I am uncomfortable with women wearing the burka because to me it symbolises male oppression. Women have to cover their faces so as not to tempt men. Why can’t men be expected to behave with restraint?
Having said that I do not believe the burka should be banned because, for many, it is a religious symbol. I also get it that some younger Muslim women have taken to the burka as a statement of their identity.
Some have compared wearing the burka with wearing the crucifix. There are practical problems with this comparison. There are many situations where it is not safe or polite to have one’s face covered. We should be able to deal with all this if we are still a tolerant country. That includes open debate with no fear of political correctness. But it must be done without causing gratuitous offence.
But I am not sure we are capable of this anymore. Leading politicians on left and right are pandering to their extremes. Leading politicians like Boris Johnson. In an article where he was supporting the right to wear the burka, he made offensive comparisons which give licence to those who have racist views.
50 years ago, Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech was supported by London dockers. Powell was a potential Tory leader at the time and knew what he was doing. Johnson knows what he is doing and the Prime Minister’s call for him to apologise for his “letter box” remark, plays into his hands. He offers a straight-talking alternative to the cautious wishy-washy Mrs May.
It is worth noting at this point that it is not just ambitious Tories who’ve dabbled in this dangerous area. Gordon Brown’s ambition for leadership of the Labour Party was notorious and his speech, on taking office, where he called for “British jobs for British workers”, was very ill judged.
But back to Boris who is clearly determined to keep in the limelight in case Mrs May should fall. I remain unconvinced this is going to happen soon, but if it did we need to remind ourselves of the Tory Party’s mechanism for electing a new leader.
The Conservatives have a more effective method than Labour of preventing ideological party members from choosing unelectable Prime Ministerial candidates. Tory MPs alone vote on leadership contenders until two are left. Only then does the contest go to party members across the country.
Given that some Conservative MPs are saying they would quit the party if Johnson became leader, the question arises as to whether the parliamentary party would dare to deny their activists the opportunity to vote for their hero Johnson.
That depends on how far Johnson has discredited himself. For me his buffoonery over the years, his ineffectiveness as London Mayor, his opportunism over Brexit, his demeaning of the office of Foreign Secretary and this latest bout of offensive behaviour to Muslims should be enough reasons for blocking him at the earliest opportunity.
But if enough Tories think Corbyn can be beaten with a hard line on Brexit, Muslims and immigration, then they may back Johnson.
Follow me @JimHancockUK