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Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Trevor Phillips

Trevor Phillips has always been part of the New Labour project; he was a close friend of Peter Mandelson, working with him at London Weekend Television and Peter Mandelson was his best man at his wedding. He only joined the Labour Party so as to campaign to be London Mayor but went on to become Chair of the London Assembly. Trevor Phillips was a great champion of Multiculturism, so it upset many of his fellow travellers on the left of British politics when he said in 2004 (extract is from the CRE website link here) that Multiculturalism was born out of a desire to recognise that diversity is a good thing, and to appreciate the many qualities newcomers brought to Britain. But he stressed that today we face new challenges that simply can’t be answered in the old language of race relations: My quarrel is not with those who like diversity. It is with those who want to make a fetish of our historical differences to the point where multiculturalism, as it is practised, becomes ridiculous, or worse still, a dangerous form of benign neglect and exclusion.

This was a strange article to write as it seemed to go against so much of what he had written and said in the past. In 2003 he wrote an article where he said "from Rome, through Constantinople to Venice and London, our (European) nations have a history of peacefully absorbing huge, diverse movements of people, driven by war, famine and persecution; and there is no history of long-term ethnic segregation of the kind one can see in any US city." A statement that any trip to Southall, Brixton, Tower Hamlets or many northern British towns would render negated.

In 2006 Trevor Phillips was appointed head of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, which was to be the great organisation promoting equality issues across the full raft of ethnic, gender, sexual-orientation, disability and other minority interests.

So what was Trevor Phillips thinking when he said at a Labour conference fringe meeting that British history should be rewritten to make it "more inclusive". He said Muslims were also part of the national story and "sometimes we have to go back into the tapestry and insert some threads that were lost". He quoted the example of the Spanish Armada, which was held up by the Turks at the request of Queen Elizabeth I. "It was the Turks who saved us," Mr Phillips told a Labour fringe meeting. You can read more about this here with the usual high level of BBC journalistic critical coverage. Now Mr Phillips studied Chemistry at Imperial College, London and I do not know when he stopped studying history. So here are a few facts to help him with the story of the defeat of the Spanish Armada...

1) There was no Turkey in the 16th century, I think he must be thinking of the Ottoman Empire, except all empires are bad so best to say Turks

2) Maybe Trevor Phillips is thinking of the battles of the early 1570's between the Ottoman Empire and the Spanish, the Spanish defending against the rise of the Islamic Ottoman empire's expansionism. Maybe someone has told him about the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

3) The Ottoman Empire was at war with Spain in the late 16th century as were England but the causes were not the same.

4) Did you notice I said England (above)? That's because there was no Britain in the 16th century, the Kingdom of Great Britain only coming into existence under the 1707 Act of Union. Yes they did share a monarch from 1603 but they were separate countries, a bit like now after devolution...

5) Trevor Phillips theory comes direct from Dr Jerry Brotton, who postulates about a letter sent by Elizabeth 1 "The letter, ordered the ambassador, William Harborne, to incite the Turks to harry the Spanish navy. It was written in the mid-1580s"
Thank you Conservative Party Reptile for helping with this bit, 16th Century wars and politics not being my speciality. "It was actually written in 1584 or 1585, 3 or 4 years before the Armada, and had no impact on Turkish policy, because they were busy at the time in the Balkans."

6) I believe the Spanish Armada along with their Portuguese allies were defeated by an English navy with assistance from some of the Dutch navy, no Ottoman navy were noticed off of the coast of England or Scotland at that time.


Since Trevor Phillips is so concerned with emphasising the relationships between England and the Ottoman Empire, will he also push for the following subjects to be taught at school:

1) The life and times of Kurtoğlu Muslihiddin Reis

2) The campaigns of Admiral Barbarossa

3) The story of Malta and the Ottoman Empire

4) 1683 - When a 140,000 strong Ottoman Empire army arrives at Vienna in June and started to besiege the city. The siege was broken at the Battle of Vienna on September 12 with the arrival of a force of 70,000 Polish, Austrians and Germans under the Polish-Lithuanian king Jan III Sobieski, whose cavalry turns their flank. Considered to be the turning point in the Ottoman Empire's fortunes. Maybe this story wouldn't fit the "narrative" of evil Christian Crusaders and gentle Ottoman's defending their lands that we are encouraged to believe.

5) The story of The Coming Of The Corsairs and how Ottoman corsairs took the number of Europeans enslaved 1530-1780 at 1.25 million.


UPDATE:
Laban at Biased BBC has just posted an excellent digest of this story, take a look there.

6 comments:

Falco said...

A most elegant ripping to shreads of that little bastard. Well done.

Fidothedog said...

Indeed he has been well fisked.

john b said...

"A statement that any trip to Southall, Brixton, Tower Hamlets or many northern British towns would render negated."

I've not spent much time in 'many northern British towns' (only significant amounts of time in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Preston and Edinburgh, where I've never encountered what you're suggesting either), and nor do I venture into Ealing all that often.

But if you think that either Tower Hamlets or Brixton are ghettoised in the way that parts of NYC, Detroit or Chicago, then you're either misinformed or lying. I live in one of these places; I regularly visit another. They are not ghettoes. They are both areas with very large populations of white, black and Asian people living side-by-side with little ethnic conflict.

Seriously, from what I've heard about mill towns like Burnley and Bolton it sounds like US-style segregation is more of a problem there - largely because in the 1960s, the government and the mill-owners made a massive effort to transplant entire villages from Pakistan and dump the inhabitants in geographically segregated parts of town.

But if the worst you can come up with about Trev is that he's been misinformed about the role of the Turks in fighting the Spaniards, and that he believe stuff that's mostly true about the lack of ghettoisation in the UK, that isn't *terribly* damning...

John B

Not a sheep said...

John b - "Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Southall, I'll show you something that will make you change your mind"

Jonathan Dore said...

No, Brotton isn't thinking of Lepanto (your point 2); there was indeed extensive diplomatic contact between England and the Ottomans in the 1580s, and constant requests by Elizabeth that the Ottomans engage the Spanish. What Brotton's failed to notice is that this has been thoroughly researched before, but with the opposite conclusion: the historian Edwin Pears published a long article on the subject, “The Spanish Armada and the Ottoman Porte”, in the English Historical Review, vol. 8 (1893), pp. 439–66. He went over the extensive correspondence between Walsingham and the English ambassadors to the Ottomans, William Harborne and his successor Edward Barton, in great detail (the letter Brotton mentions is just one among many), and although they had been urging the Turks to make a joint attack on Spain from the early 1580s (on the grounds that Protestants, like Muslims, were anti-idolaters and thus had a common interest in defeating Catholic Spain), and Sultan Murad III had promised to make such joint action, the letters show that no naval action was ever actually performed: the Turks were simply too busy with internal revolt and war on their eastern front, and the governor of Constantinople (one of Murad's principal advisers) was being bribed 60,000 ducats a year by the Spanish precisely to prevent their intervention. As Pears states: “The defeat of Lepanto, the war with Persia, and the rising of the subject provinces in North Africa did much to deter the Turk from lending aid. The heavy bribes by which Spain was able to obtain the support of the ministers and favourites of the sultan probably did more.” So contrary to Dave Hill’s remark, opinion is not divided about whether the Turks intervened or not: there is simply no evidence that they did, and quite a lot of evidence that they didn’t. Is Jerry Brotton simply unaware of this earlier research, which I’ve discovered simply by googling? It sounds like it.

Jonathan Dore said...

No, Brotton isn't thinking of Lepanto (your point 2); there was indeed extensive diplomatic contact between England and the Ottomans in the 1580s, and constant requests by Elizabeth that the Ottomans engage the Spanish. What Brotton's failed to notice is that this has been thoroughly researched before, but with the opposite conclusion: the historian Edwin Pears published a long article on the subject, “The Spanish Armada and the Ottoman Porte”, in the English Historical Review, vol. 8 (1893), pp. 439–66. He went over the extensive correspondence between Walsingham and the English ambassadors to the Ottomans, William Harborne and his successor Edward Barton, in great detail (the letter Brotton mentions is just one among many), and although they had been urging the Turks to make a joint attack on Spain from the early 1580s (on the grounds that Protestants, like Muslims, were anti-idolaters and thus had a common interest in defeating Catholic Spain), and Sultan Murad III had promised to make such joint action, the letters show that no naval action was ever actually performed: the Turks were simply too busy with internal revolt and war on their eastern front, and the governor of Constantinople (one of Murad's principal advisers) was being bribed 60,000 ducats a year by the Spanish precisely to prevent their intervention. As Pears states: “The defeat of Lepanto, the war with Persia, and the rising of the subject provinces in North Africa did much to deter the Turk from lending aid. The heavy bribes by which Spain was able to obtain the support of the ministers and favourites of the sultan probably did more.” So contrary to Dave Hill’s remark, opinion is not divided about whether the Turks intervened or not: there is simply no evidence that they did, and quite a lot of evidence that they didn’t. Is Jerry Brotton simply unaware of this earlier research, which I’ve discovered simply by googling? It sounds like it.