A few years ago, in these pages, Matthew Parris defined Ukip as a party of extremists. Perhaps one of his llamas had just spat at him and he was feeling a little piqued. Or perhaps he actually meant it, I don’t know. Matthew decided Ukip was a party of extremists because its supporters, in some ectoplasmic sense, demonstrated a ‘spirit’ of extremism. It was less the individual policies of the party that were extreme, it was the avidity with which they were pursued by party members: ‘The spirit of Ukippery is paranoid. It distorts and simplifies the world, perceiving a range of different ills and difficulties as all proceeding from two sources: foreigners abroad, and in Britain a “metropolitan liberal elite” (typically thought to be in league with foreigners).’
It seemed to me then, as now, that this was monumentally stupid on a number of levels, not least in its caricature — straight from the Diane Abbott school of political analysis — of what Ukip members actually believed in. But it rang a bell with me this week when I read that Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Mark Rowley, would like to see Islamic extremists lose custody of their children. Subjecting children to extremist views was as ‘wicked’ as paedophilia, according to Rowley.
Well, I would beg to differ, but that aside we once again have a problem with this word ‘extremist’. Later on in his speech Rowley announced that he was ‘gravely concerned’ by the far-right group National Action. I wondered if this were strictly true — if he really was ‘gravely concerned’ by a convocation of about 50 mentalist neo-Nazis who have so far hurt nobody, whatever their vile views might be. I wondered if, instead, Mr Rowley was trying to show even-handedness by not just sticking it to the Mozzies but to the white, scouse-based, Mein Kampf monkeys as well. I suppose he wants their kids taken away, too. That is how we tell ourselves that we are being fair in the battle against a creed which is both alien and averse. We desperately scour our own eyes for motes — and wholly imaginary, painstakingly confected motes will do just as well as real ones, thank you.
Rowley is probably a decent enough chap. But it will not be him sitting on the panels deciding whose kids should be taken away by the state. It will be people with the mindset of Matthew Parris. Three foster children were taken away from a white couple living in Rotherham because they were members of Ukip. Rotherham council’s Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Joyce Thacker, told the BBC at the time that her decision was influenced by Ukip’s immigration policy, which she said called for the end of the ‘active promotion of multiculturalism’. So, extremism, Parris-style, as far as Joyce was concerned.
(Incidentally, can we take a moment to congratulate Joyce on the wonderful job she was doing in Rotherham? Lucky children of Rotherham.) Meanwhile, in Hampshire, a startled parent received a visit from the police because his child had been seen looking at a Ukip website in school. Yes, the teachers sent the filth round.
So it’s not just Matthew. You might be said to have extremist views if you object to same sex marriages or gay adoptions, or if you think we should halt immigration. By the same token, an opinion poll published last year revealed that almost 40 per cent of the population think it is extremist to believe that global warming is happening and 36 per cent think it extremist to hope that Britain leaves the EU. In other words, ‘extremism’ has simply become one of those words which has lost almost all of its meaning and is used simply as an insult to hurl at one’s opponents. A bit like ‘troll’. So that’s the first problem with Rowley’s proposal (which was advanced, not so long ago, by Boris Johnson, before he became Foreign Secretary). We should be clear about the need to treat Islam as a singularity, given the very singular threat it poses both to our country and indeed to the rest of the world, a creed we have imported and with which we are not entirely comfortable, rather than packaging it up with stuff which deluded and self-flagellating white liberal bien-pensants can call ‘extremist’.
But that’s not the only problem with Rowley’s suggestion. Where would we put the kids once we’ve liberated them from jihad? The social services departments will insist the children be placed with parents from within their own culture. What if they radicalise them? I’d be happy if the children were billeted with Lord Baden- Powell and Margaret Thatcher (assuming they were married), but that’s not going to happen, is it? And I have deeper concerns about this notion of ‘radicalising’ — as if it were something which happened to them without their volition, as if they were victims of some external process. I don’t think it works like that. I’d far rather the entire family was kicked out of the country. And if they’re British-born, sent to lodge with Joyce Thacker in Rotherham.
We have things the wrong way around. It is perfectly acceptable and even desirable for the state to intervene and remove children from homes in which they face some kind of threat: extremist parents, negligent parents, violent parents, lardbucket parents inculcating in their children a radical philosophy of lardbucketism, thick parents, miscreant parents. That’s all fine. But if you suggest that it should be made harder for people to have children in the first place and that having kids is neither a lifestyle choice nor a beholden right, but a responsibility you should be allowed to take on only when you are married and have enough money to bring them up, then you will be considered an… oh, what’s the word… yes, that’s it, thank you, Matthew, an extremist.