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On That Point: Hitchens and Chechnya

Mrs May’s election ethos has one enormous Hitch

It is an unfortunate fact of political life that those you feel are best placed to respond to political events are often long deceased before they occur. With a snap election approaching, I feel this most keenly when thinking of Christopher Hitchens, a man without whom the journalistic and literary community, and the world of politics, has been made immeasurably poorer.

If Hitchens were alive today, I think he’d be one of the few people to get to the core of the great fallacy surrounding May’s reasoning in this election, because what May has claimed she is seeking is the pursuit of a political culture Hitchens raged against for his entire life—that of the construction of the tedium of ‘consensus’ politics.

When Mrs May said: “At this moment of enormous national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division. The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” Mr Hitchens would have quickly pointed out that she was, at best, displaying a woeful misunderstanding of how the British parliamentary system operates, and, at worst, being deliberately deceitful, in an attempt to diminish Parliament’s power to scrutinise the government over Brexit. As Mrs May is not a cretin, I believe the latter is more probable.

Mrs May has sought to spread a mistruth that would have Churchill and Thatcher cringing. When Hitchens used to appear on C-SPAN in the 1990s (and I know this because I’ve actually watched them), he would always question why people thought that ‘consensus politics’ was such a grand idea, when, in fact, it represented nothing more than tepid acquiescence. That is what May is demanding that Parliament becomes now: a servile arm of Her Majesty’s Government with no power to infringe on Downing Street’s plan for Brexit, about which we are still being kept blissfully unaware.

When Mrs May stands at the despatch box for PMQs, does she not realise how all of the opposing parties are deliberately made to sit opposite her? Is it not obvious, being the Prime Minister, how British politics is supposed to operate? It is confrontational, it is fierce, it is deadly. The Prime Minister may not like it, but that is simply the way it is, with vapid ‘consensus’ flung out of Westminster to be crushed by passers-by on the streets of Whitehall.

Hitchens missed Trump, Brexit, Corbyn, Syria, and Mrs May and her government. But one thing is for sure—the Hitch would have smelled bullshit over the moralistic farce that is May’s election, and we should too. So call out Mrs May’s supposed reasoning behind this poll for what it truly is: an archaic and deceitful ruse to bludgeon Parliament into accepting her government’s hollow Brexit, before she is eventually set upon by a despairing British public.

We should export some British values to Chechnya

Britain never had any issues in the past with exporting our views on homosexuality across our empire. Pink News recently reported that, on the celebration of the 40th ‘Commonwealth Day’, more than one billion people are still living under anti-gay relics of colonial law, blighting the lives of millions of LGBT+ people across the world. This is one part of our colonial past which has been exported to devastatingly great effect. This legacy should weigh on our minds when we consider what we can do to deliver the values that Britain stands for today to the oppressed gay community of Chechnya, which is, quite simply, facing extinction.

If I lived in Chechnya today, it’s rather likely I wouldn’t have long to live, either killed by my own family or gangs of thugs. I cannot imagine how scared I would be, that fear of being captured, tortured, and erased. But I am fortunate, because my British citizenship means I can enjoy the freedoms our democracy and liberal values provide. But the young gay men persecuted in Chechnya have no such freedoms, and there seems to be no end to the terror they are enduring. Our preoccupation should be how Britain can be most impactful in minimising the horror, in an attempt to do anything before we must all bear the moral burden of our nation, having just stood by whilst crimes against humanity were committed.

Britain should not just be a bastion for equality within its own borders, for the rights of a gay man in Chechnya are no less valuable than mine. Whilst I would not be so naïve as to suggest anything similar in this instance, Britain has had no qualms in the past about liberating oppressed peoples, such as in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. Today, with Trump in the White House, we certainly cannot rely on the United States to intervene on our behalf. We shall simply have to get on with doing things ourselves. And, although you may call me a pessimist, our government is the only entity capable of changing anything. By all means continue with your Change.org petitions and protests—it is a noble thing to do—but unfortunately I don’t think anyone in Chechnya is listening.

It is obvious what is required of our government: it must ensure that we are the first nation to offer full asylum to all gay men fleeing Chechnya. And, to make up for its previous sins, offer the same sanctuary to gay men escaping the beheadings and hangings they face in Saudi Arabia, which are, of course, carried out by a regime of which Mrs May is such a nauseatingly firm supporter.

Although Boris Johnson and ministers in parliament have condemned the Chechnyan authorities, words do not prevent torture, beatings, and murder. Action does. Britain must be clear: if the gay community is not welcome in Chechnya, we will have them, and we will be proud to have them, and I am in no doubt that these people have immeasurable talent which can be used to improve British society.

So let us begin to make amends for the actions of our forbearers, and be the strong, progressive, and morally righteous country every Briton thinks we should be, and offer a new home to the oppressed gay community of Chechnya, before it is too late.

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