According to The Observer today, David Cameron has personally vetoed the appearance of the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Baroness Warsi, at the Global Peace and Unity event this weekend.
David Cameron’s decision is apparently a response to the presence at the event of a number of hard-line speakers who have justified suicide bombers and terrorism, promoted al Qaida, and encouraged homophobia. Warsi, who is of course the first female Muslim Cabinet Minister, was planning to use the appearance to confront those advocating extremism and argue against fundamentalism.
A refusal to engage in this way merely allows unacceptable extremist views to remain unchallenged. If no alternative is presented, those seeking to persuade people of the validity of that extremism are given a clear run.
The Conservative Coalition’s compromise is to send Andrew Stunnell MP, a junior LibDem Minister at the Communities Department to put the case against extremism, hatred and intolerance.
I don’t want to upset Mr Stunnell’s friends and family, but he is hardly a household name. Nor is he a Muslim. And nor is he as senior in the Government as Baroness Warsi.
So the Government is not actually boycotting the event, which might at least have made a point – in absentia – about its distaste for some of the views being expressed. Instead, it is missing the opportunity to deploy someone who might at least to have been listened to when she put an alternative viewpoint.
Am I surprised?
No, not really. It is a typically wimpish and ineffectual abdication of political and moral leadership.