Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.
Earlier this week, we were encouraged by Sayeeda Warsi to accept that the Conservative Party is “institutionally Islamophobic”. She offered no evidence, merely a series of allegations. And she did it all via Twitter or other media. She is demanding an inquiry into the subject.
I do not for one moment deny there are people in the Conservative Party who have displayed evidence of being anti-Muslim, racist or even (whisper it) anti-semitic. They exist in all parties, and they need to be weeded out.
Now correct me if I’m wrong but, whenever anyone has been found to be Islamophobic, the party has acted swiftly and immediately suspended them. That’s what happened this week when CCHQ was alerted to some loathsome comments on a little-known Facebook Group which claimed to be some sort of Jacob Rees-Mogg fan group. A complaint was made and 14 members were swiftly dealt with I don’t think anyone can reasonably expect a CCHQ boffin or two to be diverted to permanently monitor whether something untoward is being said by someone at any time on a pathetic Facebook page.
For the second time in a few months, I devoted an hour of my LBC radio show to asking Muslims to phone in if they had experienced any Islamophobia as members of the Conservative Party. For the second time, I didn’t get a single call from anyone alleging that sort of behaviour. Instead, I got calls from Muslim Conservatives who said how welcome they’d been made to feel. One of them said his local branch moved their monthly meetings from a pub to a local community centre because they wanted him to feel comfortable.
I happen to like Sayeeda Warsi. I think she’s done a lot of good for the Party on various issues over the years but, on this subject, I’d like to see her evidence, and weigh whethr it stacks up to anything that would be serious enough to warrant a full-scale inquiry. I see no evidence of “institutional Islamophobia” in the Conservative Party, and I know of no one at the top of the party who would put up with it.
And that’s where the Tories are different to the Labour Party. I don’t believe the Labour Party is “institutionally anti-semitic”, but I do believe there are people at the top of the Labour Party who, because of their hard-left ideology, tolerate it.
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This time next week, the die will have been cast. We should have a better idea whether we will leave the EU as planned, and as promised by Theresa May hundreds of times over, on 29 March.
I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you. As I write, there is no sign of any breakthrough in Brussels and I don’t believe enough of the ERGers will be bought off in time. The Meaningful Vote on Tuesday won’t be lost by 230, but the question is: will the majority be low enough for Theresa May to come to the conclusion that one final heave might just get her over the line in a third vote?
If it doesn’t, and Parliament then votes to extend Article 50, that’s when the fireworks could really start. I suspect the EU will reject a three month extension, on the basis that there’s no one to negotiate with after early April because of the European Parliamentary elections and the fact that the Commission has ended its term until a new one starts in July. It may come back and offer a two year extension, but this would enrage Brexiteers who would then rightly say that we wouldn’t actually leave until more than seven years after the initial vote.
I don’t see how the Prime Minister could accept a two-year delay. If she did, surely that would be the end of her. Mind you, we’ve said that before. One thing I can confidently predict, however, is that the rest of this month is going to determine what happens for the next ten years. Fasten your seatbelts.
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Whatever the outcome of what happens this month, surely it will then be time for May to depart the stage. And quickly.
If she doesn’t, we will inevitably return to a continuous diet of leadership speculation. She’s lost the confidence of all parts of the party over so many issues.
If we leave on the March 29 with No Deal, the country will need a leader who actually believes in Brexit and has a clear idea of what he or she wants it to become and how to achieve it.
But if Article 50 is extended, I do not think that the Minister can possibly, with a straight face, claim that she is the woman to lead those negotiations, having so spectacularly failed over the last two and a half years. If there’s just a technical extension for a few weeks to get the legislation through Parliament, I still believe that she should announce she’s going, and allow the Party to move on and elect a new leader.
Her only hope of staying on for longer is if she is able to get her deal through, and she can then tell us all that she achieved her mission – even though no one at all will be satisfied. Even in those circumstances, I believe the country would be better off with a new leader and a fresh start.
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Talking of future leadership contestants, I wrote a piece on my blog recently headlined: “The Quiet Rise of Andrea Leadsom”. And what do you know? A few days later she only goes and tops this month’s ConservativeHome Cabinet Ministers Performance Poll. I may not be Mystic Meg, but I can tell when someone is doing a good job as, it seems, can the readers of this august website.