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Clegg Makes More Sense Than Cameron Shock

John Rentoul

clegg 300x183 Clegg Makes More Sense Than Cameron ShockBy way of footnotes to my columnising in The Independent on Sunday today (Comrade Coren has recently verbed the word column),* it turns out that some people do not recognise my reference to the Mirror of Erised.

This just goes to show that some of us columnisers have a cultural hinterland, doesn’t it? (Do not attempt to answer this question.) It’s JK Rowling. “Desire” backwards. The mirror in which one sees that which one most wants. Ron Weasley saw himself holding the Quidditch Cup. Harry Potter saw his mother and father.

Anyway, just a way of saying that by-elections can usually be interpreted in whatever way one wants, depending on the prejudices about politics one started off with. The Barnsley by-election actually told us little that we did not already know.

(Indeed, it emphasised how unusual the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election had been, in that the Liberal Democrat vote there held up, even taking into account tactical Conservative switching.)

If one purpose of my columnisation was to say that we already knew the Lib Dems are in trouble, the other was to praise Nick Clegg’s fine speech last week on multiculturalism, in which he took issue politely but firmly with David Cameron’s speech on the same subject last month.

I was critical of the Prime Minister’s speech – as reflected in this leading article for The Independent on Sunday – for suggesting that past government policy had denied British Muslims of their “identity” and thus helped to radicalise the 7/7 bombers.

Clegg’s speech, which I understand was drafted by, or with a lot of help from, Richard Reeves, recently of Demos and less recently of Frank Field, pointed out:

There is some evidence that those Muslims who do turn to violence have a shallower understanding of Islam than Muslims who may have radical views but reject violence.

In other words, their resort to terrorism is not a product of Muslims living in separate communities (“multiculturalism”), but of the rootlessness of some Muslims who live in the mainstream (“integration”) but take against it.

The speech also included a defence of the Liberal attitude towards engagement with political-but-not-necessarily-violent-Islam. My friends at Harry’s Place are not happy with Clegg’s position, but at least it was set out clearly:

The Global Peace and Unity conference attracts around 50,000 British Muslims each year and is an important opportunity to engage in argument – and so Andrew Stunell, the Government’s Communities Minister did this year. Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, also spoke at the event.

Now there may well have been a small minority of organisations and individuals at that event with deeply unpalatable, illiberal views.

But you don’t win a fight by leaving the ring. You get in and win. The overwhelming majority of the people attending this conference are active, engaged and law-abiding citizens. We don’t win people to liberal ideals by giving ourselves a leave of absence from the argument.

Other posts at Harry’s Place on “Global Peace and Unity” are herehere and here. I don’t know enough about it to take a firm view, but this is a debate worth having and - having been rude about Clegg’s leadership in the past - I am glad that the Deputy Prime Minister is engaged in it.

*Thank you to Paddy Briggs, who saw this latest defiance of the Banned List.

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  • aardvark10

    Perhaps you can point to where you have expressed anything remotely resembling “coherent thought”?
    Anyone who indulges in the puerile distortion of a person’s name, such as “John the Toll” and “Renta-tool” and uses the offensive term “puff” is clearly someone who not only didn’t pass adolescence, but actually never even reached it. And to think that another three people think yours is good stuff – words fail me!
    And this is from someone who strongly disagrees with most of John Rentoul’s blogs.

  • CharlieleChump

    Enough with the columnisation already, it should be known as Rentouling


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