Sunday, January 31, 2016

Intolerance and the Battle of Dover

Early this week I was twice horrified by a lack of balance in the way some people expressed their views. Then we had the shameful scenes at Dover. In my opinion those who start by accusing their opponents as being traitors or not true Britons/Scots are in danger of starting down the slippery slope which leads to the kind of ugly scenes we have just seen.

In a previous post today I linked to an article by former MP Dr Julian Huppert which mentioned two debates over whether Britain should remain a member of the EU in which he had taken part. He asked those on the other side from himself what they would be prepared to risk or give up for their preferred outcome. They shouted "Everything!"

Everything?  Everything? Really?

In the words of G.K. Chesterton,

"All men are dangerous who care for only one thing."

Then there was the latest manifestation of hostility by SNP supporters against J.K. Rowling.

When the "Harry Potter" author gave a million pounds to the Labour party, I won't pretend that Conservatives like myself were not a little disappointed, but most of us accepted that what she does with the money she had earned is a matter for her. I certainly don't recall any Conservative expressing anything like the vitriol she has subsequently received from the SNP for giving money to the "No" side in the Scottish Independence Referendum - and it is still going on.

I was reading an online discussion this week - I think it was on the comment pages of "The Scotsman" website when saw a comment which encapsulates how narrow minded some people can get. One of the SNP contributors posted that he had some bad news for Unionists: Andy Murray had made it to the final of the Australian open.

Someone asked him why on earth Unionists would be upset by a British player doing well in a sporting contest, and the gentleman replied that Andy Murray was a nationalist.

That sort of comment makes me sad rather than angry.

Andy Murray is a great tennis player, and the idea that I should stop recognising that or stop being pleased when he does well because he made a comment I disagreed with in the run up to a referendum eighteen months ago is too ridiculously petty for words. I will always cheer for a sporting competitor or team from any of the four nations of the United Kingdom who is playing someone from anywhere else, out of friendly support for any part of my country. And not out of hostility to other parts of the world.

One of the worst aspects of the Scottish referendum was when the "Yes" campaign accused those who were voting "No" of a lack of patriotism or not being proper Scots. We are starting to see the same kind of nonsense in the forthcoming EU referendum vote. This is extremely harmful.

It is possible to be a Scottish patriot who is also British and wants to remain so, and it is also possible to be a British patriot who thinks the best interests of Britain are best served by remaining within the EU. The anger built up on both sides during the Scottish Independence referendum will take years to heal and the last thing we need is the same sort of divisive anger to appear during the European Union referendum campaign.

When you start thinking in absolutist terms rather than assessing the merits of a proposal on an objective view of the evidence, you are taking the first step down a very dangerous road. When you start assuming that people who might otherwise be friends must be opposed because they have taken a different political view, you are taking the second step. It does not take too many more before you get to the battle of Dover.

The reports of this week's disturbances in Dover, such as the report in the Mail which you can read at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3424299/Neo-Nazi-gangs-daub-swastikas-BLOOD-protest-descends-violent-clashes-police-anti-fascists.html are utterly horrifying.

Kent Police said nine people had been arrested and more than 20 weapons seized, including a lock-knife, knuckle duster, pieces of wood, glass, hammers and bricks. A police spokeswoman told the Mail that
 
'One person suffered a broken arm and five others sustained minor injuries.' 

and frankly given the sort of weaponry in evidence and used it was fortunate that the number and seriousness of injuries wasn't a lot worse than this.

But even sadder than those injuries is the fact that both sets of people in the photographs below think they were defending British values. That applies whether they were protesting against immigration like these people






or whether they called themselves anti-fascists like these people:



not to mention the ones who smashed the windows of one coach and daubed a swastika in blood on the side of another, or threw smoke bombs.

I don't care what position you are using your democratic rights to argue for, once you start forming into gangs who cover your faces, tussle with police, and get into physical fights with people who take a different view, you have left democracy behind and with it any claim to stand for British values. (Or, for the EDL and Scottish Defence League, English or Scottish ones.)

You may claim to be defending British culture, you may claim to be opposing fascism, but you cannot defend British values or oppose fascism using fascist tactics such as rule by the mob.

BTW, if you read the whole Mail article which I linked to above you will also see that Labour's Shadow International Development Secretary Diane Abbot provided some comic relief in Dover by describing the White Cliffs of Dover as "racist rocks." She apparently told the crowd

"It's 2016, Time for those racist rocks to go. Mr Cameron, tear down those cliffs."

I presume she must have been joking, but such is the state of the Labour party at the moment ...

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