At first it looked like Young Dave had scored a seriously heavy blow on Pa Broon yesterday at PMQs: the contrasting of Brown’s constant justifying of the Afghan campaign by saying that it kept terrorism off the streets of Britain with the Government funding of schools connected to Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is an organisation that Tony Blair considered proscribing, although neither he nor Brown have done so.
Then, later in the afternoon, everything in Tory land went quiet. The cheerleaders haven’t mentioned the exchange, and shadow Education spokesman Michael Gove became rather less available for interview. The idea that Young Dave may not have got his facts straight has been meat and drink for Pa Broon’s pal “Auguste” Balls, as has been reported. Cameron has alleged that the schools concerned – run by the Islamic Shakhsiyah foundation – have had trustees that are linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir, but then, that’s rather like saying that, if a school has a governor who is a Tory politician, that makes it a Tory oriented school.
The claims made by Cameron and Balls cannot both be true. And there is the problem that Young Dave and his chaps could end up looking as if they were playing the Islamophobia card to garner votes. The whole exercise looks like the kind of guilt-by-association idea so beloved of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, whose “dodgy dossier” alleging that Government was paying firms to lobby it was so comprehensively demolished by Mick Fealty earlier this year, as I noted at the time.
So who did the research, and who provided the figures (and, hopefully, checked them)? Cameron is still asserting that the schools are run by Hizb ut-Tahrir, and both that group and one of the head teachers involved have commented adversely on his intervention. Come on, Tory politicos and cheerleaders – don’t be shy.