Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Tory Strikes Back

I've already had one response to my attack on Tory immigration policy, which helps to confirm my views on this matter, and censure of those who are disgusted by Howard's tactics, but cheerily support his party and these values. An Englishman In Philly wrote:

Finally, turning to Richard's point about immigration, I have to state that immigration and asylum are not issues which get my blood pumping. Nevertheless, I will still take issue with this statement, which I reject in its entirety:

"On immigration, there is now a moral divide separating the Tories and the BNP from the political mainstream, which economic conservatives and other natural Tories should be careful to note. No matter whether you think the rhetoric on immigration is slightly misplaced-- you have pinned your stripes to the standard of these people."

To lump the Conservative Party, worse, to lump people like me, in moral equivalence with the BNP is categorically wrong, and mildly offensive. This is one unfortunate example, amongst many, of people who disagree with the Tory stance on immigration trying to scandalise it rather than to substantively criticise it.

I think its factually right to lump you together, even if your party's spinning skills are superior, and please make no mistake that I am aware it is fairly offensive to brand you in such manner. However, as I have suggested: you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these views. Nobody expects all members of a party to endorse everything its other members ever say, but when we are talking about the single issue on which Michael Howard has been pushing, and the fact that he refuses to castigate Bob Spink and his friends- indeed, he approved the ad, it seems -you can hardly claim this is just a wing you can dismiss without ignoring the entire party.

I am aware that some people do not like immigration/accepting refugees due to the fact they are racist. Nevertheless, this does not permit the logical leap that anybody who has concerns about the immigration system, or who attacks its shortcomings, or who attacks those who abuse its rules, is necessarily a racist.

The fact is the Conservative Party should be doing more to make sure these accusations are as easily rebuttable as possible. This is because you should never allow your position to be misrepresented and because, from an electoral point of view, it suits Labour and the Liberals if they can avoid real arguments over the issue by smearing the Conservatives.

And here you ignore my point, Ed. Because I am not objecting to immigration being an issue, but the way in which Howard has deliberately played it from the start.

Richard has unwittingly done the same here and misrepresented what Michael Howard and the Tory candidate in question said in order to help his argument. All this does is push me closer to a campaign which I, if I were running it, would pitch very differently.

I can accept that the statements they actually made could be misinterpreted, but when Howard is simultaneously paying tribute to what economic immigrants and many legitimate refugees have brought to the country I really do not feel you can call it, justifiably, a racist campaign.

Calling an opinion you don't like "outside the political mainstream" rather than tackling it head on does nothing to debunk that opinion and, if anything, strengthens it. I, and I believe many in the country, do not care what is "mainstream". We care about what's right.

By ostracising the language and tone Howard is using, I am not refusing to debate it, so much as saying that he is moving beyond the pale of sensible debate. When people tell you 'all property is theft' you know your poilitical discussions with them are going to be a bit bizarre, because they're so detached from any rational form of discourse. The same is true in the way the Tories are pursuing this issue, and anyone tainted by association with the Tory campaign should be ashamed.