Culture minister Margaret Hodge has put her foot in it for the second time in a week by boasting how she can ease racial tensions over coffee and biscuits.Wow! Coffee and biscuits with Margaret Hodge! I'll be surprised if people don't move to Barking just to be able to partake!
Her recipe for peace and harmony was delivered during a debate about research showing political disillusionment among the white working classes.
The millionaire MP for Barking, where the British National Party has established a foothold, said: "It is really interesting what I am doing now, because I am doing things like, simple things, asking people to come and have coffee and a chocolate biscuit with me."
"And people from all sides of my community come in, white and black, they may come in feeling really hostile and angry with each other, and they engage in a conversation and actually at the end of it you see a change in attitudes."
Mrs [sic] Hodge was immediately accused of patronising her constituents.
Well, yes. I can quite see that being told, in effect, "come, you dear little people, and bathe in the glory of my enlightened tolerance for a few minutes, and you will see that all your apparent problems are really just as silly as you are" might seem just a tad patronising. Even if coffee and biscuits, or even tea and cake, are thrown in.
Of course, aside from being patronising, her comments are idiotic, and her "solution" utterly superficial. People are not going to change their whole set of attitudes, simply because they have coffee and biscuits with a nice friendly person of another race. Indeed, in many cases there is very little reason why they should change their attitudes: clearly, many people, particularly working class whites in places like Barking, have a lot of legitimate concerns about the demographic, cultural, and infrastructural impact of mass immigration (among other issues), and those concerns do not become any less legitimate simply because one has a nice chat with a friendly Nigerian.
But, of course, Hodge, like all liberals, refuses to accept that any concerns anyone might have about the path Britain is taking could ever be anything other than utterly irrational fears, born out of ignorance and bigotry. As such, it may be quite logical, from her point of view, to believe that her "coffee and biscuits" method could work: after all, if the concerns themselves are only superficial, then the solution to them also needs only to be superficial. Like almost all contemporary politicians, she's out of touch, and, hopefully, come the next election, she'll also be out of Parliament.