The unholy links between the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) have made us all think more honestly about the free-for-all 1970s when vital, decisive liberties were won but there was also societal chaos, dissolution of moral judgements and smashed boundaries.
Sol Campbell, one of England’s best footballers of recent times, seems to be intensely private, thoughtful and complex. He retired in 2012. Now the tall, black man with intense eyes has spoken up, opened up.
Oxford University, that so, so old bastion of upper-class English traditions, of port and fine wines, of the moneyed establishment, has long been a fertile habitat for public-schoolboy clubs and drinking fraternities, insouciance, high jinx and bad-lad behaviour. And everyday sexism which often turns vile and nasty. Cheerful chappies in the city of dreaming spires, some of whom will go on to be world leaders, still think it’s OK to shout obscenities when females are in the vicinity or to act up like apes on heat, to spike the drinks of young women, or to touch them up and worse.
On Iain Dale’s LBC programme last Friday evening, I was on with the urbane Nadhim Zahawi, Tory MP for Stratford-on-Avon, who claimed nearly £6,000 for heating his stables and £170,000 in expenses in 2012-13. We argued about benefits cuts and rising poverty. Regurgitating Tory propaganda, he stated forcefully that “reforms” enable claimants to move on and up. When Zahawi was nine, his Kurdish family fled Saddam Hussein’s repressive Iraq and settled here. It must have been hard. So the boy done good and done the party good, too. See? They love striving migrants.
Watch this interview on YouTube. It made me laugh, cheer and want to throw a stiletto-heeled shoe at the screen. This chap Sam Rubin – boring side-parting, suit, a bit full of himself – is an entertainment reporter on the American TV channel KTLA.
At the Conservative party conference in 2012, I was having breakfast alone, when a Tory backer from Oxfordshire joined me. He reads this column though it often makes him spitting mad. Even so, I found him genial and open-minded for a landed gent from the shires. He asked: “Yasmin, do you reject this party because you’re a woman, ethnic minority, or a Muslim?” My vote, for him, was inextricably bonded to identity not to political belief. So 20th century. But at least he was genuinely interested. Most of his other tribe members still behave as if the world belongs, by divine right, to pompous, backward, white men.
After due process, actor Bill Roache has been found not guilty of sex abuse. His accusers had their say and were disbelieved by the jury. Since then his defenders have been full of righteous froth, calling noisily for an end to celebrity “witch-hunts”. What an oddly inappropriate term to use. Women, often those who were defiant and feisty, were accused of witchcraft by men in pre-modern times. The named females were put through harsh, terrifying hearings, tortured and killed. This still happens today in many parts of the world. How can such terrible injustice be compared to Roache’s trial before a proper court, where he was represented by excellent lawyers?
My dad Kassam, who looked like Jeremy Thorpe, didn’t eat much, but greedily consumed books on British politics and British wars. He bought them on credit knowing he couldn’t pay the bills. In the end, the owner of the only bookshop in town, banned him from his store. This was in Kampala, capital of Uganda. Exiled ignobly from his daytime hangout, Papa turned into Coleridge’s mad Ancient Mariner, pulling people into his obsessions. One story he told over and over again was of an Indian relative called Jaffer, who had volunteered to fight with the Allies in the Great War – as did thousands of other Indians and Africans.
Our literati and glitterati are back from the literary festival in Jaipur – the famously beautiful, pink city of India – that is the Davos of the book world. It was just wonderful, they say; the talent, sessions, people, gorgeousness, the jamboree not to miss. The festival is, for them, an annual pilgrimage, a visit or revisit to a country that is economically and culturally vibrant, creative, brainy, cricket-mad and glam, too, what with Bollywood, billionaires and a thriving fashion sector.
At the Golden Globes, the actress Emma Thompson walked on to the stage carrying her Christian Louboutin shoes and said it was her feminist rebellion against high heels. Louboutin shoes have blood-red soles, a trademark and perhaps “ironic” recognition that stilettos hurt, hurt a lot, sometimes make feet bleed and have ladies crying in the loo.
I laughed over the François Hollande “affair”, even when Valérie Trierweiler’s “deep blues” resulted her being hospitalised. Seemed like the vapours that conveniently overcame Victorian ladies. Ha ha.
I’m not at all surprised that this newspaper has found credible evidence of gender-selective abortions among British Asian communities. But I am distressed and ashamed that people I identify with still allow this nefarious practice to go on and will not confront brutally misogynist family values.
What a few days the Met Police has had. It has appeared gripped by a collective personality disorder, and has issued several confused messages. One of its boys – actually a 53-year-old, PC Keith Wallis – admitted that he lied about what the Tory MP Andrew Mitchell had said when asked to get off his bike outside Downing Street.
I want the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson to look me in the eye and tell me that it was a big mistake to let my people – the Ugandan Asians – into this country. A big mistake because the majority of Brits resented us coming, believed the “influx” would put intolerable pressure on jobs, housing, the NHS and education, and corrupt the national identity. Local authorities paid for full-page adverts in Ugandan newspapers asking Asians to keep out of their areas. Most of the media was maniacally opposed, just as they were when Jews arrived before the Second World War and in the centuries previously.
The two sisters who worked for Nigella Lawson were found not guilty of fraud just after the convictions of Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, the two brutal murderers of Lee Rigby. Swiftly, shamefully, the fickle nation was gripped by the final act of the Lawson/Saatchi melodrama and it was as if Rigby was forgotten. Not, obviously, by his grieving relatives who, in court, had watched the gruesome footage of the soldier being butchered and who heard one of the killers justifying his barbarism. And not forgotten by most of us Muslims who feel collective guilt about what happened and seek ways to make amends. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in Leicester had a charity dinner in October to raise money for an education trust for Jack, the young son of Rigby. His widow attended the dinner. This week, mosques have prayed for the young man as have Muslim families. I prayed too.
Why do stars become salesmen? Anyone who has seen David Tennant in the RSC’s Richard II will, I hope, agree that he is one of our most brilliant, unusual and versatile actors. His TV performances are unforgettable, but on stage he makes history. I have never seen the king played with such verve and intricacy. I shook his hand after the performance at the Barbican and found him open and gracious. So why then does someone with his gifts and success choose to appear in a TV advert, in effect to become a salesman and a product all in one?
On Friday night I was booked to do the newspaper review on the BBC News channel. As I walked to the studios along London’s Regent Street, I saw the area had been roundly trashed. Broken glass, beer cans, wet and filthy red hats, coats, white fake moustaches filled the street and pavements. Had there been a mass abduction of Santas by envious, ill–mannered, inebriated extraterrestrials? The stench of urine was everywhere; next to All Souls church, someone had defecated and a blank-faced, tired, black cleaner was using newspapers to clear up the mess. This was the goodwill left behind after the annual SantaCon parade, when revellers dress up as Santa ostensibly to cheer people up.
Result! In one week, we, a small group of stalwarts, Muslims and non-Muslims, who are opposed to sexual apartheid in our universities, raised the slumbering politicians and jolted gutless academics. Universities UK (UUK) will reconsider its guidelines which sanctify gender discrimination in the name of freedom of speech and equal access.
This Tuesday, 10th December, is Human Rights Day. It is my birthday too, and insha-allah (God willing) I plan to mark both by joining a demo outside Woburn House in Tavistock Square, London. These are the offices of Universities UK (UUK), an affiliate which describes itself as “the voice of UK universities”, which is a bit presumptive I think, especially now.