By Mark Wallace
Follow Mark on Twitter.
Annoyingly, the term "Taliban" has gained currency as a vague political insult – often, I suspect, used by those who lack the gumption to call anyone a Nazi. One example of the tendency comes from Vince Cable this morning, discussing the Bank of England.
Another comes from a Conservative MEP – discussing eurosceptic members of his own party.
The Daily Mail reports of Sajjid Karim:
"Writing on Twitter during a debate on Europe, he said: 'It seems the anti-EU taliban find it difficult to accept a different point of view!'
He added: 'The ANTI-EU TALIBAN don't want an informed British public or an informed debate. Bring it on!'"
A lot of Conservatives who would happily describe themselves as anti-EU would be surprised to hear one of the party's elected representatives label them an intolerant "Taliban". It certainly isn't a productive contribution to the debate, or helpful in improving relations between the party and its members.
It is one thing to disagree with people on your own side, and the Tory party is rightly a broad church, but it is quite another to go out of one's way to insult them.
Mr Karim, who defected to the Conservatives from the Lib Dems in 2007, is evidently unrepentant, having put out a press release restating the slur:
“I have not used that term lightly, that’s exactly what they are. You are no longer allowed to hold a view unless it’s the same view as them.”
According to the release he particularly dislikes eurosceptics who "stifle debate by putting forward emotional and skewered arguments" [sic]. It seems bizarre to suggest emotion should play no part in politics, or that taking into account somehow closes down debate (though hopefully we can all agree no-one should be "skewered").
It's fair to say such a view will not be popular among members and activists – as much for its clumsy, insulting nature as for the pro-EU politics which lie behind it. Presumably that is why Mr Karim has waited until just before the deadline for party members to rank his candidacy at next year's elections before airing his view of them.
The press release calls his comments a "rallying cry" – but I can't help thinking that if there was anyone in agreement to rally then he might have made them at the start of the reselection process, not right at the end.
That said, those members in the North West who have yet to vote still have time to do so, and may well seek to downgrade him in response.
This is yet another reason to subject our MEPs to far more scrutiny from the grassroots, and to end the unfair system by which sitting MEPs get preferential treatment when it comes to reselection.
Quite why someone who so dislikes a sizeable chunk of the Conservative membership should seek to represent them is a mystery – but we should have a selection process which allows the members to make their views on such disdain clear, too.