Tory politician says the proper response to the London bombings is to re-assert Britain’s true identity, which is tolerance

Writing in the Times of London on July 17, Michael Portillo, another simpy Tory (though he stepped down from Parliament earlier this year), declares that it is time for Britain to leave behind the regnant multiculturalism—the standards-free, morality-free, knee-jerk approval of all non-British cultures, no matter how primitive, alien, or evil—and to adopt in its stead … what? Well, a kind of liberal neoconservatism that combines minimal standards, wishy-washy calls for assimilation, and the brave notion that, yes, Britain does have a culture of its own, after all. But what defines this culture turns out to be nothing particular to Britain, it’s just the usual tolerance and liberal rights. That’s it. That’s Portillo’s reply to the menace of resurgent Islam. Don’t get me wrong, Portillo’s soft neoconservatism would be better than Britain’s multicultural descent into the abyss. But it is very far from a genuine re-assertion of the traditional Britain that the left, with the conservatives’ acquiescence, has destroyed—and that, in the final analysis, is the only thing that can truly turn back multiculturalism.

Oh, I almost forgot. Guess what the title was of Portillo’s article? “Multiculturalism has failed but tolerance can save us.” Do you believe it? This is what passes for a conservative message in today’s Eloi-ized England, even after 7/7. It seems to me that what Portillo and his fellow Brits need in order to express more fully their diffident little souls is a properly updated version of Blake’s “Jerusalem”:

I will not ever stand and fight
Against no foe I’ll raise my hand
Until the mosques stand coast to coast
In England’s green and pleasant land.

* * *

Update, March 9, 2010

Looking up VFR entries on my realization following the July 2005 bombings in London that tolerance is the ruling idea of Britain and the way the British define their identity, I came upon this entry. In reading it, I realized that I had not directly quoted Portillo’s remarks on the place of tolerance in Britain. He writes:

I do not think that the bombings will produce a backlash among the majority of our non-Muslim population. Even if multiculturalism in Britain went perilously too far it had important successes. Britain has undergone enormous changes in the make-up of its population with little social unrest. There is understanding and respect between our diverse ethnic communities. Our signature national quality of tolerance has been strengthened, not diminished, by successive rounds of immigration.

What quality defines Britain? Tolerance—”our signature national quality of tolerance.” And since absorbing millions of Muslims and other immigrants has strengthened Britain’s signature national quality of tolerance, immigration has made Britain more truly British than ever before. Further, since tolerance is the essence of Britain, how can anyone criticize tolerance or try to limit tolerance? The proper response to Islamic terrorism is not to become less tolerant, but to become more tolerant than before. Therefore the title of the column, “Multiculturalism has failed but tolerance can save us,” even if it was written by an editor and not the author, accurately represents the author’s point.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 04, 2005 01:45 AM | Send

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