A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Britain Should Not Intervene in the Commonwealth

Students in Uganda. The Commonwealth should not dictate their laws.

I used to have a lot of respect for Peter Tatchell. He was one of the few left-wing activists that stood out from the crowd. Strange, that someone on the centre-right of politics with an instrinsic dislike of anything that looks like radical left-wing politics should take inspiration from the actions and example of a Green Party member, but it's true. He was willing to make a public stand for his beliefs, at great personal danger; an attempted arrest of an African dictator is a brave feat, and ultimately pointless. But, nonetheless, he carried it out. His article in the Guardian today, however, where he blames the homophobic laws in Commonwealth countries on the 'legacy of British colonialism,' made some of that disappear. Blaming Britain for these country's problems is not doing anything to help the homosexuals of those nations, it is merely resurrecting an old left-wing academic pastime: bashing Britain at every opportunity, no matter the circumstances.

Britain would have been to blame for many of the faults of post-colonial nations - sixty years ago. It was Britain that originally put those laws in place, in a wholly different era, might I add, long before any of us were alive, but those countries have been independent for more than half a century, or longer, and have had more than enough time to get those colonial laws repealed or changed. In that time, Britain has had little or no authority over the vast majority of them. They have had their own democracies and their own dictatorships, and are more than capable of governing themselves, contrary to received 19th century logic, haphazard boundaries and tribal disputes notwithstanding. So why are we held responsible for their problems now? In the case of Uganda, where this sort of legislation was only tabled in 2010, there's no logical way we are responsible for any of this, and other countries, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, have been homophobic for as long as time itself. Nothing Britain says or does could ever change that.

It's interest to note how the institutional left-wing, if not Peter Tatchell himself, always the defenders or deniers of extreme cultural practices on these shores, roundly condemn any implementation of the same practices in their original countries. Whilst they emphatically refuse to even speak of the problems of homophobia in the conservative Islamic and Sikh community in the United Kingdom, accusing anyone who speaks up for the rights of immigrant women of racism, they are the first to proclaim that 'something must be done' when it concerns another country's legal system. I don't know Peter Tatchell's opinions on homophobia in immigrant communities here, but he certainly advocates interference in the home affairs of the countries that many homophobic immigrants come from.

He writes that 'if the secretary-general can't robustly defend universal human rights and equality for LGBT people, he is unfit for high office and should resign.' The trouble with universal human rights is that they are not universally cherished. Other countries and other cultures have different ideas about how their countries should be run and what rights should be afforded to individuals. Contrary to popular belief in left-wing academic circles, the majority of the world is not, in fact, western European, nor do they subscribe to the values that western Europeans hold dear. The Commonwealth is an organisation that represents two billion people, the vast majority of them from poor Third World countries that are staunchly Christian or Islamic. The views of those people - conservative, impoverished, and rural - have to be taken into account. The liberalised, westernised elite that run the Commonwealth cannot dictate to them how to run their affairs, or else they risk becoming the colonists that Peter Tatchell seems to despise.

These countries are now democratic and should left to be run their own affairs. We may not like what they do, but it is their choice, and the Commonwealth - which the Queen is still the head of - cannot intervene in what is supposed to be a non-political organisation. It may be the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, but most of the two billion people in the Commonwealth couldn't care less. We should refuse to dictate to them how their lives should be run.

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