Tories savaged by audience as the real extremists

  • Post last modified:March 15, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

A number of audience members suggested it’s the Conservative Party that is extreme on Question Time. The panel and audience were discussing the government’s new extremism definition.

The definition does not criminalise, but seeks to prevent ‘extremist’ groups receiving government funding or meeting ministers.

“If that is not extremism, I don’t know what is”

Audience members pointed out that Conservative Party donor Frank Hester is extreme:

Hester said that when he sees “Diane Abbott on the TV” he wants to “hate all black women” and thinks “she should be shot”. Hester – a private healthcare CEO – has not only donated £15m to the Conservatives in under a year, but he also previously received £400m in government contracts from the ruling Conservatives.

On Question Time, another audience member agreed:

I think with that definition of extremism, what would the Tory Party say then about what Frank Hester said about Diane Abbott… It’s extremism, it’s racism

Tory ministers initially claimed that Hester’s comment was not “race-based” or “gender-based”. Then on Question Time, Conservative minister Lee Rowley reiterated that the party will not give back Hester’s donation:

I don’t think we are giving that money back no

The donation is almost as much as the entire £16m the Conservatives spent on their 2019 election campaign.

Does the new definition fit Hester?

The new definition of extremism does seem to apply to Hester’s comments. It states that extremism is

the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to:

1. negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or

2. undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or

3. intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2).

For Hester, the hateful and intolerant ideology would be a racism that undermines and threatens UK parliament’s first black female MP.

Question Time: zero support for Gove

On Question Time, host Fiona Bruce asked if anyone in the audience supported Conservative Communities Secretary Michael Gove’s approach to extremism:

It’s not a surprise no one in the audience supports the Conservative approach if they can’t act against party donors who are extremist.

Elite extremism

The Conservative government doesn’t tend to hold extremists to account when, like Hester, they are part of the elite. The government itself continues to support Israel while it breaks international law and massacres Palestinian civilian families. That could be classed as extremist and racist.

Or take former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who has been paraded around like some kind of elder statesman when he is responsible for over a million people dead in Iraq.

Chilcot Inquiry evidence revealed the government deliberately invaded Iraq through false propaganda – the ‘dodgy dossier’ – and the UK media lapped up the lies. One could view that as extremist and racist.

Or there’s foreign minister David Cameron who as prime minister intervened in Libya, which left the country in ruin. A foreign affairs select committee report found this intervention to ultimately be an “opportunist policy of regime change”. That could be viewed as extremism and racism.

From the attitude to Hester and other elites, it’s clear the government cannot be trusted to use an even hand on extremism. On Question Time, not a single audience member agreed with their approach. Instead, they called out the government for failing to hold extremists to account when it benefits them.

Featured image via BBC Question Time

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