MPs outraged over magazine column suggesting 'plan to stop Muslims from voting'

Since his days editing Rado 4's Today programme, Rod Liddle has made a career out of controversy. His new book is no exception and has led to mixed reviews and accusations. So is he? A bigot? (Photo by David Levene/The Guardian/Sipa USA) 14/06/2014
Spectator columnist Rod Liddle suggested holding the election on days which Muslims would not be allowed to vote. (PA)

MPs have reacted angrily after a right-wing magazine published an article which suggested Muslims should be prevented from voting in the general election.

Writing in The Spectator, columnist Rod Liddle proposed the December poll should have been staged on days “where Muslims are forbidden to do anything”.

Mr Liddle wrote: “My own choice of election date would be a day when universities are closed and Muslims are forbidden to do anything on pain of hell, or something.

“There must be at least one day like that in the Muslim calendar, surely? That would deliver at least 40 seats to the Tories, I reckon.”

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid leaves 10 Downing Street after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting, in London, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid was among several MPs who criticised the article. (AP)

Mr Liddle also mentioned Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP who received a standing ovation in the House of Commons last month after emotionally revealing how she had been the victim of domestic abuse. The column described her as the “sobbing and oppressed Rosie ‘#metoo’ Duffield”.

The Chancellor Sajid Javid, Labour MP David Lammy and Brendan Cox, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox, were among those to voice their opposition to the column soon after its publication.

Mr Javid said Mr Liddle’s words were unacceptable.

“Not clear if the Rod Liddle comment is supposed to be a joke – but it’s not funny and not acceptable,” he tweeted.

“No community in our country should be put down that way.”


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Mr Lammy called on the magazine’s editor Fraser Nelson to respond to criticism over the article.

"Mocking Rosie Duffield for having the courage to speak out about domestic abuse and calling for ways to stop British Muslims voting,” Mr Lammy tweeted.

“Rod Liddle is beyond the pale, but Fraser Nelson how can you justify giving his bile a platform on the Spectator?”

Mr Cox wrote: "If you aren’t sure whether this is acceptable, try replacing Muslim with Jew. Then see what you think. It’s disgraceful."

Labour MP Liam Byrne said he had written a letter to the BBC asking them to ensure Mr Liddle and Mr Nelson are never invited to speak on their programmes again.

“Rod Liddle’s disgusting suggestion to disenfranchise Muslim voters is the epitome of Islamophobia – the BBC cannot continue to invite him, or the man responsible for the article’s publication, on their programming,” Mr Byrne tweeted.

Tory David Lidington, who was Theresa May’s de facto deputy prime minister, said he was shocked the Spectator published the story, calling it a “serious lapse of judgement”.

“Mr Liddle’s foul comment isn’t just some bad joke to be dismissed,” he tweeted.

“What’s he saying to British Muslims in our armed forces, police, NHS, schools, factories etc etc? #disgusting.”

The Spectator’s assistant editor Isabel Hardman said she “profoundly disagrees” with Mr Liddle’s piece and was “hugely upset” by it, adding she has “nothing to do” with pieces in the magazine except those she writes herself.

Tell Mama, a charity which supports victims of anti-Muslim hate, said in a statement that the column was “dispicable”.

“This is appalling in the Spectator by Rod Liddle,” the charity wrote on Twitter.

“His suggestions are that Muslims should be unable to vote.

“What do we call that - Outright prejudice. This in 2019, when 3 Muslims have been murdered since 2013 for being - British Muslims. Despicable.”

Rod Liddle himself later wrote on Twitter that he believed his article contained “no hate speech or Islamophobia whatsoever”.

“It was a very light-hearted series of suggestions about when to hold an election, based upon the silly dispute over the proposed dates for the election,” he added, “It was patently a joke.”

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson added to the response: “If one of our columnists seriously suggested that Muslims and students should be prevented from voting, then of course I would denounce it.

“It would be a disgusting thing to say. But Rod Liddle wasn’t doing that. He was satirising the wrangle over the two election dates by making deliberately absurd suggestions.”

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