Manchester must mark a turning point in our approach to integration

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Offline the leveller

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I am generally pretty content with my foray from journalism into politics. After launching the Daily Express Leave the EU campaign back in 2010, I found myself drawn into full time political campaigning on the same issue.
I joined UKIP, helped it win the 2014 European elections, became an MEP in the process, helped UKIP get nearly 4 million votes at the 2015 general election, backed Vote Leave for designation in the referendum (a particularly good call in my view) and then campaigned with it and other Leave groups in that victorious campaign last year.
Now, unless the electors of Epping Forest decide to overturn their longstanding MP Eleanor Laing in favour of me in the current general election (which I should have thought is not the most likely outcome), my political foray is past the halfway point. One of the happy side-effects of the referendum win is that I have helped to bring about my own redundancy in 2019, when UK MEPs disappear from the scene.
As far as I am concerned it will be job done: nine years of campaigning for an objective that most educated opinion felt was a longshot to say the least will conclude with spectacular success.
But as my mind starts to ponder a return to the media, or perhaps another career path entirely, there is a tug upon the thread of politics. The tug is not about further reclamation of sovereignty via leaving the jurisdiction of the ECHR (though I’d be in favour of that), neither is it even about bringing sanity back to the field of international development spending.
No, there is another issue that set my patriotic warning systems off quite some time ago. A political imperative that may, in time, become even more urgent than the battle to get our democracy back from the EU ever was. It is the cause of integration in our increasingly diverse and divided society.
After the Manchester terror atrocity it seems that the penny is dropping among a wider range of people than before that British society is on a very dangerous path. Integration is going backwards, while segregation advances. The ideology of multiculturalism has encouraged new ethnic and religious communities to hold true far more to their countries of origin than to Britain, their chosen country of destination.
The crisis is not confined solely to Muslim communities, but is at its most acute among them because of the spread of the pernicious ideology of Islamism and because of demographic trends too.
Yet it is not the done thing to talk about this in polite society. There has been to date a cosy consensus which holds that almost any criticism of primitive cultural practices or any investigation of a possible theological root to extremism amounts to unconscionable Islamophobia.
Notwithstanding the hullabaloo it caused – inside UKIP as well as outside – I would say my proudest moment in the party came at the launch of our integration agenda last month.
My MEP colleague Margot Parker and the London AMs Peter Whittle and David Kurten all made brilliant, courageous and progressive speeches arguing for a much more muscular approach to enforcing integration, challenging extremism and upholding tried and tested British values.
They outlined a raft of proposals, including the outlawing of full face coverings in public places, the banning of sharia councils and the first ever meaningful crackdown on the scourge of FGM.
The event was the culmination of a lot of hard work by Margot, David and Peter, helped along by the likes of me and Suzanne Evans and actively encouraged under the leadership of Paul Nuttall.
They – we – were accused of Islamophobia and even racism by journalists and politicians alike. We were held to be overblowing an allegedly minor issue in politics. Despite experts like Sir Trevor Phillips and Dame Louise Casey having warned of an integration crisis that could lead to very dangerous outcomes, the lazy and ludicrous accusation that we were adopting a Far Right agenda was hurled at us.
Even within UKIP there were surprising numbers of people who simply did not see that there is a major Islamist threat to our way of life that has to be confronted. Yet, as Paul Nuttall has put it, UKIP is proving to be ahead of the curve on this issue, just as we were on the issue of Brexit.
The mass murder of children in Manchester will surely not be the last major Islamist terror attack in this country and therefore cannot be held to mark a turning point in regard to the threat itself.
But I do believe it will mark a turning point in the approach of politics; the putting into abeyance of a response based on platitudes rather than action, the moment the volume of derisory raspberries overwhelmed all the “nothing to do with Islam” nonsense, the episode that led people of common sense to understand that the establishment does not have a handle on this escalating evil and must not be allowed to drown out calls for more effective action.
The promotion of integration around core British values such as gender equality, freedom of expression, sexual self-determination and parity of esteem before the law is one of the great challenges of our 21st Century politics. If it is not done far more successfully in the years ahead than it has been done in years gone by then the consequences will be terrible for our country.
Sympathy hashtags, vigils and platitudinous comments about extremism not defeating us (by which we mean simply that we are lucky enough individually not to have been one of the casualties of an atrocity yet) are not an adequate substitute for action. And once again it is going to need an insurgent and gutsy political force to make establishment parties confront an issue they would prefer to sweep under the carpet. It sounds to me very much like a job for UKIP.

=Patrick O'Flynn

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