The rose – beautiful or barbed?

red rose1A Labour activist in North Oxfordshire and rejoicing in the Tweet name of @RedRose97 has accused me of racism, sexism and homophobia.  I would normally ignore the left-wing rants of the Banbury Labour Party but I think this leftie is exposing a thought process that is fundamentally dangerous so I am going to respond to this little flower’s ranting.

I must assume that this little flower’s accusation of racism derives from my views about the deliberate isolationism of some ethnic minority communities, their treatment of women and what I see as a new global war – a war of ideologies.  So let me get these issues clearly set out.  I support the recent move by the coalition government to insist that immigrants learn English if they are to settle here.   It is self-evident that we have communities living in this country who continue to speak the language of their country of origin almost exclusively or, at least, in the confines of their homes.  Some inner city schools face the difficulty of educating children where English is never spoken at home and where there is a baffling mixture of  languages spoken due to the multi-national and multi-cultural background of their catchment areas.  I have attended ethnic minority events locally as a guest and been surprised to rise when bidden for the “National Anthem” only to find it is not the anthem I had expected, indicating a remaining and abiding first loyalty to a different country.  There is a darker side to this issue of language.  I suspect it is an instrument for keeping women isolated by denying them the opportunity to converse with their peers in the wider community.  This is shameful and, I would have thought deeply sexist, little flower?

I have also been challenged about using the phrase “war of ideologies” in an earlier blog.  This was never intended to promote sending troops to Syria or anywhere else.  There are many forms of warfare.  For many years, there was a Cold War, epitomised by the building of the Berlin Wall and the battle of words and ideas between the USA and the USSR; between capitalism and communism.  It is abundantly clear to me that there is a war of ideologies now; waged by those who support the concept of a Caliphate; who see all non believers as worthless; who would impose Sharia Law on the citizens of this country;  who seek to promote their faith to the exclusion of all others and who justify extreme measures for all who oppose them.  They are a small number, at least in this country, epitomised by fanatical preachers like Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza and wholly unrepresentative of the vast majority of ethnic citizens but they have the frightening power to change the minds of young men to such an extent that they commit attrocities of the kind we saw at Ground Zero and, more recently, in Woolwich.  To fight this war, we have to recognise it as a war; not one to be fought with troops and tanks but one to be fought nevertheless.  This is why we should not be afraid of our security services who are there to protect honest and law-abiding citizens but are also there to combat the secretive and life threatening activities of the fanatical minority among us.  The existence of easy and cheap air travel and the instant communication capability of the internet and of mobile and social media are weapons for the fanatics to use against us and we have to be aware of this and to respond appropriately.

I am less sure where the accusation of sexism is derived but this little flower has proved himself (or herself) consistently light on evidence.  People who know me well will know my respect for women as colleagues and my reputation over the years for promoting their cause.  I am opposed to positive discrimination as are most women with whom I have discussed the concept but I have consistently sought to promote able women in public life and there are enough examples of the practice out there to demonstrate the little flower’s  accusation is pure fantasy.

Turning to my alleged homophobia, I refute this equally strongly.  I recently explained why I would be bucking the trend of some national politicians and would not be joining a Gay Pride march.  I suspect what I wrote reflected the genuine views of  many thousands of people of my generation. It summed up the result of growing up as a post-war baby boomer where the world was a very different place to what it is today.  My discomfort is with the in-your-face gay rights brigade who want to push the boundaries of their own single-interest area.  I have neither forgotten nor forgiven Peter Tatchell’s behaviour during a religious service in Canterbury Cathedral in 1998.  It was unacceptable.  Today, there are genuine concerns from some people with a very traditional view of marriage and they have every right to express their concerns.  Indeed it is very dangerous to make people afraid to speak their minds because the political pressure cooker caused by frightened and enforced silence on controversial issues will eventually explode.

I am afraid we are already there in many areas.  People are very afraid to challenge current positions concerning race, ethnicity, sexuality and more mundane issues like the dreaded ‘elf and safety and debate on the European Union.  Opponents, predominantly of the left are lightning quick to attack “racism”, “sexism” or “homophobia” as they see it.  The result is a rising fear among many that these topics are taboo and that, if they have different views, they have to maintain a diplomatic silence.  These bully-boy tactics have been employed by dictators in all ages to silence their opponents.  A democracy should be proud to promote debate on topics that are difficult and challenging and to accept alternative viewpoints often reflecting differences in age, culture or background but to conduct the debate with respect and dignity.

Which brings me to my final point.  One of little flower’s tweets tells me that “the whole of Oxfordshire is proud ur (sic) no longer a County Councillor.”  I have three scrap books at home with letters and e-mails that tell a different story, little flower but, to you, that would be evidence that just got in the way of a good, abusive line.

My experience in life and in politics is that, when evidence is thin or non-existent and you are losing the argument, a simple defence strategy is to revert to good old-fashioned abuse. QEDlittle flower.  I was always a little affronted when Labour appropriated the symbol of the Red Rose as their political logo.  Over the years, the rose has been symbolic: to the Greeks of love; in Islam of divine love; in Christianity of the five wounds of Christ. In the Wars of the Roses, the Lancastrians adopted the red rose and the Yorkists the white rose until, with the accession of the House of Tudor these two were combined as a symbol of unity into the Tudor Rose.

I am afraid the Red Rose of the Labour party, particularly as is it typified by this Banbury little flower, shows some sign of early decay and may need the pruning of evidence and reason. 


About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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2 Responses to The rose – beautiful or barbed?

  1. Nara Hodge says:

    Having read what Labour activist @RedRose97 has accused Keith Mitchell of I strongly felt that I cannot and shall not remain silent. I am absolute astonished at the falseness and unfairness of the accusations against Keith. There is absolutely nothing sexist, racist or homophobic about anything Keith. I have an honour of being personally aquatinted with Keith and in all my dealings with him he has proved himself to be an individual of rare intelligence and integrity. I am a new female Tory activist and from day one Keith has supported and encouraged me, promoted and helped me, introduced me to right people. He has been instrumental in helping me to form some very important friendships I enjoy now. I was introduced to Keith by a very good friend of mine -a Passionate Tory, a lovely lady of Finnish origin. Keith has played a very important part in her life by being her inspiration, her rock, her best friend, a father figure. Keith is a true Conservative and as such to him it is of no significance where people come from, what matters is where they want to go, what they want to be. Keith is one of the most helpful, understanding, reliable people I have met and has formed long lasting friendships with people from different walks of life, different religions, ethnicities and nationalities.

  2. Councillor mark cherry says:

    As a Labour councillor, I take pride in having my St George flag out at every given opportunity when there is a tournament involving England football, cricket and, of course, rugby. It’s a fact that there would be no racism in our once great country if everyone was treated the same. I personally won’t be attacking you on Twitter but please don’t tar everyone in the Banbury Labour Party with the same brush.

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