Over the last few days, we have seen Tomcats and Tommyguns squaring up to each other on the issue of free speech about the wisdom or otherwise of uncontrolled immigration into Britain. It is central to what both liberal democracy and Brexit are about, and until there is realism and openness on all sides, there will be no healing in our country. Tom Watson is wrong to censor, and Tommy Robinson is misguided in his censure. In a two-part special, The Slog outlines the mistakes everyone made in the past, and the effort we all need to make in the future.
Some years ago, I had a brief correspondence with Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. I’d been given the intro by one of my more leftist Sloggers (long since departed down the Momentum rabbit-hole) because I wanted to know more about his views on paedophile rings in politics. Tom had, some weeks earlier, accused senior Conservatives of a cover-up involving senior paedophile politicans around Mrs Thatcher some twenty years earlier.
He’d been recommended to me as “not metropolitan Labour”, and generally a good egg. We enjoyed some quite affable email exchanges, towards the end of which I raised the issue of such rings being covered up by Labour – this time at local level, and with specific reference to “Yorkshire”. The correspondence ended abruptly.
Over the last few days, Watson has been spraying the social media with demands for Tommy Robinson to be banned. The minute one starts to engage with any issue involving this complex young man, the deep waters beckon: a million or more knees will jerk to attention, and a million mouths will open to yell, “Racist!”
I have three profound objections to what Tom Watson is doing. The first is that he appears to have forgotten what free speech is. The second is his confusion between empirical observation and phobia. The third is his fervent desire to have free speech for his beliefs and observations, but not for other people’s.
But as I say – this is Tommy Robinson territory, and so some throat-clearing is obligatory. Although I am happy to note (based on solid evidence) that he has many friends in his circle who are of other ethnicities to his own – and thus branding him an outright racist is miles offside – I don’t like the syntax Robinson uses about Islamics. I think his objection to Pakistanis in particular is a cultural one to do with grooming and gang rape. Some of the content of his speeches is accurate and in many ways brave; but the tone he adopts and the use of gutter terms is not just inappropriate: it is that of a bloke who craves attention in general and martyrdom in particular. Tommy courts outrage and invites arrest. There is an instability about him I recognise, and it always repels me. I am not a fan, and I can’t imagine any circumstances in which I’d vote for him.
The specific thing to bear in mind here, before moving on, is that I hold exactly the same views about Boris Johnson. I just don’t see any police hurrying to arrest Bojo.
It is vital at the outset to examine the language used by Tom Watson in demanding (for that is what he did) the denial of free speech for Robinson….and the Labour man’s apparent insouciance to the both unaccountable and unregulated nature of those to whom he wrote. The way Twitter, Google and Facebook casually ban, censor and block views they don’t like is a matter for government, as it is clear that these behemoths will never reform themselves. As they all happily stroll about in the shadows of State security, it ought to be a constant source of worry to our elected representatives that they exist way above the law and beyond it’s civic reach.
But Tom didn’t do that: he wrote to a foul élite in a manner that showed his determination to shut one guy up. That’s bad enough: but as we shall see, he did it in a way very likely to be protect his own tribe against investigation.
Robinson is already banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Now, in a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, Watson claims it is “quite clear from the comment threads on stories documenting this decision that his supporters are transferring over their virulent hate to YouTube” and this is “a matter of utmost urgency to follow the lead that has been, belatedly, set by Facebook, and remove forthwith all ‘Tommy Robinson’ and related pages from your YouTube platform.”
The way the MP sees ordinary and young people is evidenced in the way he claims that
‘the virus of Mr Robinson’s views could groom countless more followers via the platform…’
…..which is, at best, quasi-medical claptrap based on the classic Leftlib attitude about the vox populi: not very deep down, liberal fascists distrust its capacity for imbibing evil. Such thinking is worthy of Thomas Hobbes and Josef Goebbels.
The tone adopted by Watson on Twitter resembles that of his stablemate Owen Jones. Some examples:
“Must, imperative, smash, urgent, forthwith” etc etc etc….IwantIwantIwant. Also, the leger de main of ‘violent’ and ‘racist’ into one character trait is pure and deliberate demonisation: it’s hard to show Yaxley-Lennon (Robinson’s real name) is racist in a general sense, and while he has a history of violence, it has been towards the State in general. His objection is to Islamification: that isn’t racism.
It’s very disappointing to see Tom using an utterly false concept like Islamaphobia, and using to it score cheap political points like “can’t be easy”. It puts his judgement in doubt given the host of recent grooming gang convictions (and over a decade of unequalled Jihadist violence). A phobia, let’s face it, is a fear of the totally or nearly impossible. Equally, it isn’t on to suggest that, based on Barones Warsi of all people, the Tory Party is a vipers’ nest of murderous Zionists.
If you think there’s a pattern developing in Watson’s tweets, then you could be right. The two above and the one following have all appeared over the last two days:
Yup, Tom is really onto something here. Racism bad, abuse bad, antisemitism bad = Corbyn bad. I’m inclined to agree, but if we’re accusing rabble-rousers of playing the race card in Britain right now, Watson is a much bigger suspect than Yaxley-Lennon.
There are various ways to play the race card. Tommy Robinson’s “culturalist” approach is often unpleasant. Tom Watson’s style is more the ruthless politician out for the Labour leadership thing. Both set a truly appalling example.
My third objection is related to the abrupt cessation of friendly emails between Tom and I in 2014. Because it seems to me that what Tom did there was to protect his tribe. He grasped the privilege of Parliament back then to make accusations of Tory paedophilia, his sources for which are on trial right now for false witness. By no means everything he said was inaccurate. What sticks in my throat is the bloke’s blasé attitude to alleging cover-up one day, and then being implicated in doing the same the next.
But banning talk about such things simply is not the way to tackle the problem. The problem – being factually objective about it – is that for over forty years now, the British political class has been in denial about a mass immigration of varietal cultures into Britain, not all of which have gelled well under all circumstances.
We will not solve the problem by not talking about it….or denying reality. That’s been the problem; the answer, funnily enough, isn’t more of the same. More of the same produced grooming gangs and rape on an industrial scale. And grooming gangs helped create Tommy Robinson.
Now Tom Watson wants to ban debate about it. There is no difference between such a wish, and the determination of the Soviets before Gorbachev to deny the existence of homosexuality in their culture. That’s a terrifying comparison for any liberal democracy to face up to.