Abbott and Reidy on Afzal Amin

Diane Abbott and Padraig Reidy, writing in Monday’s Guardian, ask whether “there’s ever any point talking to the EDL’.  Their question was of course prompted by allegations which have led to the resignation of Afzal Amin, Conservative candidate for Dudley North.  This, from Abbott, I can go along with:

The most obvious thing about this whole sorry episode is his breathtaking stupidity.

I also agree that politicians should not pay the EDL (or anyone else) to canvas for them, manipulate and stage manage demonstrations or their cancellation for political ends, or promise to be an ‘unshakeable ally’ to a group such as the EDL. But I don’t agree with her assertion that all who have ever been members of the EDL are racist.  Ivan Humble, to give just one  example, began to engage in dialogue with Manwar Ali before he left the EDL.  Perhaps there is a particular unease about the idea of politicians talking to the EDL – especially in secret – but the question which headlines the Guardian article seems slightly odd, given that many people have talked to the EDL over the years, including Muslims.  Here’s a widely reported example.

In the second half of the Guardian OP, Padraig Reidy warns against jumping to the conclusion that certain groups or views are beyond the pale.

A pre-emptive circumscription of certain viewpoints is, in itself, damaging to democracy.

He reminds readers that the current settlement in Northern Ireland couldn’t have come about without people being willing to make compromises on such matters.  I agreed with several of his points – however an implied parallel with the IRA might seem unearned, particularly in the context of some of the groups politicians are working with quite openly.

In a way both Abbott and Reidy seemed to be answering the wrong question, as Afzal Amin didn’t have to resign simply for talking to the EDL.

Since this scandal broke, many of the usual suspects have been trying to pin the blame on Quilliam – its supporters have responded with an ironic #blamequilliam hashtag.  Harry’s Place has also come in for criticism for writing favourably about Afzal Amin in the past.  Not having precognitive powers, I don’t see any shame in HP having defended Amin from Assed Baig’s offensive comments. Those trying to smear Harry’s Place and Quilliam, by contrast, typically support, quite unashamedly, groups/individuals with deplorable views.