As a Labour Councillor in Shipley, I’m all too familiar with the rather ‘interesting’ views of our increasingly infamous local Conservative MP, Philip Davies. In fact, over the past few years he’s been our single, best recruiting tool to the Labour Party. It’s not uncommon for a new member to attend a meeting and share their personal ‘Davies moment’, the instant they realised they were so repelled by Davies’ views they felt obliged to join the Labour Party.
Periodically, this localised ‘Daviesturbance’ manages to go national. With the increasing ubiquity of social media this is happening more often, but it is frustrating that his greatest hits don’t get more of a play. As with so many artists, I prefer his earlier work.
You see, Davies has been doing this stuff for years. He’s made the headlines this month for a string of controversial comments – and you suspect he secretly gets off on it – but it’s nothing he hasn’t said before.
When he makes headline news for saying that gay marriage discriminates against straight people, it is only the latest in a long line of slightly odd comments about homosexuality, including opposing an anti-homophobic bullying play called Romeo and Julian, because he felt that children should be learning proper Shakespeare instead (they have been mandated to since at least 1993). Or the time he said that homosexuality isn’t as ‘widespread’ as people think.
If you’re getting wound up about this – calm down, dear! Philip thinks we’re all way too uptight about this sort of thing anyway. If rugby fans chant homophobic insults at a player who has had the bravery to come out, let’s all remember that ‘in general’ there’s a serious ‘sense of humour failure’ in this country and we should learn to laugh at ourselves more. After all, he bravely confessed to BBC Radio Leeds that he doesn’t mind when people make jokes about him being from Yorkshire.
When he called for a debate on International Men’s Day, claiming that he believes in ‘true’ equality, it is only the latest salvo in a long line of attacks on the equality agenda. According to Davies, Parliament, which has more men in it today than all the women ever elected to it, is totally biased towards women.
This is all part of what Davies sees as the damaging culture of political correctness in this country, which is promoting the rights of women and minorities over everyone else. So effective is this continual discrimination that a mere 90% of Executive Directors on the FTSE 100 are men. Rumour has it that out of more than 50 Prime Ministers in Britain’s history, one of them wasn’t even a man. So entrenched is this bias towards women in Parliament that since 2010only 85% of the government’s spending cuts have been borne by women. They do say women have a higher pain threshold because they can give birth, right?
Therefore Davies used his platform on International Men’s Day to claim that there were never any problems between men and women until feminists came along and politically correct men ‘pandered’ to them. This historic harmony between the sexes must be why rape within marriage was legal until 1991, because it obviously never happened until the PC brigade made it all up.
Of all the legitimate issues men face I’m not sure feminism is one of them, not least because feminism empowers men as well as women. Improved universal childcare, freeing up women to return to the workplace, benefits the wider economy and also helps men take a fuller role in bringing up their own children. More women in positions of power benefits us all because a society that utilises the talents of only 50% of its population can never reach its full potential.
Davies’ campaign for ‘real’ equality naturally extends to racial matters, as typified when he sent at least 19 letters to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The letters asked about the pressing issues of the day, like why the term ‘Black Man’s Wheels’ when referring to a BMW is racist (because the joke is based on the premise that black men steal rich people’s cars and wouldn’t own one legitimately), why Golliwogs are now considered racist (because it’s white people pretending to be infantilised black people performing for the amusement of other white people), and why it was legal to have a Metropolitan Black Police Association (because the police have historically been blighted by institutional racism towards minorities partly due to a culture dominated by white men) but illegal for the British National Party to ban non-whites (because wanting to ‘foster the creation of an indigenous British race‘ is massively racist).
Interestingly, and I’m not suggesting for a minute Davies himself had anything to do with it, the BNP stood a candidate in every West Yorkshire seat bar Shipley for the 2010 General Election.
According to Davies however, the ‘real’ racists and sexists are the people who ‘see everything’ in terms of race and gender. In ‘Daviesworld’, the world’s least amusing theme park where the Golliwog Flume remains it’s most inexplicably popular attraction, it’s the members of the Metropolitan Black Police Association who are the institutional racists, not the police force itself as described by the Macpherson report in 1999.
On a weekly basis we now see Davies filibustering various Bills from his perspective as a fili-blustering anti-PC libertarian, from carers having free parking at hospital (after being photographed pledging to stand up for them in parliament), updating regulation to ensure private landlords keep properties fit for human habitation (as a private landlord himself he movingly spoke of his difficulty in ‘keeping tabs on all the things that are expected of you’. His failure to understand what’s expected of him explains a lot about his behaviour as an MP) to most recently talking out a Bill that would oblige school children to be taught first aid. It’s nothing new, he was behind the filibustering to stop a bill that would outlaw wild circus animals last year.
Davies has said his inspiration for filibustering comes from his ‘hero’, the apartheid sympathiser Eric Forth. It’s unclear what else Davies has in common with the man who described himself as representing the ‘white, Anglo-Saxon and bigoted majority’ except a total cluelessness about what the white, Anglo-Saxon majority actually think.
No other governance system, in the private sector for instance, would allow members of an organisation to filibuster a proposal so rather than get rejected or passed, it merely gets delayed indefinitely. Only the political class seems to think this is an appropriate way of doing things. Thankfully even some of Davies’ colleagues in the Tory Party are fed up of his behaviour. As far back as 2009, then Tory backbencher (now Speaker of the House), John Bercow referred to him as a troglodyte for his views on equality.
So while we rightly criticise Davies for his boorish behaviour, let’s also recognise that it’s Parliament that allows him to spend his time, paid for by us taxpayers, behaving this way in the first place and hope his more enlightened colleagues are successful in changing the way Parliament works.
Alex Ross-Shaw, Councillor – Windhill and Wrose 9th December 2015