.

Keir Starmer called out for not calling out “racist conspiracy theory”

Yesterday morning, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer added to his long list of crimes among the holiest Labourites by failing to sufficiently condemn the “white supremacist views” of a caller to his LBC show, ‘Call Keir’.

LabourList reports that a caller named Gemma “promoted a conspiracy theory advocated by racists”. Gemma’s husband had been amongst the Millwall fans who booed the taking of the knee at a recent football match the team played. Starmer made clear that he disagreed with the booing, for which he gets a big tick from the moral guardians on the left. However, he failed to take the knee to the woke left properly by not rushing to judgment when confronted by the “other dangerous comments” made by Gemma. She asked a question which “promoted the white replacement conspiracy theory advanced by white nationalists and the far right.”

What were these dangerous comments? Policies borrowed from the Third Reich? A plea for advancing racial eugenics? A request for a Ku Klux Klan appearance at Millwall instead of the bended knee? None of the above. Gemma asked whether white people should “also start playing identity politics now before they become a minority themselves by 2066”. As well as Starmer, the LBC show’s host, Nick Ferrari, has also been excoriated by the High Church of Labour for not picking up on this remark.

What Gemma was referring to was a demographic projection made in 2013 in a report commissioned by the Migration Observatory, which made headlines in The Sun. But the report’s projection wasn’t new, as The Guardian pointed out at the time, in referring to The Sun’s coverage. The projection had already been publicised by the report’s author, David Coleman, a professor of demography at Oxford University, in 2010, three years earlier. Writing in Prospect magazine, Coleman remarked that on a “standard” projection based upon current trends, the White British population in Britain “would become the minority after about 2066”. He counters this by stressing that “In any case these are not predictions, only indications of the consequences of unchanged trends; projections even to mid-century are adventurous, never mind further into the future.” He points out that another study suggests lower levels of ethnic change taking place.

Coleman’s article was published just over ten years ago, and six months after the new Conservative-led coalition had taken over from the Labour administration, which had seen levels of immigration rise to unprecedented levels: “It may seem perverse to construct a scenario on a migration level that government has promised to reduce. But it will serve as a benchmark.” Of course, David Cameron’s pledge to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands” completely failed. It rocketed to even higher levels. This was in part because free movement within the European Union is not that easy to control, and clearly led to the UK’s momentous decision to leave the European Union in 2016. High birth rates amongst the non-white population already resident in this country also contributed to such projections.

The professor was sceptical of claims made by authorities which “independently concluded that annual net immigration might fall to between 80,000 and 90,000 by about 2020, simply as a result of economic forces.” He was right to be sceptical: in the year ending March 2020, it was estimated that net immigration had been at around 313,000. The key thing here is the importance of the word “might”. Coleman’s projection of a White British minority, as he notes himself, is forecast “were the assumptions to hold”. On another scenario, he estimates that the White British “would not fall below 50 per cent until about 2080.” If numbers arriving and leaving were equal, that would happen “by the end of the century.”

There are well-known conspiracy theories on the “far-right”, of the kind described by LabourList: the ‘Great Replacement‘ and ‘White genocide‘, and these are presumably what the mob have interpreted as unspoken in Gemma’s question to Starmer. These demographic projections made by academics like Coleman could easily be seen as proof by many Brits that these theories are valid.

Conspiracy theories help people to explain a world they cannot understand. Coleman posited that such a shift in the ethnic makeup of Britain’s population, “whenever it happens, would represent an enormous change to national identity—cultural, political, economic and religious.” The ethnic changes over the last few decades have not passed without trouble. Conspiracy theories are stories we comfort ourselves with to make sense of the anxiety-inducing narratives we find we have no control over. Yet Gemma was not talking about these conspiracy theories. Her quoted remark on LabourList is referring to a demographic projection by an Oxford professor. Hardly the stuff of Britain First or the EDL, but perhaps this is more proof that the British Establishment is irredeemably racist. Projections, maths and numbers are all racist, too.

Maybe this is another example of “so what you’re saying is…”, in which the liberal left make the worst possible assumptions of humanity, and leaps to a judgment of bad faith. The call itself, and Starmer’s response, can be heard here:

So, it is clear that there was no “conspiracy theory” in Gemma’s question when she referred to a demographic projection. That projection may have been promoted by groups who are less than savoury, but should we just sit back and wait for things to happen, rather than making any projections?

Ironically, the hard-left are all too happy to talk about demographic change when they see it as cause for celebration. Just last month, Ash Sarkar of Novara Media (the gift that keeps on giving) gleefully reported that demographic change is “going to deliver a progressive majority“. She can barely conceal her delight in telling her devoted acolytes that “the voter cohorts which could deliver a progressive majority – the young tenant class and communities of colour – are concentrated in cities and safe seats. First past the post rewards the geographic spread of older voters; at least for now, the power to shape the future is being kept well out of the hands of those who will inherit it.” So that’s okay then – you just have to wait for the “voter coalition of white property owners” (as she calls it) to age out of the electorate in the next two decades. If anyone is fanning the flames of “conspiracy theories” around demographic change, it’s this lot.

Naturally, Sarkar and her friendly comrade at Novara, Michael Walker, were quick in producing a 13-minute long video entitled “Keir Starmer Fails To Challenge Far-Right Conspiracies On LBC Radio“, in which Walker ends up describing Israel’s state laws as “apartheid”, before Sarkar goes on to decry how the Great Replacement theory is closely linked to anti-Semitism. Walker is rather uncomfortable with the Jewish people enshrining their right to their own self-determination in their constitution: “Even if Jews no longer are the majority, they still are the only people with rights to have ownership of that nation, essentially”. Given the circumstances that led up to the creation of Israel, and the events of the Second World War, in which Jews were the victims of mass extermination throughout Europe, is it not a natural instinct for them to want to protect their safety and security as a people, in the form of a nation state homeland? What Jews tend to have in common with “White British” callers like Gemma is that they are white, which reduces their importance in the eyes of our social justice double act at Novara.

The other “problematic” term which Gemma used, and which has got some on the left in a flap, is “indigenous people”. According to new Labour MP Sarah Owen, “The idea of ‘indigenous people’ of Britain and use of this term, especially by [the] far right, needs to be challenged at every point.” For Gemma – clearly a reprehensible character – was saying that “the indigenous people of Britain” who were “set to become a minority by 2066”. The term “indigenous people” is generally thought to refer to the longest-established communities of a country. It is also used in a specific context to refer to the Aboriginal and Maori people of Australia and New Zealand, respectively. The International Labour Organization notes that there is no universal definition of indigenous and tribal peoples, but they have their own “subjective” and “objective” criteria for identification. Subjectively, “Indigenous peoples” can refer to “Self-identification as belonging to an indigenous people”. Gemma has clearly self-identified as indigenous (I thought self-ID was all the rage on the left?). The objective criteria is “Descent from populations, who inhabited the country or geographical region at the time of conquest, colonisation or establishment of present state boundaries.”

The White British population may well be a “mongrel race” as many describe, but it was a stable ethnic community for over a thousand years. The White British (a grouping which can also expand to include those identifying as White Other, should they gain citizenship) are largely descended from populations who inhabited this country at the establishment of present state boundaries. White British people are descended from the Romans, as well as Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans, but such groups don’t show up on the kind of DNA tests available from companies like Ancestry (who are probably racist too, I suppose). My DNA’s ethnicity estimate from that company is European Jewish, England & Northwestern Europe, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

I would routinely tick the “White British” box on those monitoring forms, until a few years ago. I am “White” – at least, I think I look like other “White” people. My nationality is “British”. But I’m also descended, on one side, from the Ashkenazi Jewish people. As neither “Jewish” or “Mixed: White and Jewish” are on the ONS classifications for surveying people in England, and I don’t fancy describing myself as “Any other ethnic group”, I’ve decided to tick the “White Other” box, although many people might assume me to be “White British”. Hopefully the ONS will start to include Jewish ethnicities as an option on the 2021 Census, as has been considered. I could easily self-identify as White British though: choosing your own ethnicity is how the data is collected.

People have often asked me where I am from, and guessed at my ethnic origins. Spanish? Greek? Italian? No, half-Jewish. And I take no offence at answering that question, because I am proud to have Jewish roots. I am also descended from the White British population. Whether I can be proud of that is still up for debate. Based on Gemma’s innocuous question to Sir Keir Starmer, it is verboten. We are both descended from what could be described as the “indigenous peoples” of Great Britain, but these are “dangerous comments”.

What is really going on is the policing of language by the far left, and the demonization of people like Gemma (should we add “Gemma” to the lexicon, like “Karen” has become shorthand for undesirable white women with the wrong views?). The far left can also smell blood when it comes to Starmer, so any excuse to vilify him for failing to meet the rules of the new religion of woke, by not rushing to denounce the heretic he was confronted with, is to be seized upon.

However, the far-left’s own versions of Sherlock Holmes have been hard at work, and it turns out that there is a twist in the tale. All is not what it seems: Gemma was a nice middle-class woman calling from Cambridge, the heart of Liberal Left Remania, and not someone who, to draw on crude stereotypes, sounded like the wife of a booing Millwall fan. Her online name is Jody Kay (real name Jody Swingler) she apparently has a YouTube channel promoting far-right conspiracy theories, and is a supporter of the “far-right Patriotic Alternative group”.

Jody is, somewhat unexpectedly, a yoga teacher living in Ibiza. Well, I can’t say yoga is my cup of tea, but is this practitioner of calm serenity really an “Undercover Neo-Nazi” as another YouTube channel, Turn Left (off a cliff?) describes her? A bit odd for a neo-Nazi to enthusiastically endorse the policies of Israel. One also wonders why a “white nationalist” is busy earning her money promoting the spiritual traditions of ancient India. It’s also worth asking why she felt the need to leave her (presumed) homeland of Great Britain for Ibiza, although I’ll grant you the climate is bound to be far more desirable. Hardly the dangerous patriot of the far-left’s imagination if she’s prepared to abandon her country to teach yoga in the Mediterranean. Perhaps she was fleeing from the gradual narrowing of debate in Britain when it comes to these sensitive issues, in which dissent has been crushed with cries of “racist!” Still, at least she’ll hear less from Sarkar and Walker.

The call may have been somewhat disingenuous, and it may even have been part of some strange prank in which LBC and Starmer were unknowing victims. But to draw attention to a nation’s distantly (and uncertain) projected demographic change, and refer to that nation’s long-established ethnic group as “indigenous” as “promoting” a far-right conspiracy theory is over-egging the pudding just a little bit. To talk of the state of Israel and those troublesome Jews in a positive light is also a step beyond the pale for the far-left. As Sarkar points out, demographic change is coming, and it’s something we’re going to have to talk about, whether Jody in Ibiza sees fit to use her real name or not.

The best lesson to draw from this little inquisition is that for the Disciples of Saint Jeremy, his old colleague did not pass the test of character. According to Curtis Daly from Turn Left, Starmer is “losing confidence among young people and minorities”. I imagine this is purely anecdotal evidence, but all the same, perhaps Starmer needs to gain the confidence of older people and the majority – who have deserted his party in large numbers in recent years. To accuse a radio call-in listener of promoting racist conspiracy theories by citing demographic projections would have been electoral suicide. But as devoted fans of Jeremy Corbyn, who brought Labour to its worst defeat since 1935, perhaps that is the woke left’s preferred option.

Hello, and welcome to a new blog.

I’ve been told I should write a blog for years, but could never be bothered, and didn’t want to spend more time online than I already do. Despite this, I have often felt the urge to share my views on contemporary politics by writing articles. Thus far, as an unknown, I have found it difficult to get my work published. Rather than letting it go to waste, I feel the best thing to do is to publish it myself. I’ve got a lot to say, and need to share it, so here seems the best place. I am a writer, and therefore I must write.

Why “The Conservative Liberal”? Political labels are used to define and pigeonhole us. One word can sum up a whole person: their believes, values, feelings and traditions. I have essentially defined myself as being “on the left” during my political life, which is just over ten years old. Initially, I would have described myself as “Labour”, since they were the first party I voted for and joined. I was mainly attracted to Labour by their great liberal reforms on gay rights during the New Labour administration from 1997 to 2010. As a gay man, I was acting in my own self-interest by voting for that party.

Through learning about politics, I also began to define myself as “left-wing” on the left-right spectrum. I believe in a strong welfare state, and not in the market as God. The plastic consumerist society we live in depresses me. We are in a capitalist system, but it needs regulating. The super-rich have too much power, and we live in a horrendously unequal country. Some degree of inequality is inevitable, but shouldn’t young people be able to buy their own property? Fairness is important to me, and a basic sense of decency. I’m not sure how much of Labour’s last manifesto I really objected to. According to Political Compass, I’m “Left-Libertarian”. That website’s test placed me somewhere in the centre-left. The questions, however, mainly concern economics, and the social issues it asks users about seem to lack much nuance.

The “liberal” vs. “conservative” divide has tended to be a feature of American political discourse, because, in the UK, the divide has historically been “left” or “right”. Where Americans have the Democrats (liberals) and the Republicans (conservatives), Brits have the Labour Party (left-wing, social-democratic) and the Conservatives (right-wing, free markets). It’s pretty obvious that Britain’s main conservative party is, er, the Conservative Party. The clue is in the name. Labour, on the other hand, has traditionally been much more of a “big tent”. The name is an anachronism, rooted in a time when men in cloth caps went to work in the factories, shipyards and mills. Labour took over as the main opposition party from the Liberals, who eventually became today’s Liberal Democrats.

It is said that Britain is an instinctively conservative country. Hence, this can explain the fact that in modern British history, the Conservative Party have governed for most of the time. However, this could suggest that the Conservatives have enjoyed mass popular support throughout this period, which isn’t the case. Our skewed electoral system, First-Past-the-Post, means that they can easily form a majority in Parliament on a minority of the vote share (ie. less than 50%). The votes of the opposition parties add up to a majority, but not when it comes to parliamentary seats. I feel strongly about needing proportional representation, so that a range of perspectives can be properly represented in our democracy. The electoral system is currently set up to favour the two major parties, with a little bit of room for a third party option. This means that most of us have to choose from two binary options when casting our vote, despite the fact that people are far more complex than simply wanting everything from A and nothing from B. Even if they like A, they might not like everything they’re offering. Most people do not fit neatly into boxes, and cannot be pigeonholed. In an increasingly secular society, however, it’s as if political ideology has replaced religion. Many people choose one party or the other, and strongly believe in it, or at least the ideas behind it.

Britain is a developed Western nation and a liberal democracy. As Labour took over from the Liberals at the ballot box, it follows that it also took over on much of the same ground politically. One common phrase I learnt years ago was the old adage “it’s a free country”. We are indeed relatively free as a country. I don’t know much about liberalism as an ideology, but to me it suggests being easy-going; live and let live as a touchstone for a society. That we do not live in an authoritarian dictatorship is something to be thankful for. These are values I subscribe to. I believe in human rights and basic dignity. I try to consider the feelings of others, and think of things from their point of view.

So even though I found that I identified with Britain’s main opposition party, which was on the left in terms of economics, I was also comfortable with the liberalism which Labour has promoted over the years. In the 1960s, Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins ushered in a wave of “liberal” reforms: abolishing capital punishment, legalising abortion, and decriminalising homosexuality. These are all moves which I readily agree with. By the standards of American politics, I am a liberal.

And yet one feature of American life and politics which greatly differs from our own is religion. I was raised by Jewish and Christian parents who celebrated festivals from both religions with us as a family. As a teenager, I realised that I did not want to live my life based on a set of rules in a book about what I can and cannot eat, or what I should and shouldn’t do. This was perhaps because I was coming to terms with my sexuality, which mainstream religion is generally disapproving of. To varying degrees, homosexuality is wrong in the scriptures. I knew that I wanted to live my life without these arbitrary rules, and so I was clearly an atheist.

Politics replaced religion for me, as I believe it has for many. After becoming politically active, I found myself increasingly attached to the Labour Party which I had joined. I believed in what it stood for. I wanted the party to win and govern. I felt I had to be loyal to Labour. It was hard for me to break out of my ideological comfort zone of class-based economic social justice. I found the word “conservative” repellent, it being linked to the Conservative Party, and associated “liberalism” with their coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats, who enabled a Conservative agenda to be pushed forward in government.

However, my views cannot be so easily pigeonholed. My resistance to religion stems from a reluctance to conform to dogma. I slowly realised that I do not agree with Labour on every issue; in fact, I would take a very different position on some things. Chiefly, that immigration into Britain has been too high, resulting in a multicultural society which I find dysfunctional, depressing and disparate. If you have these views and you consider yourself “on the left”, you soon realise that you are out of step with the party and its followers. To feel free, a sense of belonging is important. When everyone around you is different, how are you meant to belong? Where do you fit in? To my mind, multiculturalism, despite some benefits, will end up leading to alienation. Community is fractured. We all tune into different channels.

In the same way that the once-pejorative word “queer” has been reclaimed by homosexuals as a badge of pride, I have realised that it’s time to reclaim the negative word “conservative” as something that is not an insult. Human beings are conservative by nature; we prefer the familiar to the unknown. As children, and into adulthood, we yearn for security. Conservatives, it is said, seek to conserve. I have a nostalgic longing for the dim and distant past: Britain before it was merely a centre of global capital. When people knew the same songs, and could talk about the same films. I know the past wasn’t perfect, but it’s a lot more appealing than the world of today. I certainly don’t look on it all with rose-tinted spectacles. The point is that we should conserve the good things from the past: manners, decency, culture and community. There is always room for improvement. Conservatism has been a popular force in British society through the ages, but it has also been there in the Labour Party. Some conservatives in America will vote for the Democrats; the famous gay writer Gore Vidal identified with the Democratic Party, but described himself as a “conservative”.

Much of what I would seek to conserve is actually long gone. How can you conserve something that no longer exists? The answer, instead, must be to restore what we have lost. But enough does still survive of what needs conserving for future generations. It is not gone completely. Progress is inevitable, and often necessary. Some progress should be revolutionary and quick. On the other hand, it may be preferable for progress to be gradually realised and slow in nature, so that we can get used to it. Like Vidal, perhaps, I am conservative with a small ‘c’, as is so often said. I believe in tradition and patriotism. There is a rhyme and reason to the rituals we practice as a society. We can find comfort in belonging to a club with other members who know the same songs as us. Change, like progress, is inevitable, but it should not be change for its own sake. Conservatives, it is said, fear too much change. That is something I can identify with: security is preferable.

So I’m a small ‘c’ conservative. I’m reclaiming that insult as a positive attribute, if it can adequately explain my views. In any case, as Ian Martin wrote in The Guardian, following the surprise Conservative Party election win in 2015, on 37% of the vote: “somehow at a fundamental, organic level WE ARE ALL NOW 37% CONSERVATIVE.” It’s not difficult to agree with the Conservative Party – just try doing the quiz at I Side With, and you’ll find that there are stances from every party with which you agree. That doesn’t mean that you or I will agree with its wholesale policy platform, but as we live and breathe in the society they’ve had a part in creating, we continue to function and may even prosper. If you’ve come through the last ten years and survived, perhaps they’re not evil (just inept).

But all this is to assume that the Conservative Party is actually still conservative. Many think it isn’t. In many ways, in inheriting the New Labour legacy of social and economic liberalism, the Conservatives had to accommodate some of the changes which had taken place while they were out of office. Much like Tony Blair did with Labour, David Cameron “rebranded” the Conservatives to take them closer to the fabled “centre ground”. In some ways, this is a reasonable attempt at compromise. The flipside, though, is that in trying to appeal to everyone, parties lose their distinctiveness. The Tories may be labelled as “hard right” or “extreme” by their enemies on the left, but many would not find them particularly conservative these days. The obeisance of their response to the Black Lives Matter protests was hardly what one would expect of a “nationalist” or “populist” party. Boris Johnson, it is said, is a “liberal Remainer” at heart, which could explain his seeming indifference to the “culture wars” we increasingly find our political discourse dominated by.

Cameron, especially with his coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats, flew the flag for liberal conservatism. He ended up writing his memoirs in his garden shed, with “hug a hoodie” a dim and distant memory. It’s relatively easy for the political class to be liberal conservatives; if you believe what some observers say, they make up most of the Establishment. Far less visible are the conservative liberals. This expression of sentiment is growing, though. The Blue Labour group identified what Frank Field once said of the his party: “Labour was always conservative.” Field, tellingly, is no longer in the Labour Party.

David Goodhart, son of the late Conservative MP Sir Philip Goodhart, has noted the salience of the new political divides, which go beyond what was traditionally thought of as “left” and “right”. In a radio essay for A Point of View on BBC Radio 4 last year, he decried the “political packages” we have been lumbered with in the form of mainstream parties, and quoted the American political thinker Daniel Bell’s response when asked for his political credo: “I am a social democrat in economics, a liberal in politics, and somewhat conservative on social and cultural issues”. This is similar to Goodhart’s own credo, he says, and calls it the “hidden majority package”. Goodhart notes that it’s easier for most people not to think for themselves, and to simply go along with what their “tribe” thinks about an issue.

So I stand for those “Enlightenment values” of reason, the evidence of the senses, liberty, tolerance, fraternity and the separation of church and state. This is the kind of stance which has become popular with what some call the “Intellectual Dark Web”. From this group of prominent writers and thinkers, I am a particular admirer of Douglas Murray. Some have referred to the likes of him and Jordan Peterson as “classical liberals”. This ideology traditionally centred on civil liberties, the rule of law and economic freedom. It is now making a comeback via a focus on “free speech”, which is said to be under threat from the politically correct or “woke” left. Classical liberalism also puts individual liberty at its core. That is important to me too. The IDW, and thinkers such as Murray and Peterson, are often categorised on the “right”. It is clear that the labels of “left” and “right” are losing their meaning, at least when it comes to social issues, rather than those of economics.

I am a conservative because I want to conserve the best of our traditions and values, but I am also a liberal because I believe in the sovereignty of the individual. I try to see the best in people, but the primary source of my knowledge is how I experience the world. Live and let live – or, as it should be today, live and let speak. I intend to use this blog to speak my truth. My words will be based on my own unique “lived experience”, as they say in common parlance these days.

If you like David Goodhart, Matthew Goodwin, Douglas Murray, Eric Kaufmann or even Rod Liddle, this blog is for you. If you ever read Spiked, UnHerd, The Spectator or The Critic, this blog is for you. If you like to think for yourself, and listen to what others have to say, this blog is for you. If you think about who you are going to vote for, this blog may well be for you too.

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