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PETER YOUNG: Unabated extremist attitudes a growing concern in the UK

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the media at Downing Street in London, Friday. 
Photo: Alberto Pezzal/AP

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the media at Downing Street in London, Friday. Photo: Alberto Pezzal/AP

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Peter Young

TO follow up last week’s column about anti-semitism, I revert today to the issue of extremism. In the last few days, there have been two important developments in Britain in relation to this that need to be aired in order to appreciate the seriousness of what is going on there. These are a victory for extreme forces in a by-election and a major speech to the nation by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about protecting the nation’s democratic values.

With the war in Gaza continuing to dominate the world news as it rages on unabated, extremist attitudes and actions in the UK are of growing concern as pro-Palestinian demonstrations are becoming more violent, with those responsible for it appearing to be gaining strength and influence.

Last Friday, the press in the UK were all agog when they were told that the prime minister would be delivering an address later that day from the podium outside No 10 Downing Street. Normally, such events are reserved for major announcements like dates for elections or prime ministerial resignations. So, reportedly, there was much anticipation about an early general election.

Showing at last that instead of being regarded primarily as a leader well versed on the technical detail of policy rather than at ease with the bigger strategic picture and broader concepts, the prime minister delivered a powerful warning about the danger of extremists targeting UK democracy that threatened disaster for the whole country as it was progressively giving way to intimidation and sectarianism.

He spoke strongly and movingly about the need to preserve Britain’s traditional liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, fairness, mutual respect and adherence to the rule of law that were the foundation of the nation’s long history of democracy.

These were under attack, he said, by extremists -- hardline political agitators preaching division, hatred and intimidation. Now was the time for new robust measures, and he promised action within the coming days and weeks. Many will hope this will include stronger police action after what has been seen recently as a craven response to extremist activity by the forces of law and order.

Some have said that this was a rambling address that was also short on detail. But a closer study of the UK press shows that, by common consent, it went down well generally. As one commentator put it, in confronting the “poison” of Islamist and far-right extremism -- from which the institutions and processes that underpin the nation’s democracy should be protected - Mr Sunak delivered the speech Britain needed to hear; and he did it notably well.

To quote what could be considered his main thrust: “This situation has gone on long enough. Our great achievement in building the world’s most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy is being deliberately undermined. There are forces here at home trying to tear us apart. We must not allow that to happen” -- and he described them as people pushing ‘a divisive, hateful, ideological agenda’. By any standards this was indeed tough talk and, on all the evidence, also timely.

The prime minister was speaking after the previous day’s by-election that has been described as a serious setback for Britain. Held in the northern town of Rochdale, with its large Muslim population and which had been a Labour stronghold for years, its candidate last week had been jettisoned earlier for his antisemitic attitude and remarks and there was insufficient time to parachute in a replacement.

With both the main parties effectively deserting the field, the contest was won resoundingly by former Labour MP, George Galloway, and his own Workers Party of Britain. He has a reputation as a carpetbagger after changing constituencies several times. He is also a well-known Israel-hating extremist and strong supporter of the Palestinian cause while at the same time denouncing the West. One of his party colleagues is now under police investigation following his call that Israel has forfeited the right to exist. Rochdale was clearly fertile ground for Galloway’s toxic political stance of division and hate as he used the conflict in the Middle East to advance his agenda.

Many people in Britain are now complaining that Galloway’s election is not just a problem for Rochdale but a disaster for the whole country; not least, for example, because it has emboldened the extremist far-right British National Party. This result undermines the country’s values on which its democracy depends. An organisation called the Community Security Trust, which protects the Jewish community, has noted a significant rise in racism and hatred recently with synagogues and Jewish students, as well as shops, being targeted and attacked. There are also growing concerns about the safety of MPs.

It is now being said that Britain’s tolerance of violent pro-Palestinian protests that are being driven by extremists has been tested to the limit. But, to sceptics in the community, it remains to be seen whether there will be more robust action taken by the authorities following the prime minister’s address last week. The indications are that public opinion as a whole now demands new action in defence of the nation’s traditional values and its institutions that underpin its democracy. This should surely be a matter for both main political parties, and it could well be tested at a general election earlier than expected – perhaps as soon as May rather than the autumn?

PRIDE IN BAHAMAS TOURISM

How interesting it was to read recently in The Tribune a report of remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism about the need for Bahamians to have pride in tourism as the country’s largest industry. Chester Cooper was speaking at the launch by his ministry of its “Tourism is Everyone’s Business” domestic campaign which aims to inform the public about its importance.

This looks to be an excellent initiative given that tourism accounts for 50 per cent of GDP and provides employment for some 60 per cent of the workforce. It is likely that the more people know what is happening generally in the tourism field - and about what is on offer to visitors - the greater the chance is of effective cooperation and coordination, as appropriate, amongst providers of “the tourism product”. What is more, in view of the large numbers involved, that should benefit the country as a whole.

Equally, it is good to learn from the Minister that January’s tourism numbers remain strong despite warnings – for example, from the US - about the lack of security locally. But the UK’s official Travel Advice looks to me to be more realistic and balanced and, quite rightly, should not deter visitors from coming.

It is, of course, inevitable that a huge majority of The Bahamas’ total annual visitors should come from North America. Nonetheless, it is surprising that historically the numbers from Britain have been relatively low.

I have not been able to study the latest figures but have often wondered why the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation in the past has apparently not given greater weight to the UK as a potential market, not least because after a nine hour flight visitors are likely to remain longer at their destination and spend more money here. However, it is good to see its latest advertising initiative of branding taxis and buses in London with beautiful images of The Bahamas.

For years, Barbados had a huge shop window in busy Regent Street in central London showing the delights of its island. Far too often, Britons have preferred Barbados because they felt more at home there and thought it was less expensive. But, in my view, The Bahamas as a tourist destination has so much more to offer than Barbados.

While at Bridgetown airport a few years ago, I recall watching one charter flight after another coming in from the UK and thinking what might be done to divert them to Nassau. Now, of course, the regular commercial airlift between Nassau and London has improved with British Airways offering daily flights and Virgin Atlantic four flights per week – and there is the prospect of Virgin flights going on to Freeport when its new airport opens.

While looking at UK tourism here, it was also startling to see the latest figures of bilateral trade in goods and services. These show a massive increase in 2023 compared to the previous year, presumably in the value of services. Without knowing more about these figures and how they are determined, it is hard to comment. But what is encouraging is that at last there is a more productive trading relationship, in goods and services, between The Bahamas and the UK – thanks in part no doubt to the 2021 Economic Partnership Agreement which is the cornerstone of the UK’s trading relationship with CARIFORUM countries.

What was also surely noteworthy were the remarks by the UK’s trade commissioner for the region during his visit to The Bahamas last year. He acknowledged Britain’s “historical commercial underrepresentation” in The Bahamas, which is a message that many of us have been trying to put across for a number of years – and one can only hope that this new improved commercial relationship will now flourish while the number of visitors also grows.

FINLAND TOP OF HAPPINESS STAKES ONCE AGAIN

It has probably come as no surprise to many people – in so far as they will have even noticed it at all -- that this year Finland has been ranked again the happiest country in the world in the UN World Happiness Report. This means it has taken top place for seven years in a row.

In mentioning its success last year, I admitted to being unaware of the detailed criteria against which this judgement about countries is made. But I now gather that among others they include things like its status as a well-functioning society with free health care and limited corruption, in relation to which Finland scores highly.

But it might just be worth repeating my earlier view that this exercise seems not to be about happiness in the deeper personal sense but more about a general sense of contentment in possessing the basic necessities of life in the shape of sufficient resources to live safely and comfortably in a decent environment. Add to that an overall feeling of security in a neutral nation (though, of course, Finland has just joined NATO) and it is understandable that most Finnish people are happy with their lot.

Good as all that might be, however, the “experts” – in the shape of so-called therapists who are forever advising other people how to conduct their lives - claim that overall contentment with one’s conditions of everyday life is only one element of happiness which is a deeply personal and individual matter and does not necessarily depend on external stimuli.

Most people would surely agree with them about the importance of appreciation and gratitude for having the basic necessities in daily life. They ought also surely accept their advice that happiness is not essentially about achieving a destination or an end-goal but a gradual process of growth and self-fulfillment during the course of a satisfactory life while appreciating the moment as it happens.

Comments

LastManStanding 2 months, 3 weeks ago

This article is exactly why England (and the whole of the UK really) is turning into a third world Orwellian shithole. What is "anti-Semitism" (never mind that Semite does not mean jewish, it means son of Shem)? Nobody who ever hurls these accusations can ever seem to proffer a definition. I'm sure that the Palestinian people (who are actually Semitic) sure would say that they are on the receiving end of "anti-Semitism" right now (and have been since the Nakba/1948), but nobody seems to be talking about that.

The UK is ruled by a bloody pajeet, London is ruled by a Paki, grooming gangs are raping and molesting young girls and walking off without jail time while young White men with families to feed who put up stickers highlighting the issue (or even just saying something as simple as "it's ok to be White") are given prison time. The UK is devolving into a third world shithole and somehow it's the "far-right" (ie. people with an IQ higher than 60 who don't want to live in a third world shithole) that is the cause of all the problems, lol. Your much vaunted Churchill would roll in his grave if he saw what happened to his country, he would come back and horsewhip every Tory he could find if he had a way to do so. An entire generation of young men he sent to their deaths all for nothing.

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