Tag Archives: racism

Racist or clown?

Just a bit of housekeeping from my appearance on 18DS’ Vox Politix on Monday (it’s still available to view at the moment), to follow up on an issue that has been bugging me.

Caroline Hunt took great exception to my reference to the various attacks that have been made about Boris Johnson’s views on black people in recent weeks. To be clear, I didn’t call him a racist; that isn’t an argument I’m particularly interested in having (I note however, that it was an argument the Tories were jonesing for a few months ago). What I was trying to say before we were moved on is that public figures are accountable for the words they say and write and that it is thus entirely justifiable for political opponents to attempt to make capital out of them.

Johnson’s feeble jokes about ‘watermelon smiles’ and ‘picaninnies’ may not count as explicit racism, but they are appallingly insensitive. It simply isn’t good enough for him to say that he didn’t expect to be taken seriously when he wrote that article while simultaneously demanding that we take him seriously now. There are far more extreme examples of politicians’ utterances being used against them. Jody Dunn springs to mind, and compared to her experience Johnson has got off lightly.

His views on the Macpherson report are more interesting. After 8 years, it is time we cast over this report with a critical eye. Its definition of ‘institutionalised racism’ and that effectively racism in the eye of the beholder are problematic for any liberal. It is hard to see what progress we have made in race relations over the past decade. But, to be brutally honest, it is a third rail issue and one that it will be difficult to tackle without being portrayed in the most unflattering terms. Frankly, if Johnson was serious about wanting to do something about them now, having a back-catalogue of less-than-nuanced articles behind him is not going to help.

The question is, will Johnson make anything of this issue in his campaign, or is he going to shy away from it completely? It will be a tough call. His rivals will pore over his every word and be eager to make hay if they can. If he tries to sweep it to one side on the other hand, then it will look as if he lacks the courage of his convictions; not a good thing to be labeled in a campaign if you are also a dilettante who has cultivated such a comical public image. And there’s a serious democratic issue too: if he runs away from the issue, we can have no idea what he would do if he got elected.

Ultimately, Johnson’s problem is not that he is a ‘colourful’ character. British politics could do with more mavericks and he is surely that. His problem is that he lacks authenticity. His stock in trade is vagueness and it will be tough for him to present himself as anything other than even more vague every time someone trots out another potentially embarrassing thing he wrote or said in the past. He’s also the top hatted toff to end all top hatted toffs. For a certain demographic that is screamingly hilarious and endearing. The same demographic thought that voting for Robert Kilroy-Silk would be a good idea and look how that turned out. Even if he won, he’s in danger of making the Conservatives look less like a serious party of government than they were before the election.

Darlo Dunce and Metrosexual Maude (UPDATED)

I wasn’t going to comment about this story, but I’m afraid Francis Maude has got me riled up:

There can be no excuse for a mainstream political party promoting extremism and racism. The evidence is there for all to see. Menzies Campbell must get off the fence and sack Steve Jones. He must send a clear message to the rest of his Party that racism will not be tolerated by expelling this councillor from the Liberal Democrats. It’s also alarming that, of the three main political parties, the Liberal Democrats have the worst record in local elections of fielding candidates against the BNP. It is time that they woke up to the danger posed by this extremist party.

Bottom line, the Tories are in no position to start smearing about the BNP and they know it.

You don’t need an elephantine memory to recall that the Tory links with the BNP go right to the top with Nick Griffin’s father who Iain Duncan Smith made a Vice President of his leadership campaign. Only last week, Iain Dale was hailing a frankly bigoted post by Nadine Dorries MP about travellers in which she condemned gypsies and travellers for not ‘settling down’ while simultaneously saying they shouldn’t be allowed to (her blog has been designed by a gibbon and you don’t appear to be able to link to specific posts – scroll down to the post titled ‘She was born in the wagon of a travellin’ show’). Here’s the deal Francis: expel her from the party, and then let’s start talking about which party has the biggest problem with racism and the extreme right.

It’s clear that Stephen Jones has been a bit of an idiot, but it is equally clear that the first person this has undermined is himself, by nominating someone to stand against himself. It isn’t as cut and dried as, say, the situation a few months ago in Burnley where the local Lib Dems really were flirting with the BNP in a way that I find unacceptable.

Francis Maude’s comments will come back to haunt him because as night follows day another Tory is always just days away from getting into a race row. In the ward neighbouring mine here in Barnet, a local councillor – whose idea of fun is to black up and impersonate Nelson Mandela – appears to believe that we should stop immigration to stop Britain from becoming the ‘dustbin of the world‘. Throw a stone anywhere in this country and you have a pretty good chance of hitting a racist Tory.

I’m not saying the Tories are fundamentally racist. I’m not saying the Lib Dems, like all parties, don’t have their own problems with racist elements from time to time. I am saying that if they want to start playing this zero-sum game, they can’t possibly win. Bring it on Francis, bring it on. If you want to drag political discourse down into the gutter, you are going a textbook way about doing so.

You would have thought that Maude would have rather more sympathy for Stephen Jones’ situation given that, less than 24 hours ago, he was mistakenly nominating a Lib Dem to be the Tory candidate for London Mayor. We all make mistakes, but Maude has made bigger ones than most. Perhaps it’s time Cameron came off the fence and sacked him?

UPDATE: I’ve been asked to link to this story about Tory candidate Luke MacKenzie who Francis Maude has mysteriously failed to disown. Happy to oblige.

Holocaust denial ban? Don’t blame the EU!

I too am deeply concerned by reports that the EU is to make holocaust denial an offence (Liberal England, Iain Dale). I’m intrigued though by the suggestion that the Religious and Racial Hatred Act already covers the scope of this law.

What this means is twofold: firstly, a backdoor offence of holocaust denial has already been imposed – by Labour – and that by acquiescing to an EU Directive on the subject, Labour will effectively ensuring this law cannot be revoked without EU approval. The British representative on the Council of Ministers – presumably John Reid – could have vetoed this Directive if they wished: they didn’t.

The problem with the EU is not fundamentally a problem of unelected bureaucrats imposing their will onto the rest of us – it is elected politicians using it as a smokescreen to press for undemocratic agendas. Does it need reform? Undoubtedly. But our fundamental problem in the UK is that, unlike in countries such as Denmark, our government gets to do pretty much what it likes in Brussels without Parliament – never mind everyone else – from having a say.

Postapoo: it’s not racist to preach hatred

Sorry to keep returning to the subject of poo this week, but I thought this one needed a slight follow up.

Postapoo issued a press statement on their website yesterday for a couple of hours, but it quite quickly disappered. But their defence, which you can glean from news stories, is that a) they’ve never had any complaints and b) they use all the saints days to promote themselves.

If I recall correctly, their press statement said something about people having a sense of humour failure. This is a little rich from a company that specialises in the practical ‘joke’ of sending plastic poo in the post. It isn’t exactly Noel Coward, is it? You only have to surf down their list of ‘success stories‘ to see the sort of person who chooses to take up their service.

“Was thrilled at work to find a package had arrived for Claire (office cow). Claire proceeded to tell everyone in the office about her mystery package. She wasn’t so chirpy when she opened it though.”

See? What’s nothing untoward going on there.

This is, of course, assuming that these stories are even true. London Rob‘s tale about his ‘pain’ ex-girlfriend is remarkably similar to Newport Wez‘s ex-wife.

Ultimately, Postapoo’s defence that they are not anti-English rests in the fact that they actively encourage people to indulge in all forms of hate. In that, they may have a point, but it’s pretty tawdry.

I have a horrible feeling that someone is making a shitload of cash out of this. Literally.

Postscript: Fox News has a bizarre sub-heading to their item on this topic:

Klingons said revenge is a dish best served cold, but for Scots, it’s best served in plastic.

The Klingon reference is, from memory, a nod to a line uttered by Christopher Plummer’s character in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (UPDATE: schoolboy error – it was of course a continuity blip uttered by Khan in the far superior Star Trek II! Oh, the shame!), but its true origin appears to be les Liasons dangereuses (although wikipedia qualifies this). Could it be that Fox couldn’t bring itself to mention it’s apparently French origins?

New Conservatives, Same Old Tories

It would emerge that the aforementioned Cllr Brian Gordon has got into trouble before for comparing immigrants to garbage.

Meanwhile, Davey Cameron himself is in hot water for breaching Parliamentary Standards. Presumably heads will roll in his office? Don’t hold your breath.

That non-partisan Guido Fawkes, who fearlessly attacks all political sleaze and flummery, has more on the Cameron story. Oh no, hang on, he doesn’t.

UPDATE: Guido has now grudgingly acknowledged Cameron’s misconduct, but only in the contest of having another (yawn!) go at Lord Levy. To be fair though, he’s been busy finding out scoops like ex-Progress Director Robert Philpot becoming Peter Hain’s SpAd, a mere four months after the event. The New Media is so damned cutting edge, isn’t it?

Is racism Levy’s middle name?

Curious dead horse flogging from Lynne Featherstone yesterday, which I’m rebutting here in a vain attempt to stop yet another conspiracy theory gaining ground:

But there is one point that has struck me as valid – why do we keep on being told Lord Levy’s middle name? It’s Abraham – and so telling us his middle name in a news report emphasises, deliberately or not, that he’s Jewish.

All a bit rum. I’m very loathe to leap to the assumption that people in the BBC and elsewhere in the media are being deliberately anti-Semitic, and I’d like to think that even a charge of inadvertent anti-Semitism can be explained away, but I’m stumped for a decent explanation for the repeated use of “Abraham”.

As I pointed out on her comments, the explanation is pretty mundane. Look up Levy in Dod’s and you’ll find his full name listed as “Michael Abraham Levy”. I suspect it is listed in the same way in Who’s Who. Levy has control over both of these entries. Ruth Turner is certainly not listed in the former, and, given its snootiness regarding ordinary people without titles, lots of money or a high profile media career, presumably not included in the latter.

Journalists, being lazy working to tight deadlines, rely on such sources to quickly find out biographical information about people. In short, if you choose to have yourself listed as “Michael Abraham Levy,” then you are bound to find people call you “Michael Abraham Levy.” If Levy preferred to call himself “Michael Levy,” that would be a different matter, but he doesn’t.

But the most bizarre thing about this claim is that the man is called Levy, which is about as Jewish a name as you can get. If you’re intention is to make him ‘sound’ Jewish, why would you emphasise Abraham, a prophet recognised by the Christian and Islamic traditions? Should we now be restricted to calling him Mike, just to make sure we don’t offend anyone?