In elevating tolerance above all else – as an end in itself, the value to end all values – the authorities are effectively making a virtue of a vacuum, and attempting to put a positive spin on the profound uncertainty about what Britain stands for today. So the collapse of common values gets re-presented as ‘diversity’, and the inability to say what Britain represents is sexed-up and repackaged as ‘tolerance’ for other cultures and ways of life. Tolerance becomes a default position, adopted not from a standpoint of openness and experimentation, but from a position of doubt.
Secondly, and more ominously, Official Tolerance is censorious rather than genuinely tolerant. It is about stifling debate rather than encouraging it. It is a demand that we do not rock the boat or ask probing questions, instead just respecting everything. Except, that is, those who are judged to be intolerant. They can be slapped down and censored with impunity. Tolerance has become a new moral code that you transgress at your own risk.
[...] The government’s Religious Hatred legislation, which makes it a crime to ridicule or offend Islam or other religions, is Official Tolerance put into practice – a law that says public speech must be restricted in the name of ‘tolerating’ all cultures. That is a flagrant attack on the hard-won right in our secular society to speak out against superstitious nonsense, and a flagrant attack on genuine tolerance of people’s views and right to express them.