With Chairman Ms. Ruth Breddal and Lib-Dem opponent Mr. Philip Goldenberg
On Saturday, I was in Christ Church, Jubilee Square, Woking, for a debate organised by Woking Debates. The motion was “In or Out of the EU?”. Woking Debates seems to be organised by something called Network for Peace, and also to have an association with the Quakers.
Of course all sane people are in favour of peace, but there is a legitimate debate to be had about the best way of keeping the peace. I rather got the impression that the sixty-or-so strong audience mostly had a rather dewy-eyed feeling about international relations, based on hope rather than experience. After all, the Transatlantic Alliance and Mutually Assured Destruction were never very popular with the peace brigade, yet for many decades they seemed to have rather a good record of maintaining the peace.
I always thought it was the Athenians who coined the aphorism “If you want peace, prepare for War”, but Wikipedia insists that it was the Romans. Either way, it makes good sense to me.
The Chairman of the Debate was Ruth Breddal, who was very well organised, and firm but fair. I understand she is also the Regional Chairman of Amnesty International.
I was debating against a certain Philip Goldenberg, a prominent local Lib-Dem, who suffered from the supercilious sense of moral superiority which characterises Clegg’s cohorts. I checked the spelling with Mr. Goldenberg before the event: “Philip with one ‘L’, please. That’s the only correct way – straight from the Greek”. And Goldenberg? “B-E–R-G, not B-U–R-G, please. That means it’s a hill, not a town!”. Too much information, Philip.
The local paper took a photograph of the three of us – Goldenberg and me, with Ms. Breddal in the middle. I proposed to get a similar photo on my own phone – but Mr. Goldenberg, while happy to pose for the paper, preferred not to allow me a similar photograph. Ms. Breddal, to her credit, had no such qualms. Mr. Goldenberg seemed blissfully unaware that the photo of the three of us would be available from the newspaper, and would end up on my blog anyway.
Ahead of time I asked about Mr. Goldenberg’s politics, but he insisted that his remarks would not be political. In his speech, however, he launched a robust attack against UKIP. We were horrible people. We spent our time scapegoating immigrants. Nigel Farage had described Muslims in Britain as “A Fifth Column”.
In my reply (I spoke second – we’d tossed a coin), I remarked that Mr. Goldenberg had told me ahead of time that he wouldn’t be political, though I rather felt that he had. He interrupted “Not party political”. “Well you seemed to have a lot to say about UKIP” I replied. Laughter from the audience.
I was (I must admit) quite cross about his misrepresentation of our position, and I replied: “We in UKIP are not scapegoating immigrants. We don’t blame them for coming to Britain. But we are scapegoating the politicians who made it possible – like Tony Blair. And Nigel Farage didn’t say that Muslims were a Fifth Column in Britain. He said that Islamist terrorists were a Fifth Column in Britain, and I think rather a lot of voters would agree with that”.
I suspect that most of the audience came to the debate as convinced Europeans (one had worked for many years with the Commission), and rather few changed their minds. It was all good knock-about stuff. But it’s worrying that people like the Lib-Dems can spin the facts in such a spectacularly misleading way. Someone, somewhere may believe them.