...free to think freely


9th March 2020

Does Phillips suspension expose Pseudo-Liberal motives?

Lifelong equality campaigner Trevor Phillips has been suspended from the Labour Party over claims of Islamophobia. Ostensibly this is said to be because he claims Muslims are “different”, that his description of Muslims as “a nation within a nation” was quoted by a far-right terrorist who killed a worshipper leaving a mosque, he refuses to see Muslims as a “race”, and he compared placing a “Christian child” with Muslim foster carers with child abuse.

That last allegation sounds the most serious, until one actually reads the whole article from which it was taken, in The Sun on 31st August 2017, when it becomes clear Mr Phillips’ comment applied not to the concept of placing an English child with Muslim fosterers, but with the failure of Tower Hamlets Council to protect a particular child who was desperately unhappy with her placement because she claimed her fosterers did not speak English and would not let her have her favourite comforts around her and had asked the Council to find alternative carers. Mr Phillips’ concern was that on this occasion the Council appeared to be putting political appearances above the child’s welfare and that was what he saw as a form of child abuse. If that were what was happening I think I would be inclined to agree. However, I do not know the basis on which the Council took its decision. Comments are often made with the proviso that they apply to a principle conditional on facts which may be unknown, and I always try to be clear that I comment on the basis of principle and assumption and might come to a different view if the facts were different. In this case, Mr Phillips’ assumption was that the child was right to want to be moved and the Council had refused on political grounds and that was the basis of his point. We cannot know whether that was the actual case, only that he wanted to point out it would be wrong if it were.

As for the first two claims, the former, as Mr Phillips pointed out on the Today programme this morning, is a truism. Any identity people claim is seen by those who claim it as distinctive. Otherwise there would be no point claiming it. Every group has unique characteristics which are the basis of the group. What matters is whether such characteristics are used to segregate people for malicious purposes. It would be absurd to suggest a man who has dedicated his life to working for equality would mean any harm by such a statement.

The same applies to his suggestion of Muslims being a nation within the nation. Again, that can be said of any subculture which has its own values and beliefs. That’s what diversity is all about.

I am left with a suspicion that these are not the real reasons for the complaints in this case. Could the real reason be that Mr Phillips has set himself against Pseudo-Liberal censorship and stood out for the right to freedom of conscience and debate? Could it be because his is a powerful voice against their orthodoxy, which cannot be silenced with a claim of “white privilege” so they have to find another basis for silencing him?

As for the presence of his comments in a van used for a terrorist act, the people who do such things will always twist facts to justify their actions. Blaming the source of the facts they twisted is hardly a rational response, just as twisting the facts in Mr Phillips’ case isn’t either.