Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

As the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery in this country approaches, Tony Blair expresses 'deep sorrow' for British involvement in the trade. Extraordinary that he should feel the need to adopt such a tone when the act commemorated is something to be proud of.

But his words are carefully chosen in order to avoid paying 'reparations' to descendants of slaves who think they deserve them. It is worth noting one thing about the reparations campaign. The campaign's spokesman, Esther Cranford, speaks of the 'so-called slave trade'. The term she uses is 'the African Holocaust', and she and her allies speak of the slave trade as 'genocide'. Presumably, the campaigners prefer these terms because they wish to find a form of white oppression of blacks which is as bad as bad can be. It is a constant source of rage to some militant black groups, to many Arabs and to many Muslims, that the word 'Holocaust' belongs in people's minds uniquely to the suffering of the Jews. The Muslim Council of Britain refuses to take part in Holocaust Memorial Day because it wants the day to commemorate all genocides, and it pretends that what has happened in Palestine over the years qualifies. If the idea of the African Holocaust could be established, campaigners would at last have achieved their hearts' desire, which is to make Britain and America morally equivalent to the Nazis.

The BBC's Radio Four on Monday morning: 'The ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza appears to be holding even after militants fired rockets into Israeli territory.' So the BBC definition of a ceasefire that holds is one in which Israel does not fire, but Palestinians do.

Waiting for an appointment in the central lobby of the House of Commons this week, I started to count the number of Christian references, including crosses, in the mosaics and sculpture above me. I got to 17 in about as many seconds (the depictions of the patron saints of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom contained most of them) before my host came to collect me. If a British Airways approach -- no visible religious symbol permitted -- were to be applied to our public culture, the purge would have to be extensive. Out would go St Pancras, King's Cross, Charing Cross, Marylebone and Fenchurch Street; so would Westminster itself. Our coinage would have to be changed;

so would the national flag and the Royal Standard; so would some of our public holidays. Most of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges would have to change their names, as well as their statutes; so would thousands of schools. Virtually no coat of arms of any institution would survive. Police symbols would have to be altered, as would regimental banners (which, obviously, would no longer be allowed to hang in churches). The concept of the Christian name would be suspect, so that it might become a criminal offence to be called, say, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Someone should start a complete inventory of the world we would lose. Last week I addressed the Wynnstay Hunt in the Welsh Borders. Their symbol is cross foxes, after which a local pub is named. Already enduring one persecution, they are now threatened with another.

Although hunts up and down the country seem to be thriving as never before, with large numbers of new recruits, I suspect that the period of police restraint may be coming to an end. …

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