Believe it or not – and I have to say I find it difficult – the words above were reportedly uttered in recent hours by the Director General designate of the British Council, Martin Davidson, as how the organisation now sees its role. The quotation from the Press Association goes on:
The Council would scrap "traditional arts activities" in Europe, such as orchestral tours and artistic commissions, in favour of projects "designed to prevent Muslim youths from being indoctrinated by extremists sympathetic to al-Qaeda," the Times said.
OK, so no more dancing on Armenian flags, or Morris Dancers in the Canaries or whatever which I agree the world will not miss, and more… well, what exactly? Projects to prevent Muslim youths from being indoctrinated by extremists. Do you smell the role of the British government in this? Is there in fact anybody who does not? Can anybody miss the irony?
My own position in this doesn’t matter at all, but let me make it clear anyway. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working in Moslem countries, and am glad to count Moslems among my friends. I am, as they are, appalled by the actions of extremists, and seek a more peaceful world. But now we have the prospect of the British Council, a half-arsed organisation if ever there was one, apparently abandoning any idea of a generally harmless cultural role, and targeting Moslem extremists. Please can somebody – Margaret Beckett perhaps – get a grip? The British Council does not have a clue what it is doing, is seriously compromised as a representative organisation, and is in any case mainly motivated by getting hold of other people’s money. And how on earth can you "build trust" with an organisation that is itself so untrustworthy? We in Britain have enough cock-ups ongoing – let us not add to them.