Nigel Farage says that some British Muslims are a “fifth column”. Sajid Javid is more diplomatic. He believes that there is “a special burden on Muslim communities”. Whose approach is likely to be more successful in preventing terror and extremism? Whose is better?
Most people would accept that it is desirable for British Muslims to oppose Al Qaeda and ISIS terror (which they do, in overwhelming measure) and to reject the replacement of British law with pre-modern law (which they do, though in less overwhelming measure) than not. As the saying goes, they believe that Muslim hearts and minds must be won if both struggles are to be won.
When he says that governments have turned a blind eye to hate preachers, he is right – though this one is much tougher than its Labour predecessor: Abu Hamza is in an American jail; Abu Qatada has been deported; Zakir Naik was banned from Britain.
Furthermore, it’s not clear what Farage would do about those ghettos were he Prime Minister (the word is a misleading term for a lot of Muslim-majority areas in the UK, by the way). Would he go door to door asking Muslim families to move out? Would a UKIP Government bus non-Muslim families in? Would it also bus Muslim ones out? Would there be a transfer of citizens from Shamley Green and Little Gidding to Beeston or Sparkbrook, and vice-versa?
This is the main point. It goes almost without saying that Farage’s approach is less likely to win support among Muslim voters than Javid’s (which would be true even were the Culture Secretary not being put up, as a Muslim, by the Conservatives to make a case that Muslim voters may notice).
It should also go without saying that Farage’s approach is less likely to appeal to most voters than Javid’s, whether they are Muslim or not. If you doubt it, look at the rising support for Britain’s EU membership – now at its highest level for over 20 years. The simple truth is that while UKIP turns a minority of voters on, it turns a majority off. Farage is Nigel Marmite.
But the most important question of all for voters is: who is most likely to deliver? If one picks through the issues Farage names one by one, it quickly becomes clear that although he has a point, Theresa May and other Ministers have done a lot and aren’t simply standing by.
Britain is lucky to have UKIP as its protest party: if you don’t agree, have a look at the Front Nationale, only a stretch of water away. Although it sometimes crosses the decency line, when push comes to shove it is essentially a mainstream party. Farage himself is a conservative.
However, this doesn’t mean that UKIP is competent to govern. For heaven’s sake, its leader has disowned its entire 2010 manifesto as “drivel”. This is all great fun for a protest party. It is not to be confused with grown-up government.
And when it comes to the fight against terror and extremism – or almost anything else – the son of the bus driver from Pakistan, who made it all the way from a Bristol comprehensive to a vice-presidency at Chase Manhattan, is more likely to charm and persuade than the Dulwich-educated former stockbroker from Sevenoaks.