Friday, May 28, 2010

Nick Cohen on the Lib Dems ugly side

from: Something Nasty in the Woodshed | Standpoint

Let me say from the beginning that the presence of Jenny Tonge as a peer on the Lib Dem benches in the Lords is not in itself an indictment of the Liberal politicians now in office. Rather, their willingness to defend her as she recycles some of the foulest racist theories in European history indicts them as shallow, slippery men.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict explains the shabbiness of Lib Dem thought as it explains so many other shabby arguments circulating in Europe. Its leaders ought to know that the only moral position to take is to support a two-state solution in which a free and democratic Palestine lives alongside Israel with borders that approximate the dividing lines of 1967. In theory, everyone except far-leftists, Islamists and neo-Nazis knows this. In practice, Lib Dem opinion has been seized by a reactionary version of radical chic in which murder is celebrated and racism dignified.

Let Baroness Tonge stand as an example of a malaise which has gripped hundreds of thousands of people who are playing with ideas previous generations would have described as fascist without hesitation. Instead of supporting the PLO-led Palestinian Authority, which for all its corruption and faults represents the best hope of a liberal democratic Palestine, she supports the clerical fascism of Hamas, and has gone to the Ba'athist tyranny of Syria to describe its leaders as "shrewd, plausible and actually very likeable".

I don't subscribe to "no platform" policies. I believe that the prejudiced must always be confronted. And despite knowing about her support for an organisation whose charter might have been written by Hitler, I gladly accepted an invitation to share a stage with her during a recording of Any Questions for BBC Radio 4. I was struck by the deference with which the apparent liberals in the hall treated her, as much by the coquettishness of her trite interventions on the side of the opponents of liberalism and democracy. At one point, she declared that she backed the Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, because she "quite fancied" him, and the image of the pair together still has the power to make me sit bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night.

She admired Putin for the same reason that she applauds Hamas: he was against the West. She did not give a thought about the aspirations of real liberals and democrats in Russia, who want to change their kleptomaniac and oppressive state. All that mattered was that the Russian regime could frustrate Western plans. Do not dismiss her as an eccentric. Hers is a common and highly hypocritical version of Little Englandism found everywhere in modern liberalism. Instead of saying that they want the quiet life and to avoid foreign entanglements, its proponents hide their dislike of the policies of the rulers of their own countries behind a fa├žade of insincere concern for the suffering of others abroad.


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