British Education Secretary says homophobia may be a sign of extremism, is she going to investigate herself?
As far as hapless Today interviews go, Nicky Morgan’s was in the middle-weight category. It wasn’t disasterous, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that she’s not clever enough to stay out of trouble forever. It was especially revealing about the hopeless muddle of the government’s counter-extremism programme, not least of all because Morgan inadvertently suggested an extremism taskforce was needed to investigate her.
The education secretary was on to defend her decision to broaden the ‘coasting’ category for schools. It’s part of her plan to surreptitiously turn all schools into academies without having to actually announce that that’s what she’s doing. But she got side-tracked by a discussion on the new guidance for schools, prisons and universities to counter-extremism.
As usual, it was full of the sort of woolly thinking which typifies government efforts to tackle an ideology they do not understand. They will understand it much less once they criminalise the non-violent extremism which leads up to it and make engagement impossible. So when Morgan was asked to give an example of the kind of behaviour from a pupil which would trigger an anti-extremism intervention, she struggled. And then, out of nowhere, she found an example: homophobia.
This was an interesting example, because Morgan herself voted against gay marriage twice. Is opposition to gay marriage always homophobic? No, not really, although you could make the case. But this isn’t about what’s really the case. It’s about what’s perceived to be the case.