Friday, October 23, 2009
Melanie Phillips (a journalist who I suspect would be capable at causing offence at a meeting of the Jan Moir Appreciation Society) suggested a few days ago that the Conservatives were guilty of 'tokenism' for fielding Sayeeda Warsi against Nick Griffin on last night's Question Time. The Tory assault on BNP ideology would, she argued, have resonated far more if it had been delivered by a white, right-wing, middle-aged, establishment - but most definitely white - spokesman. In reality, of course, the Tory selection wasn't made with pious considerations of how best to 'combat the BNP menace' in mind, but can instead be seen in the context of the wider political game. It was all about bolstering the narrative of a party that has transformed itself, and what better way to do that than through the powerful symbolism of an articulate young Muslim woman from a working-class, north of England background being entrusted to speak for the entire party against fascism? In particular, the spectacle of a Tory politician spontaneously reacting against the mention of the phrase "bogus asylum seekers" by saying - with apparent conviction - "there is no such thing as a bogus asylum seeker" will have left an impression on many. It certainly left an impression on me, although in my case that impression was "this woman is not the authentic face of the modern Conservative party". Perhaps others will take a more generous view.