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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Keep fighting, John Taylor

Lord Desai (left) Lord Taylor (right)
As the Tory race row rages Labour peer Lord Desai writes for BBC News Online, urging Lord Taylor to stick to his guns and stay in the Tory party.


By Lord Desai

A good tract for John Townend and even William Hague to read is Daniel Defoe's poem The True Born Englishman, written exactly 200 years ago.

It will not be comfortable reading for anyone who has delusions about the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. Expressions which are sharp, and indeed scabrous, abound.

The Englishman is called "That heterogeneous thing", "Betwixt a painted Britain and a Scot".

"The Scot, Pict, Britain, Roman, Dane, submit," as Defoe says:

"A true-born Englishman's a contradiction
In speech an irony, in fact a fiction.
A banter made to be a test of fools"

There is even that dreaded expression "a mongrel half-bred race" smack in the opening lines of this great poem.

The context may be interesting for Lord (John) Taylor, who is being put under some pressure by his leader. Defoe was writing to answer a poem denouncing William III as a foreigner.

Foreigners have been coming to these shores for centuries. Sometimes as rulers and other times to make a living.

The only different thing today is that some are darker than others.

Brave stance

Lord Taylor has taken an absolutely brave stance. There cannot be equal treatment of two people one of whom has made a speech explaining views which have no place in British public life and another who has quite correctly complained about his leader's weak response.

Edward Heath or John Major would have sacked John Townend from the parliamentary party long ago.

Hague has asked Taylor to sign a document while making Townend give some meaningless pledge.

Lord Taylor is yet to sign this, and he would be quite right not to do so.

He has not committed any offence nor breached the rules of decent political behaviour. He should stick to his guns.

He is tempted to defect to Labour. I am sure he has been given nods and winks by friendly lords in the Labour Party.

Defections since Major

But of course if he did finally jump ship I would welcome him. But my advice to him is, don't leave your party.

Since the departure of John Major there has been a steady outflow from Tory to Labour - Shaun Woodward, Peter Temple-Morris, Ivan Massow and there was Alan Howarth before.

It is not right that a major political party should become homogenised. Peter Bottomley may have jumped the gun when he boasted that the Tories will give us the first Asian prime minister.

A broad church

It would be enough if the Tories preserved the small amount of ethnic minority peers (three) they have in the House of Lords.

It may be too late to hope that good sense may yet visit William Hague on this issue. But Lord Taylor should do the right thing - stay and fight, argue his position and shame his party.

If at the end of the day he cannot stomach what they ask him to do or if he is expelled, he knows he is welcome in the Labour Party - always a broad church and proud of it.

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