Eric Pickles is Member of Parlianent for Brentwood, Essex is the Minister forLocal Government and Communities in David Cameron’s Conservative-led Government.
At first sight he is an unlikely memberof Posh Boy Camerons Government.
But the sight of a bluff “say it like it is”, “man of the people” Yorkshireman like Pickles in the Tory Party is not that unusual. At one level the aristocratic Tories need a self proclaimed self-made man like Pickles as a token to distract voters from the Downtown Abbey image of the Tories.
Yet the more “self made men” I see….I am reminded of the importance of skilled labour.
There is no crime in being rich.
It might well be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven…but at least some of them try.
Indeed …given a choice, I would prefer to be rich.
Tories are not necessarily RICH bstards. They are however GREEDY bastards. That is what defines them most.
So…Eric Pickles. There has always been a government post covering Local Government. And Pickles has a background in local government, keeping his native Bradford in the Tory fold…almost unique among major English cities. And to his credit, he courted the Bradfords large Asian and Muslim population.
Thw Department of the Communities is a 21st century Government Department.
A recognition that Britain is no longer a homogenous country. It is mu,ti-cultural. Pickles seems an unlikely advocate of multiculturalism. The Minister requires a certain diplomacy and indeed an awareness of political correctness, usually denounced as a liberal craziness by rank and file Conservatives.
Indeed two decades ago, British Prime Minister, John Major, a Conservative was procliming that British values included “warm beer and middle aged spinsters riding bicycles to Church”
All very homogenous and all very 1950s.
So what exactly changed in the 21st century? well the Twin Towers, Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIL, English-born jihadists in Syria.
It is always difficult to guage the truth in “terror alerts”. I am always reminded of The Boy Who Cried Wolf….But there are two lessons from that fairytale. The boy was lying is one lesson. The Wolf showed up (eventually) is the other lesson.
Europe…especially France is in a state of panic. I accept French jews are genuinely afraid (I am not so convinced about British jews).
Europe is increasingly sinking under the weight of its own contradictions.
Arguably the original six and maybe even extended nine Common Market countries have something in common. Lets call it the Holy Roman Empire or just Western Europe.
But bringing in Greece, Spain and Portugal….all three recovering from years of juntas and fascism seemed a risk.
No real problem of course with the next expansion…Austria, Finland and Sweden.
But an expansion of ten countries with different histories…including Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia (part of the old USSR or Yugoslav totalitarianism was a bigger risk. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were even part of USSR.
Add Romania and Bulgaria and Balkan values are added. And Croatia …makes twenty eight.
And across the Boaphorus lies Turkey claiming the European credentials that the Ottoman Empire flught.
It makes no sense.
Of course, migration is a fact of British life. There have been waves of migration before…Eastern European jews, Irish, West Indians…but while they may have settled in their own communities in East End of London, Kilburn and Brixton…and while the Jewish Community had a religious difference with the native population and the West Indian Community had a colour difference and the Irish Community had a political difference…they were largely integrated.
As a regular visitor to London, it strikes me that the Muslim Community is in fact…TWO Communities. In and around the City of London young Muslim men and women, dress smartly in western suits and go to work in the banks and financial institutions. But two miles east in Limehouse, Muslims men and women wear traditional clothing. The ghettoisation, the clothing, the natural reserve, the silence of women is not in itself a form of social exclusion but it sends out a message of isolationism which people respect.
There is a….passivity….that maybe makes people uncomfortable. People who are visible and yet silent.
As a consequence of racism or indeed a form of political correctness (ie good manners) the traditional Muslim communities have been left to their own devices. For five decades, they have been regarded as non-threatening…and of course the vast majority are not in any way threatening.
Arguably, there is a third Muslim demographic. There might well be traditionalists who do not wish to integrate. There may well be modernists who want to live the yuppie dream. But the British Security Services seems to fear young second and third generation men…who are disconnect, ed from British Society. There seems no real means of policing their thoughts.
Necessarily in previous decades resources were spent looking at the Irish Community in England. Easy enough to do as skin colour, language and social custom were not much different. And resources were spent monotoring conversations in Eastern Europe, again a comparatively easy job for second generation Czechs and Poles …their parents who had settled in post-war Britain.
But…this week, Eric Pickles….Minister for Communities writes to every mosque in Britain. It is significant that his letter is co-signed by “Lord” Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon…Pickles’ junior Minister and a 46 yr old unelected member of the “House of Lords”. A prominent British-Pakistani businessman, he is the sort of Muslim that the British Conservatives understand.
But Pickles and Ahmad tell the British Muslim spiritual leaders that “British values are Muslim values” and that the spiritual leaders should be more pro-active in leading young Muslims away from hate speech and potential jihadi violence and report suspicions to the authorities.
Lets look at that. British Values are Muslim Values? Well clearly its not about warm beer. But is it about Democracy? Is it about British support for Israel? Is it about the complex alliances and wars that Britain is waging in Saudi Arabia…Syria….Iraq….Afghanistan…Egypt….Pakistan.?
Or to look at it another way. Muslim values are British Values? Is it about arranged/forced marriages, alternative banking, no rights for women, the tribalism where Labour Party (yes Labour!!!) do shabby deals to buy votes from tribal leaders who can influence a community? Is it about anti-Semitism? is it about the excesses of beheadings and floggings in Saudi Arabia?
It seems Pickles is clutching at straws. The precedents are not good. It is not so very different from British politicians visiting West Belfast and telling Catholic Churchmen or the Catholic residents that British values and their values are the same.
I am not a big fan of Dr David Starkey, the snob and controversial historian. But he argues that to the Muslim World, Europe is a side-show. The real action is Muslim-on-Muslim violence in the Gulf, North Africa and the Pashtan regions. He argues that Islam is six hundred years younger than Christianity and going thru a Reformation just like Europe did in the late middle ages.
Ultimately Blood is thicker than Water.