Two months before the general election an open season on Nigel Farage is in full swing, with Tories especially firing at will from the lip.
To be fair, Farage presents an inviting target, what with his tendency to say things that may be correct, but not politically correct.
Such as, for example, his statement that he’d throw out the Race Relations Act, which essentially dictates hiring policies to employers.
Never mind making sensible arguments or building a serious case. You say something like that and you are a racist, a fascist and the sort of vermin who has no place in otherwise pristine British politics.
Hugo Rifkind, Malcolm’s boy, compares Farage unfavourably to Jeremy Clarkson. Michael ‘the Maggie slayer’ Heseltine says he is as bad as Enoch Powell and no better than Oswald Mosley.
Both men set their store early. Rifkind, whose journalistic career is among the most baffling mysteries in God’s creation, states with misplaced pride: “I approve of political correctness.”
Farage, he says, “stands proudly against the whole concept of a multicultural, inclusive society.” Why, he’s even worse than Jeremy Clarkson.
And didn’t his English teacher at school describe him as ‘a fascist’ 40 years ago? Well, there you are then. Farage was 10 years old 40 years ago, but he already bore the mark of Cain, as damning as it is perpetually indelible.
Not only that, adds Heseltine, but he’s as bad as Enoch Powell, who “was a more intelligent politician than Farage, but had the same irresponsible instinct…”
Alas, sighs the Maggie slayer, “there are extremists, as there always have been: look at Oswald Mosley in the 1930s.”
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr Farage, and hence don’t know whether he is a racist in the mode of the chap who led the British Union of Fascists. I rather doubt it, but stranger things have happened.
I have, however, met myself, and I know for a fact that I’m no racist. Yet I’d scrap the Race Relations Act in a second if I could.
Thus I’m convinced that objections to the Act don’t in themselves testify to racial prejudice any more than opposition to progressive income tax bespeaks class prejudice or objections to the welfare state betoken hatred of poor people.
Personally, I wouldn’t shake the hand of a businessman who refuses to employ a qualified candidate just because of his race.
A man like that is a troglodyte who doesn’t belong in the company of decent people. But a man who thinks that the state is within its rights to force such an objectionable individual to hire someone doesn’t belong in the company of intelligent people.
Heseltine is proud that racial minorities today “are confident, aware of their rights, equal before the law and sensitive to the first sign of someone wishing to abuse that.”
What this means in practice is that any minority chap can sue if he is fired or not hired for any reason, often one that has nothing to do with race.
Hence many employers free of racial prejudice hesitate to hire, say, a black because they know he’d be devilishly difficult to sack should he prove to be inadequate for the job.
Similarly, a black, Asian or Muslim candidate can sue if he doesn’t get the job, for which his credentials qualify him — and, thanks to spivs like Heseltine he may well win the case.
But credentials don’t do the work; the person does. The employer may decide that the candidate doesn’t belong — for whatever reason. His freedom to make such decisions is, I believe, essential to a society that calls itself free.
When I myself was in a position to hire and fire, I would have employed a Shetland pony if it could do a better job for the same money or the same job for less money. But I would have been damned if I had let the government order me to employ — or keep — anyone who didn’t meet those requirements.
One case springs to mind. I once hired a young devout Muslim (let’s call him Tarik) as a part-time designer. He was competent, inexpensive and hard-working.
Every lunchtime he’d spread a prayer rug in the conference room, kneel, turn towards Mecca and pray. I observed those performances with a bit of ethnographic curiosity.
On balance, I preferred Tarik’s show of piety to the chosen lunchtime activities of some of my impeccably British employees who consumed, on average, four pints of strong lager each and were often well-nigh useless in the afternoon.
One day a client came to the office to thank everyone who worked on her account. I took her around, introducing her to art directors, designers and copywriters. The client, a nice woman who paid her bills promptly, would shake hands and say the usual things.
However, when she reached Tarik, her proffered hand was left hanging. “I won’t shake hands with a woman,” he declared with obvious hostility.
The client was stunned, but controlled herself. I didn’t. When she left, I told Tarik to get out and never again to show his face in the office (those of you who have ever worked in the service industry will understand my ire).
So he did, terrifying my partners who could see a summons to the industrial tribunal before their eyes. Mercifully none came: Tarik must have been unaware of what Heseltine calls his ‘rights’, or else felt that his part-time status didn’t put him in a strong position.
My problem with him wasn’t his race or religion. It was his incompatibility with the business culture of a British company. That, I felt, gave me the moral right to act as I did.
Telling company owners whom they must hire or may not fire is the same as telling individuals whom they must invite to dinner and may not disinvite. When the state assumes this power, it’s guaranteed to abuse it.
The potential damage of such abuse to society is infinitely greater than any caused by the few morons who won’t hire, say, a black simply because of his race.
Enoch Powell may have been more intelligent than Nigel Farage, and he definitely was more intelligent than Messrs Rifkind and Heseltine put together, times ten.
He realised, correctly, that the social, cultural and political fabric of British society would be torn to tatters by the advent of ideologically driven multi-culti nonsense. One suspects Nigel Farage knows it too.
That’s why he should be criticised not for making his statement but for the haste with which he withdrew it when all hell broke loose.