Daily Archives: May 5, 2010

Why we must confront extremism.

I’ve spent a good hour today, in between hacking my guts up with the worst cough I think I’ve ever had, reading the manifestos of the minor parties: I’m not talking about the Greens, UKIP and the like – but the real minorities, the ones fielding a handful of candidates nationwide, and amongst the protest votes, the independents and the novelty parties there are some genuinely terrifying viewpoints out there being promoted as utterly devoted parties.

Of course in a democracy you should always expect that politics will be defined by shades of grey, some much darker than others, some much lighter than perhaps is good for what is after all a serious business – but good god, the hate in certain sections of society is so high that we really are in danger of letting some sections of the politically ignored fall into the hands of real extremists.

We talk a lot in the Westminster Village about extremists picking up followers in our multicultural areas, but we pay little attention to extremists picking up followers in our ‘less than’ multicultural areas: and you know what – we need to start taking it seriously. The Euro elections saw the BNP, the ‘respectable’ face of national socialism, elected to the European parliament – it’s seriously looking like they could be a contender in Barking and Dagenham for a seat in the Mother of all Parliaments, our very own House of Commons: and what’s the response? Ignore them – that’s not worked, and if we’re shooting from the hip Brown’s Bigotgate, and the media whirlwind that followed it, will only have reinforced the viewpoint amongst those people who feel that they’re ignored in our society, that they are indeed ignored as bigots by the elite Westminster class, so what to do?

Some facts are what’s needed first and foremost, facts that politicians need to start talking about more openly, yes these are dirty topics – but to confront them is to shine the spotlight on them, it opens up the debates to the public in areas that perhaps now we might consider taboo – and surely that can only be a good thing: if for no other reason than to make people aware that there is always a middle ground that can be found without lurching to extremes and that there are issue which the mainstream parties can tackle that’ll rip away the support for the extremists because the main issues will be being discussed openly and dealt with in one way or another.

Sure that’s not going to avoid extremism in one fell swoop, but it will help. Let’s not forget that before 7/7 became the most recent and remembered example of terrorism, the last major example of home grown terror came from David Copeland – a Neo-Nazi former member of the BNP and the National Socialist Movement, this was a man who some argue was easily swayed, who assembled and set off nail bombs with the intent to kill and maim those in the Bangladeshi and Black immigrant populations of Brixton and Shoreditch, and the predominantly white homosexual population of the Admiral Duncan in Soho. This was a man influenced by the extreme fringes of British politics, fringes which from Today’s little foray into the manifestos of some of the people standing for election in this General Election are still very much active to this day without so much as a peep from our mainstream politics to discredit them.

Ignoring the issue is the favourite tool of politicians worldwide: and time after time it’s been proved to be the wrong answer. So let’s see some real leadership in the next parliament to properly address the extreme edges of our political system, to bring more people into the political fold, engaging them properly to prove that their fears, worries, hopes and dreams can be (in most cases) addressed by mature, centre right and centre left politics.

You’re not a citizen, you’re a subject.

If you are British and you’re reading this, I’ve got some news that may shock you: you’re not a citizen of the United Kingdom, you never have been – you’re only a European Citizen. Rubbish, I hear you cry – I’m British through and through, a proud British citizen, John Bull, as British as they come – but gird your loins, because it’s true: you’ve never been a citizen, because you can’t be a citizen without fundamentally guaranteed rights of citizenship.

The 1948 British Nationality Act made everyone in the crumbling empire a ‘Citizen’ yes, but it didn’t fundamentally change the relationship between ‘we the people’ and the Sovereign state. Magna Carta & The bill of rights never granted us citizenship, we’ve always been Sovereign subjects. The one thing that’s been the same over three hundred years of ‘modern’ parliaments is that no one parliament can bind another. Our ‘rights’ to freedom of movement, the vote, fair trial by jury with appeal, even the right to life – these absolutely basic freedoms are not enshrined anywhere in British law in any fundamentally sticky way, they are simply privileges afforded to you by the grace of parliament, privileges that could be taken away by any government with a big enough majority.

We have of course signed up to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights (1950), but it should be remembered that neither of these are legally binding, they can be ignored and thrown aside at the whim of any parliament. The only citizenship you hold in the UK is that of the European Union, it gives you the right (not the privilege) to vote, to move freely, and to live your life with fundamental rights guaranteed by law.

With the election coming up so quickly think carefully about where you lay your vote: the parties crying out for us to leave the EU make no promise of fundamental constitutional change, and frankly constituional reform (alongside financial reform) needs to be the top priority for any incoming government.

Our rights need to be enshrined in perpetuity: our constitution or basic law should be take precedent over any individual parliament. The rights of the people in Britain should come first, and ironic as the Daily Mail might find it (and let’s not forget this is the same paper that thought Hitler was a good idea) so far the only place that’s done that for us is the European Union. So as you place your tick in the box tomorrow, and I hope you will be ticking a box, think carefully about who is most likely to make the revolutionary constitutional reform that for the first time in our history will place the British Citizen above their representatives.