Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

The word ‘extremist’ has lost all meaning

You can now be called one if you think global warming is happening or hope Britain leaves the EU

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.

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