Fiddling While Europe Burns, Or...?

24 August 2018

In this week’s Politics Column (15 August), Chris Moncrieff’s first words were: “What sort of madness is this,..?” 
 
Exactly my reaction as I read through his ‘thoughts’ on Boris Johnson’s recent deliberately Islamophobic comments about Muslim women who wear the burka.
 
Johnson - the worst Foreign Secretary the UK has had since 1945 - is no fool. He knew exactly what he was doing when he made those comments: cynically using racism and misogyny in order to get his political career back on track. His first attempt to obtain the post he so badly wants - by jumping on the rightwing populist bandwagon of the Leave campaign - failed pathetically.
 
So now Johnson is having a second attempt - this time, by going even further to the right and using Trump’s methods of hate and derision. His recent comments were calculated to appeal not just to the Tory rightwing, but also to the far right who have been using the imprisonment of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka ‘Tommy Robinson’) to drum up recruits for their semi-fascist bands of thugs (such as the FLA & the DLA).
 
Johnson made those comments in the context of an increasing number of attacks on Muslim communities - and on Muslim women in particular. Bullies like Johnson pick on those they assume are weak and vulnerable - despite knowing full well that, every time some leading politician makes such comments, the number of Islamophobic attacks soars. Yet Rod Liddle - another so-called ‘leading’ journalist - writing in The Spectator - has just called for more Islamophobia!
 
Hence my concerns about Chris Moncrieff’s intervention: is it just a case of someone unable to see what is happening all around him at the present moment? This is hard to believe about someone who was a leading journalist for so long.

Not only in the UK, but across Europe, the ‘populist’ right - and the even further right - are currently creeping and crawling into the daylight. The Italian coalition government now contains semi-fascists, as does the Hungarian government; and similar parties and individuals are currently sitting in several European parliaments.
 
In such circumstances, to say that Johnson is ‘quite right’ not to apologise - and to suggest that Johnson’s hateful comments were just ‘taking the mickey out of religions’ - is, at best, to offer a fig-leaf to try to cover up a disgusting attempt to use racism and misogyny to further personal ambitions.
 
So I find it difficult to decide whether Chris Moncrieff was, because of genuine ignorance of the political world around him, merely ‘fiddling while Europe burns’; or whether he was joining the likes of Johnson and Liddle in deliberately ‘fanning the flames’ of hate in order to shift things even further to the right than they already are. Perhaps not too surprising from someone who is such a fan of Thatcher.
 
Between the worsening Climate Crisis on one hand, and the spread of Trumpism and creeping fascism on the other, this has to be the scariest time since the 1930s. If progressive radicals don’t start to come together soon, to face these twin dangers, then the world is headed for a very dark time indeed.

Allan Todd 
Published in the Whitehaven News 21.8.18 titled 'Dark Days Ahead'.
 






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