Nick Clegg has split from David Cameron in his definition of multiculturalism.
The Deputy Prime Minister gave a speech today in Luton — a symbolic location, given that when Cameron spoke on the same subject in Munich last month, an English Defence League rally took place in the town.
Where Cameron was pessimistic and critical about multiculturalism — prompting Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan to accuse him of “writing propaganda for the EDL” — Clegg is positive, and advocates engagement.
It is a significant break in opinion, and while Clegg was careful to signal points of agreement with Cameron throughout the speech, it frequently reads like a direct answer to the PM’s points. Over at ConservativeHome, Paul Goodman expresses concern about Clegg’s timing in stoking media speculation about a division in the coalition. However, a little disapproval from the Tories is probably no bad thing for Clegg, who needs to shore up support from Lib Dems. Paul Waugh notes that many Tories will see this speech as based not just on principle, but on “the practical need of the Lib Dems to shore up their ethnic vote”.
Let’s compare and contrast the key points.
Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.
For me, multiculturalism has to seen as a process by which people respect and communicate with each other, rather than build walls between each other. Welcoming diversity but resisting division: that’s the kind of multiculturalism of an open, confident society.
On the nature of the threat
It’s important to stress that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group…
Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse and warped interpretation of Islam and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens.
My point is this. We need a perfect symmetry in our response to crime and violent extremism. Bigots are bigots, whatever the colour of their skin. Criminals are criminals, whatever their political beliefs. Terrorists are terrorists, whatever their religion.
On banning organisations
We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries. We must also proscribe organisations that incite terrorism – against people at home and abroad. Governments must also be shrewder in dealing with those that, while not violent, are certainly, in some cases, part of the problem. We need to think much harder about who it’s in the public interest to work with
You don’t win a fight by leaving the ring. You get in and win. The overwhelming majority of the people attending this conference are active, engaged and law-abiding citizens. We don’t win people to liberal ideals by giving ourselves a leave of absence from the argument.
Equally, smart engagement means being extremely careful about decisions to proscribe individual organisations. There are occasions when that is the right course of action. I have to say that, for me, agreeing to the proscription of the Pakistani Taliban was a straightforward decision. But proscription must always be a last resort, never a knee-jerk reflex.
Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more.
In an open, liberal society, individuals are free to live in the manner of their choosing, so long as they do not harm others.