I never thought I would say this but I have not heard another British
politician make such a sophisticated and vital intervention at a time when so
many across the parties seem to have lost a sense of proportion, political sense
and the instincts of true leadership...
Brown will not be able glibly to face down the words of Cameron today, who
says: "It is no use behaving like the proverbial English tourist abroad,
shouting ever more at the hapless foreigner who doesn't understand what is being
said. We can't bully people into feeling British - we have to inspire them."
Tick. He wants calmness of debate and an end to the "hectoring of Muslims". Yet
he is brave enough to condemn the oppression of females within some Muslim
enclaves. Tick, tick. He dismisses the "clunking" government initiatives which
attempt to get citizens to be more vainly British. Three more ticks.
Cameron seems instinctively to understand how un-British and coercive
such social engineering would be. He goes further, takes risks, provokes Middle
England's disapproval as he damns the demonisation of Muslims and their faith,
reminding Britons that the challenges of cohesion are not the same as the threat
of terrorism. The two are dumped together by those in government who use
immigration policies, anti-terrorism legislation and other means to terrorise
incomers and their children into accepting a curtailment of fundamental rights
and definitions of Britishness that are questionable at best.
I am British; I have never had any other nationality; I would not leave
this country to live abroad even when things get really tough and escape
beckons; I love London and would go to war if it was threatened. British
institutions, freedoms, the struggles and bloodshed that went into the making of
this layered country and democracy itself, the beautifully expressive language,
thegreat writers, scientists, thinkers, engineers, the cultural promiscuity of
England, all these have captured my heart and head.
But you knew it couldn't last...
I am swooning now, helplessly as if in front of a charismatic
churchman about to newly baptise me into a wonderful new world. Just in time,
scepticism flies in to deliver me from this dubious saviour. As I come to my
senses I realise I have no evidence that Cameron really means to deliver this
new agenda. If facing a WI meeting in Henley on Wednesday, will he say what he
did in Birmingham on Monday? And if some High Tory donor or xenophobic
commentator has a stern word or two, will he produce an equally brilliant speech
on Friday notifying Muslims and other immigrants of the integration duties they
owe this always great and tolerant country? He has been on both sides on the
Iraq war, on immigration too, and his two faces shine brightly when responding
to anti-terrorism legislation. The man is slick and unreliable, but his thoughts
and ideas on Britishness today are so remarkable, Labour would be foolish not to
steal them. Gordon Brown, a substantial and visionary politician, needs to
acknowledge Cameron's profundity on Britishness and then seize the initiative.
Otherwise many black and Asian Britons will rush to the Tories only to be
betrayed by them, as has happened throughout history.