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‘The left’ doesn’t matter; but its cowardice does

17 December 2013

6:02 PM

17 December 2013

6:02 PM

I know it’s not quite the year’s end. But I think the sweetest words I heard in 2013 are already set: ‘The left doesn’t really matter’. Those words were said to me by a pollster. The point he was making was that although the commentating classes obsess about the state of the left, it doesn’t really matter. Among the public as a whole only a handful of people take any interest in where the left does or doesn’t stand on issues and what this does or doesn’t mean.

If there is anyone who thinks that a shame they should just look at the contortions ‘the left’ is going through now over the issue of gender segregation. This is the process – which has been occurring on certain university campuses for some time and which a number of people, including colleagues of mine, have long highlighted – that consists of separating audiences according to gender. This segregation occurs because of the demands of some immoderate Muslims.

Anyhow – having been around as an issue for some time, the process has finally been picked up on more widely with such a head of steam that Channel 4 News has repeatedly focussed on the matter, there has been a public demonstration against such segregation, and now the Prime Minister himself has come out opposing it.

Which led me to spend some of the last hour reading the contorted posts and messages which self-described ‘leftists’ have been exchanging about all this and I think it is fair to say that there are several divides. A small number recognise that separating men from women in publicly funded institutions is a concerning and backward trend. Others disagree with that and (Muslim and non-Muslim) agree with that large number of people globally who believe that religion trumps women’s rights. Most interesting, though, are those who see that there is a problem with gender segregation but are fearful of saying so. The particular reason – and this really is a fascinating window into their minds – is that if they do oppose gender segregation they will put themselves in the same camp as certain ‘right-wing’ or ‘conservative’ people. Worse they will risk putting themselves on the same side of the argument as ‘right-wing’, ‘conservative’ people who are also male and possibly even have white skin. I discover that David Cameron and I are often cited as examples of where all this horror can lead.

Anyhow – as I say, it probably doesn’t matter very much. But it is a fascinating glimpse into what is not just a confused but (and I try to use the word sparingly) a perverted mindset. If you create your ideas of right and wrong according to how you think your peers might judge you, or what company they might then accuse you of keeping, it is highly unlikely that you will often find yourself in the right. The gender segregation issue shows this rather beautifully. We get to witness the sight of proud ‘liberals’ and ‘leftists’ desperately trying to find a way not to oppose a movement which is deeply hostile to the most basic rights of women. The reason? You may find yourself boosting a concern expressed by white conservative men.

I’m not desperately surprised of course. The same process has occurred plenty of times before. But as I read all this my mind wanders back over all those other issues which people like me – and David Cameron, on occasion – have spoken about over the years. Which other issues did we hold the left back on by daring to speak about? I think FGM (female genital mutilation) was almost certainly one. We are just about at the stage where the ‘left’ is no longer as worried as it once was about discussing FGM. And perhaps as they contort themselves over gender segregation that same left could cast their mind back over that debate and ask themselves a question. How many young girls’ clitorises had to be mutilated while they busily curated their left-wing credentials?

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