So, Willy displayed his leadership skills and asked Townend to apologise. Well, if there's one thing I was always told is only say sorry when you really mean it.
WIlliam Hague and John Townend have tried to put a cap on the racist comments that have spluttered out of the retiring MP's mouth over the past few weeks. Was this because William recognised that he had to do something positive to combat racism within his party? Er, no, it was because suddenly the eyes were upon his weakness and a Black parliamentary candidate by the name of Lord Taylor stated that he thought his leader wasn't living up to his proposed 'macho' image.
Unfortunately Hague's intervention is hollow. It echoes the brush over approaches to racism that we are becoming so accustomed to. "If he doesn't say it, then its ok." As Shahid Ashrif quite rightly points out on this site, freedom of speech and the implications of this are not necessarily as is. Hague has, by not taking solid firm action, proven to the country that the Tories are allowed to be racist, myopic fools who speak of mongrels, provided that they don't air their views.
A few years ago, the Commission for Racial Equality launched a campaign called "Condone it, or Condemn it - there is no in-between." This neatly summarises the position of the opposition leader at the present time. By not condemning Townend, sacking him and proving his muscle, he has condoned the language and views. Why? Well, the Tories are racist - by default. Yes, Lord Taylor aims to put a stop to it. But, as everybody knows - there are the two ideologies that run through the Tories like a river - New Right and Traditional philosophies that cannot just be silenced, and are both fundamentally racist.
The easy response from the public, the media and the government is to lash out at Townend, but he is just the vocal box for the same old pent up fears that washed out when Enoch Powell was around. Instead of doing something productive to challenge racism, the Tories will always be racist until a massive overthrow within the party causes them to think differently about the society that they want to govern.
As if to add salt to this rancid, infested wound, the party have now called upon their Black and Asian candidates to sign a pledge backing the Conservatives in the election. They have extended this offer to Taylor, and it's definitely a clever little tool. If Taylor refuses to sign up and continues his battle against racism, the Conservatives win public support - "we reprimanded Townend, now you just fall back into line." Alternatively, if Taylor signs up - the public see that the rift is beginning to heal - that the future in the Blue skyline is bright after all.
Sadly, either way, nothing will be learnt from this outing. It grabbed a few headlines - but nothing more will come of it. However, Taylor could take a real stand - accuse the party of racism, and step away. We shall admire him a lot more, I am sure.
Jason Wood is the editor of Student Youth Work Online.
© Student Youth Work Online 2001
This comment was published on 30/04/2001.