LDVideo: Dialogue over Division

The politics of the Devil’s songs is easy, anyone can do that … but the politics of releasing the better angels of our nature – that’s much tougher.

This is a powerful short film to support the cause of liberal tolerance in contrast to extremism and division. Cutting between Paddy Ashdown and Maajid Nawaz, it explains the parallels between the extremists of the muslim world, and of the non-Muslism far right and why it is a “quintessential liberal struggle” to find ways for us to live together and to oppose the forces of division and fear.

Ashdown: And it is why I think I’m so proud to be a liberal and a Liberal Democrat because we stand absolutely foursquare uncompromising … as the polar opposite of all of that – as the polar opposite of UKIP we stand on the principle that we are better together.

Nawaz: The most important thing in challenging all this is to stand for human rights and to be consistent in our stand for human rights because anything else means we lose the moral high ground.

Lynne Featherstone has a video in the same idiom on building bridges and tackling extremism in Haringey.

Much as bread and butter issues such as income tax threshold are important, it is inspiring to see liberals, uncompromising, taking on liberalism’s polar opposite in the form of intolerance, hatred and tyranny, on an issue on which the future of the world may hinge.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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29 Comments

  • Helen Stevens 10th Mar '15 - 3:13pm

    A great message and brilliant video.

    What a pity that Maajid and Paddy’s colleagues, Sarah Teather (“a very fun evening with a serious message”) and Lord Avebury, felt it right to endorse the so-called awards of the Islamic Human Rights Commission which have just demonised Maajid and Charlie Hebdo as Islamophobes of the Year.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Mar '15 - 4:17pm

    Two very good videos. I would only make a small change: abandon the line about being the opposite of UKIP, but keep the line about being the opposite of division.

    People might interpret being the opposite of UKIP as having not learnt much from the EU debates. If we must mention UKIP then also criticise the Greens for being impractical.

    Back to work…

  • No-one would disagree with the need for tolerance. But tolerance is not a one way street. Just bear in mind that it was tolerance that morphed via political correctness, into ‘turning a blind eye’, which ultimately resulted in *Rotherham*.
    Tolerance is at its most productive, when *all participants* in the debate agree to be tolerant?

  • @Helen Stevens
    Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I’m astonished to see that even Rowan Williams has endorsed these awards. Still, the IHRC describe their event as “tongue in cheek” so I guess we’re just expected to laugh it off?

    As for the videos, excellent stuff by Lynne Featherstone and Maajd Nawaz, who both completely “get” the idea that the division in society is not between faiths, nationalities, or whatever, but between the fanatics who want to live in conflict, and the rest of us (the vast majority) who just want to live in peace.

    I’m not as impressed with Paddy’s contribution, as all he seems interested in is scoring cheap party political points. Are the SNP really in any sensible way comparable with supporters of bloodthirsty terrorists? Not in my book, but Paddy seems to think they are, thereby instantly demonising around 40% of Scots.

  • @John Dunn

    I think was was an absolutely misplaced understanding of tolerance rather than the real thing.

  • “….The politics of the Devil’s songs is easy, anyone can do that … but the politics of releasing the better angels of our nature – that’s much tougher.”

    What does this say to those of us with a more rational view of the world?
    We have been lucky enough to be educated beyond the ideas that were doing the rounds in the 16th Century.

    Some of us think ‘The Devil’ and ‘angels’ are a figment of the medieval imagination.
    If I am wrong and am instantly struck dead by a Devilish thunderbolt for typing this sentence it will probably not get through to you.

    If on the other hand you have read to here, maybe I am right, maybe The Devil does not actually exist.

  • BTW – was Paddy filmed in the Gents Toilet at The National Liberal Club? I am sure I recognise those tiles.

  • On the content of the video, very pleased with what I saw. Strong, Liberal principles front and centre. Would love to see a PPB along those lines. Liberalism is so much more than policies to manage public services etc.

    @John Tilley

    I can imagine you listening to the Gettysburg address and tutting, John 🙂

    How about we think of them as metaphorical angels? Afterall, there is no actually bird of liberty in nature.

  • matt (Bristol) 11th Mar '15 - 11:37am

    (MASSIVE DIGRESSION – If I admit I’m doing it, is it allowed? probably not but here goes)
    First John Tilley came for language that originates in religious belief or writings, but I did not speak out because conviction not based on an evidenceable basis is not allowed in a modern liberal party.
    Then John Tilley came for phrases taken from Shakespeare, Milton, and Bunyan, but I did not speak out because they lived a a time of oain and ocnflict in our society that no sane person would wish to bring back.
    Then John Tilley came for phrases and ideas that originated with Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Pastor Niemuller and [ends violently]

    Sorry, I do like much of what you post, John, really!

  • @Joe Otten
    “Rotherham was not born out of tolerance, but prejudice. The prejudice against the ‘wrong sort of children’ that says they will end up prostitutes, drug addicts, or criminals”

    You are right about the prejudice, but Louise Casey’s report is very clear that fear of rocking the boat around matters of race played a major part in the authorities’ failure to act. This not only prolonged the suffering of the child victims, but ultimately had a negative rather than positive effect on local race relations :-

    “The issue of race is contentious, with staff and Members lacking the confidence to tackle difficult issues for fear of being seen as racist or upsetting community cohesion. By failing to take action against the Pakistani heritage male perpetrators of CSE in the borough, the Council has inadvertently fuelled the far right and allowed racial tensions to grow. It has done a great disservice to the Pakistani heritage community and the good people of Rotherham as a result.

    “The key matter of concern here for Inspectors is that RMBC’s inability to talk about race and the different communities in Rotherham had implications for their approach to dealing with CSE… The wider culture in Rotherham we have described meant that from the outset the added dimension of the ethnic background of perpetrators was an awkward and uncomfortable truth which, in the view of the inspection team, affected
    the way that the Council (and the police) dealt with CSE… Staff perceived that there was only a small step between mentioning the ethnicity of perpetrators and being labelled a racist.”

    I would not describe this as “tolerance” as John Dunn does, nor do I like Casey’s use of the phrase “political correctness”. But there is certainly an issue here, not just in Rotherham but in wider society. We even see it here on LDV from time to time, with accusations of “racist” behaviour being thrown around way too casually.

  • Sorry, forgot to close off italics… the last paragraph was of course mine.

  • Stephen Hesketh 11th Mar '15 - 12:29pm

    Joe Otten11th Mar ’15 – 11:24am
    “@John Dunn – Rotherham was not born out of tolerance, but prejudice.”

    Spot on Joe – unfortunately the facts interfere somewhat with Mr Dunn’s UKIP narrative.

  • @Stephen Hesketh
    I suggest you read pages 32-36 of the Casey report :-

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401125/46966_Report_of_Inspection_of_Rotherham_WEB.pdf

    According to her, the only people who actually benefitted from the authorities’ timidity were… the likes of UKIP.

  • @ Spephen Hesketh
    From Page 34
    ‘ This predominant involvement of Pakistani heritage men was certainly the view of all those who Inspectors spoke to who had been close to operational work around street grooming and CSE in Rotherham in the previous 15 years. *Victims shared this view*. Our review of case files and strategy meetings held about perpetrators and victims as well as other information we came across, confirmed that perpetrators were usually described as being Pakistani men. *This was a matter of fact.*’

  • Fear of being called racists seems to have played some part in Rotherham. However the fact remains that political sensitivities and lack of regard for the victims has played a big part in a lot of abuse cases, whether it be Jimmy Seville, Cyril Smith, in Rotherham and at various care homes or involving lost dossiers. For some reason too many of those who are supposed to protect children find it convenient to ignore evidence when those kids or their parents or care workers report sexual abuse. I don’t think this has very much to do with tolerance or political correctness.

  • ATF
    Gettysburg Address — I would not have been tutting. I would have been heckling !!

    “…Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”. ”

    Conceived in Liberty ? — “all men are created equal” ?  not if you were black, or a native american!   Not if you were a woman!

    As abolitionists said at the time — it was a slave owners’ liberty, a slave drivers’ equality.

    “…Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. ”

    The appalling and in many battles totally unnecessary scale of slaughter, death and disease that was the US civil war was and still is too dreadful to be able to take in.   

    The Gettysburg Address has entered into US national Mythology but it is not actually that impressive as a speech and by contemporary accounts Lincoln was not a very good speaker.

    Most of  the thousands of people present will not have actually heard a word he said, some may have been lucky enough to have heard a version shouted on down the line as was the custom at large open air meetings.   They may have read about  it in the newspapers later to get a more accurate version.

    “… resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

    It took a hundred and two more years before LBJ pushed through the legislation in 1965 to guarantee black Americans the vote — so Lincoln’s grand words in 1863 were a bit hollow —
    “..of the people, by the people for the people ” Well perhaps JUST SO LONG AS WERE WHITE AND MALE !

    For those who do not what on earth ATF and I are talking about, here is some background —

    After a three-day battle against the Union army at Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army retreated on July 4th 1863. 

    The battle was not only a major turning point in favor of the Union Army but was also the largest and most devastating of the war, with total casualties numbering over 50,000. 

    Four and a half months later, the process of reburying the thousands of bodies that had been shallowly interred on the battlefield had begun but was not yet complete. 

    In this sobering setting, Lincoln delivered a brief address to an audience of about 15,000 people, who interrupted him five times to applaud. 

    Newspapers across the North also responded very favorably. Lincoln’s comments that day, however, comprised only a brief moment in the cemetery’s dedication. Prior to Lincoln’s three- minute speech came music, a prayer, and the featured oration, a two-hour discourse delivered by Edward Everett, retired Massachusetts politician and former president of Harvard. While Everett’s speech dwelled on the details of the battle, Lincoln attempted to give meaning to the events at Gettysburg, indeed to the Civil War itself, by speaking about the ideals for which he believed the Union stood. —D. Voelker 

  • Over the last few years parents who have seen their children undertake criminal actions have reported them to the police , which is commendable. One of th ways of reducing division would have been for the family and friends of those of pakistani muslim back ground who had raped white under age girls to have reported them to the police. This action would have shown that the pakistani muslim community showed more loyalty to the laws of the land then their family and friends and would have undermined the BNP.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Mar '15 - 5:18pm

    @ Charlie,
    You are assuming that people did know that these arch hypocrites were rapists. Many criminals lead a double life, in this case, possibly as respectable ‘devout’ muslims within their communities whilst perpetrating wicked acts on children that most muslims would consider abhorrent and the opposite of the behaviour demanded by their religion.

    The crimes were reported. The victims reported the crimes and the reality was, in Rotherham, in Rochdale, in Oxford, they appear to have been ignored by the authorities who should have protected them by bringing the criminals to justice. The child victims were considered in some way to blame for the crimes that were perpetrated against them because in South Yorkshire parlance, the girls were considered to be ‘no better than they should be’.

    I agree with Joe Otton.

  • So these men , who number in the tens or even hundreds never boasted of their actions and no-one overheard? Reports were ignored by the authorities which suggests malfeance in public office.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Mar '15 - 10:01am

    @Charlie,
    If they did boast, and I dare say they did, it would probably have been to people they knew to have the same criminal mind-set.

    I agree with you about the authorities. The police in North Yorkshire have just had to apologise to the male victims of powerful individuals associated with Jimmy Savile. A friend of mine who has lived in the area for some time, tells me that rumours of this particular man’s behaviour were widespread, but there is an expectation, that if there was any truth in the circulating allegations, the police would have brought charges against the person. The fear of libel and slander stops people from making allegations that they can’t substantiate.

    The problem does not seem to be that crimes were not reported, but that the men who perpetrated these horrendous crimes seem to have had some power in the areas where they operated. It is the source of this power that I feel needs investigating. It is my understanding that the racial sensitivities found in Rotherham were not found in Oxford. What does seem to be a link across all the areas ,including the North Yorkshire one, is a horrible whitewash of the attitudes of authorities, euphemistically described as ‘a lack of victim focus’ and what this means in terms of pursuing the criminals.

    If any good is to come out of this, it should be that we question the wider social attitudes that prevail. Perpetrators of this sort of crime choose their victims well. They know that we live in a society that will all too readily see their vulnerable victims, including children, as ‘unreliable witnesses’, or individuals who ‘brought it on themselves’.

    More specifically, in my opinion, we should not let police and social workers off the hook.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Mar ’15 – 10:01am
    Letting social workers off the hook ….

    Jayne,
    Did you see the TV version of JK Rowling’s ‘ A casual vacancy’ ?
    The depiction of the social worker dealing with a family of a drug addicted mother and daughter (who was still at school but a mother herself ) was all too near the truth.

    Easy to blame social workers — but until society funds social work properly we the voters should take the blame.
    Under the cuts to local council expenditure imposed by Mr Pickles and his Coalition supporters the reduction in the funding of social work has been significant.

  • @John re: depiction of the social worker in the Casual Vacany

    About the only thing, from the experience of friends in my area, that they got wrong, was that the social workers didn’t change frequently enough… One set of foster parents, now effectively manage the social workers, because very few (social workers) stay on a case long enough to see a child from being taken into care to being officially adopted (and hence exiting care)…

  • John – this happened in the sunlit upland days of Labour funding just as much as the Pickles regime.

    It isnt a funding issue if social workers repeatedly ignore 13 year old girls in Council care who are presenting with STIs. Even if not involved in an abusive relationship there is a serious issue there to address.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Mar '15 - 11:38am

    @ John Tilley,
    No John I didn’t. Maybe I can get it on iplayer .

    I must admit, I am loathe to criticise social workers, I would not want the job and the responsibilities of some social workers for all the tea in China. I am not masochistic enough to want to be one of society’s ‘whipping boys’.

    My own view is that the problem is deeper than funding though. It is about living in a society that wants to wash its hands of problems in society, one where we quieten our consciences by employing social workers so that we feel we have done our bit whilst not dirtying our own hands.

    I still feel, though, that there has been negligence or incompetence by some who did not take sexual exploitation seriously enough. I say this having read, (if I remember correctly), that in Rotherham, the type of child abuse under discussion covered only 2% of the children deemed at risk and in need of child protection, and whilst also understanding that more emphasis was placed on at risk younger children after the Baby P scandal.

    I think that Charlie will soon find out that society as a whole has been naive as to the level of child abuse in our society ( the grooming scandals discussed being just one model of abuse).

  • Hywel 14th Mar ’15 – 11:30am
    Hywel — I think I might have sneezed and missed “the sunlit upland days of Labour funding”. My recollection is that local council social service budgets have been under attack since the middle of the 1970s.
    That has been under Labour, Conservative and Coalition Governments. The fact is that the dramatic reductions in funding under Mr Pickles will not make matters any better.

    I don’t disagree with you that there is a serious issue to address.

    My point was that scapegoating social workers is a diversion from finding solutions, not a solution.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Mar ’15 – 11:38am

    Jayne, yes I think we are agreed.

    I especially endorse your comment that — “..the problem is deeper than funding. It is about living in a society that wants to wash its hands of problems in society, one where we quieten our consciences by employing social workers so that we feel we have done our bit whilst not dirtying our own hands.”

    I think that sums it up pretty well.

    BTW – ‘A Casual Vacancy’ is not the greatest TV ever but there are elements of the story which make some serious points rather well. It was peak viewing, popular drama, with a large audience so it hopefully did a good job in getting these points across to more than the usual readership of The Independent and The Guardian — by which I mean people like me.

  • John – there are always things to be looked at. But there have been ample resources over that time frame for pursuing some fairly questionable custody cases through the courts.

    But it should also be taken on board that a lot of these were children in council care (so none of the complexity that is added when there are issues around parental care and a 13 year old with STIs or pregnancies is prima facie evidence of something being very very wrong (so there is less “investigative” that can arise with eg children with patterns of bruising and broken bones. So that’s really my point – this shouldn’t have been something where people are going “this is complex and needs a lot of investigation”

    My personal view is that this is very analagous to Hillsborough. There the policy didn’t care about the fans because “they’re all hooligans”. In this situation they weren’t prioritised because “they’re all promiscous”.

    Some senior people went to work a number of times and thought, “I won’t bother with those files about sexual abuse of teenagers today, instead I’ll do…….”

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