Tony Blair has become a knight of the realm and for many of his followers, it was a long time coming; a moment of pure joy. The same people have misremembered the New Labour years and if you ask them what the party achieved under Blair in the 10 years he was in power, they can only come up with three things. The first is “he won three elections”. The second is “Sure Start Centres” and the third is “he beat the Tories”. Those of us with clear memories of the period remember Nu Labour for not only rushing into an ill-advised war in Iraq (Blairites brush this aside), but failing to respond adequately to Michael Howard’s racist dog-whistling in the 2005 General Election campaign.
If you remind Blair’s supporters of his inadequate response to Howard’s racism, watch how quickly their eyes glaze over. Yet, it was this lack of a response from him and his ministers that opened up a space for far-right discourses on identity, nationality and citizenship to thrive. Those discourses have now become mainstream and can be heard on a daily basis on talk radio stations and on the BBC. It’s also worth remembering that, two years after the 2005 General Election, Nigel Farage was elected leader of UKIP.
The vote preceded publication today of a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research by Alice Bloch of City University, London.
She argues that the current ban on work deprives the British economy of much needed skilled labour and contributes to the perception of asylum seekers as “undeserving” benefit claimants. Lengthy periods of forced unemployment which accompany an application for asylum make it harder to find work and integrate when finally granted refugee status.
Dispersing asylum seekers around the country contributes to the problem, as they are frequently sent to areas of high unemployment and separated from the “informal networks that have historically been so important in terms of job seeking and employment within refugee communities”.
Meanwhile, a lottery funding body was severely criticised yesterday by the Commons public accounts committee for giving cash to an asylum group that attacked Mr Blunkett for “colluding with fascism”. The MPs said that the Community Fund handed more than £336,000 to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns without properly monitoring what the group was promoting. The group took a “political and doctrinaire stance”.
1998, Nu Labour introduced detention centres for ‘asylum seekers’ and as Rachel Shabi points out in this Guardian article, 3% of the public cited immigration as a burning issue. The 1998 Asylum Act was followed in 2002 by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act. Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that these measures were taken after a series of outlandish claims in the right-wing press. Shabi again:
By the time Labour came to power in 1997, newspapers were routinely scaremongering about the new arrivals: that year the Daily Mail ran a story about a “flood of bogus asylum-seekers swamping Dover” while the Independent warned: “Gypsies invade Dover hoping for a handout.” The actual numbers were tiny. There were 32,500 overall asylum claims in 1997, with 81% refused asylum. In the decade to 2000, the UK accepted 1.9% of asylum claims from Sri Lanka; in France that figure was 73.6%.
New Labour also failed to address structural inequalities and this resulted in a growing divide between rich and poor. Under Blair, Labour failed to reverse Thatcher’s disastrous Right To Buy, which continued throughout the 13 years the party was in government.
Workfare and the cruel Work Capability Assessments had their genesis in the second Blair ministry and were fully implemented when Gordon Brown assumed the leadership.
Sure Start Centres were great, but if that’s all Blairites and Labour right-wingers can offer in his defence, then it’s thin gruel. Sure Start Centres had their funding systematically cut when the Tories took power with the help of the Lib Dems in 2010.
I take the view that anyone who readily admits to being ‘anti-woke’ is comfortable with racism, misogyny and probably pretty relaxed about human rights abuses. They may deny these things, but the facts speak for themselves. A couple of days ago, I read on Chortle that there is to be a new comedy show on BBC Radio 4 for ‘anti-woke’ comedians. This should surprise no one. When the new Director-General of the BBC (a blatantly political appointment), Tim Davie, announced that he was going to sweep away what he saw as ‘left-wing comedy’, it sounded alarm bells. The first casualty of the Davie era was the allegedly left-wing Mash Report. Our ‘anti-woke’ comedians may complain about so-called ‘cancel culture’ but were eerily silent about the show’s cancellation. Personally, I haven’t seen or heard any “left-wing comedy” on the BBC’s platforms. Davie himself is a former chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives, which is hot house for the Tory hard-right. You may recall that it was this constituency Tory Party that incubated the now defunct Young Britons’ Foundation.
The pilot for the unimaginatively-titled, Unsafe Spaces, will be recorded next month. This is from Chortle:
The stand-ups lined up for the trial episode of the possible Radio 4 show includes GB News presenter Andrew Doyle and Leo Kearse, pictured, who stood for Laurence Fox’s Reclaim party in May’s Holyrood elections.
It will be recorded at Comedy Unleashed home, The Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green, East London, next month.
Backyard Comedy Club is owned by the daddy of anti-woke comedy, Lee Hurst, a man who was once a regular on the BBC’s ‘laddish’ comedy panel shows like They Think It’s All Over.
One thing that I’ve noticed about these self-styled ‘anti-woke’ comedians is that they’re entirely white and male. Davie defended this programme by claiming it would offer a “diversity of opinion”, but this is a smokescreen; it is an attempt to control the discourse, and possibly drag comedy back to the 1970s.
One of those ‘comedians’ involved with this project is Andrew Doyle, who is an associate of Spiked, and who typically claims to be a free speech advocate, but would someone so concerned about free speech do this?
Doyle, who also has his own show on GB News called Free Speech Nation, seems rather touchy when challenged on his free speech beliefs (for beliefs they are). It’s as if to say “I say what I like and you shut up”. Free speech is a two-way process. However, what Doyle has in mind isn’t free speech at all; you get no right of reply. This is typical of the Continuity RCP, who demand absolute free speech at all times. Such demands, however, are immature and fail to consider the legal restraints on speech, such as defamation laws and the Official Secrets Act.
Doyle runs a comedy club called ‘Comedy Unleashed’, which gives space to reactionary comedians like Leo Kearse. According to his Wikipedia entry, Doyle also claims to be “left-wing”, and yet, I see no evidence of his apparent leftism.
The backlash against what was seen as ‘political correctness’ began in the 1980s when news of the alternative comedy movement began to filter into the public domain with television shows like Saturday Live, hosted by Ben Elton. The trad comics, who had dominated what there was of British stand-up for 20 years, were displaced by comedians who came from backgrounds in political fringe theatre, and the folk clubs. Alternative comedy, a term never used by comedians themselves, was ostensibly non-racist and non-sexist, and it was this kind of comedy that was regarded by those on the reactionary right as being a threat to their existences. In the 1990s, comedians like David Baddiel, Rob Newman and Lee Hurst began to steer comedy in a rather white and male direction. This kind of comedy was called ‘Lad comedy’.
When I think of these all-white, anti-woke comedians, I’m reminded of the reactionary and racist comedy of Tran und Helle, who along with a mere handful of comedy acts were permitted to perform in Nazi Germany. Indeed, what our anti-woke comedians want is to be able to say words like ‘nigger’ and ‘paki’ onstage without suffering any repercussions. Yet, it remains to be seen whether anti-Semitic jokes will be permitted on this show.
We all tell stories and the stories we tell each other often go unnoticed. When you pay a visit to your doctor, you may tell her or him a story about how long you’ve had symptoms. Stories are everywhere and they’re told for a variety of reasons, some of which are good and laudable and others not so.
Last year, when Boris Johnson announced the creation of a commission to investigate racial disparities, the words he used were “to change the narrative” with regards to institutional and structural racism. To do this, he insisted that stories of success be created to cancel out demands from Black Lives Matters protesters than structural inequalities be addressed and historic injustices be recognised. Johnson and his government then appointed Munira Mirza, a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who doesn’t accept the existence of institutional racism, to set up the commission. In turn, she appointed Tony Sewell, who shared her views. Sewell has been known to many of us for decades and not for the right reasons. I have personally seen him as a collaborator, who, like Trevor Phillips, provides racists with ammunition to attack minorities. Racists will say “Look, Tony Sewell says x, y, and z, so it must be true”.
This Tory government isn’t interested in addressing serious structural and institutional injustices. To its defenders who point to several people of colour on the government benches, like Priti Patel or James Cleverly, I say this: these people are actively involved in the maintenance of a system to keep minorities in their place. Thus, they themselves can be considered a enablers of racism, because they use their class privilege to deny the lived experience of those of us who encounter racism on a daily basis.
Stories have their place in our world, but they are often told to avoid facing up to uncomfortable truths and Britain has been telling itself stories for decades. Having lost their empire, the British ruling class were lost and frightened. So, rather that face up to their past, including the multiple atrocities committed in the colonies (and to its own people), they told themselves stories about how “great” they were. Indeed, many of the stories they told themselves were created from fragments of memories, myths and outright lies. Thus, when the report was released yesterday, it came bundled with stories about how Britain was a “beacon for white-majority countries”. But, by whose metric is this country a “beacon”? Why the story-tellers themselves.
Last January, Laurence Fox, scion of the Fox theatrical dynasty, appeared on the BBC’s Question Time and, in response to a point made by an audience member about racism in Britain, replied “Britain is a most lovely country and not at all racist”. That’s a story that he told himself because he cannot accept that racism continues to thrive in Britain. It’s a story that’s rooted in fear: fear of much needed change and fear of people of colour who are smart and who are able to articulate their concerns about racism. This makes bourgeois reactionaries like Fox feel uncomfortable.
The media, too, has played its part in normalising nativist discourses on nationality, citizenship and identity, through the use of storytelling. We saw this during the European Union referendum in 2016 with the constant production of stories around the themes of “independence” and “freedom” and being able to “make our own laws” rather than have “Brussels” impose rules on us. These stories fed into the national mythology of imperial greatness, along with tales about how “we stood alone” and “If it hadn’t been for Churchill, we’d all be speaking German”. Churchill himself actually advocated a United States of Europe, but it was the wrong kind of story because of its inconvenient truth. Instead, Churchill was painted as a staunch Eurosceptic, while his racism and bloodlust were elided.
If we go back further to 2005, the Blair government’s response to Michael Howard’s dog-whistling campaign (Are You Thinking What We’re Thinking) was feeble. In fact, in the remaining years of the last Labour government, we saw an acceleration of nativism under Gordon Brown, who said that he wanted to see Britain emulate the United States and become more “patriotic”. To achieve this, he told several stories about Britain’s “greatness” and even used the far-right’s phrase “British jobs for British workers”. This effectively widened the space opened up by Blair for the circulation of far-right discourses. If you want to know how we ended up with Union flags everywhere and statues of slavers and colonial thugs being given more rights than women who have been raped, then look no further than Brown. The Tories have simply carried on his work.
In the wake of the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the right has become increasingly desperate in its search to find ways to resist calls for equality and social justice and, moreover, deny the existence of structural and institutional forms of oppression. These vary from smear tactics, like claiming BLM is dominated variously by “Marxists”, “communists” or “well-meaning white liberals” to deploying Black or Brown Tories to deny that they’ve faced racism. Alternatively, they will use their social class to diminish the lived experiences of those of us who have had to endure racism in our lives. Sometimes, this involves the claim that “there has always been slavery throughout history” and although this is true, the very nature of chattel slavery was distinct from other forms of slavery, which occurred for financial gain, rather than as part of the spoils of war. Western capitalist economies, like the United States, Britain and France, were founded on chattel slavery. This is the reality.
Black and brown collaboration with racists and colonisers
Slavers and colonisers have always made use of collaborators. For example, in British-ruled India, the colonisers could not have dominated the subcontinent without the help of willing collaborators. Many Indian princelings willingly offered their services to the colonisers. In colonial Algeria, Frantz Fanon, identified the Arab collaborators with the colonial rulers as the bourgeoisie, but also observed the psychological effect on the colonized people. In the United States, the right kind of black person, was used to keep black people in their lowly place in the social hierarchy. Racist US President, Woodrow Wilson, used Booker T Washington explicitly for this purpose. For his collaboration with Wilson, the nascent NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) called him “The Great Accommodator”. More recently, a Black man called H K Edgerton, collaborated with the neoconfederate movement in the United States. The neoconfederate movement is an irredentist movement that seeks to re-establish the Confederacy, while eliding the cruelty of chattel slavery and the Jim Crow laws, which emerged from the Black Codes following Reconstruction. Indeed, Jim Crow laws even existed in many Northern states that are usually seen as “liberal” by Southern conservatives.
The Civil Rights movement
In the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement was seen as a threat to white hegemony in the United States. Informed by Galton’s pseudo-science and buoyed by the recent Red Scare, white supremacists sought to discredit the movement by claiming that “Communists” or “Jews” were directing Black people to rise up and resist Jim Crow. This notion is predicated on the belief that people of African origin lacked the intellectual abilities for self-organization and needed the guiding hand of paternalistic Others. Indeed, this discourse often strayed into outright antisemitism.
Currently, we are witnessing something similar with BLM: that they’re “Marxists” or led by them or, alternatively, they’re being guided by “white liberals who hate their own race (sic)”. Some of the words may have changed but the sentiment behind them hasn’t. BLM is also seen by white supremacists as a threat to “Western civilization”, whatever that means.
In response to the demands from BLM and others, the Tory government and its outriders have deployed a number of collaborators, all of them Black or Brown, to try to deny the existence of institutional and structural racism. First, the government announced the creation of a racial equality commission, to which they appointed Munira Mirza as chair. Mirza, a member of the LM Network, has gone on record to deny the existence of systemic racism.
The government then deployed Kemi Badenoch, who admitted to hacking into Harriet Harman’s website, to deny the existence of structural racism, but particularly to attack Critical Race Theory, which, like Women’s Studies, seeks to critique the structures of power that oppress minorities and women. Badenoch’s unspoken discourse and that of her colleagues is “Question nothing. Know your place”. Fraser Nelson of The Spectator interviewed Badenoch, who claimed:
A Tory equalities agenda, she says, should be based on Martin Luther King’s ‘dream’ — that people should be judged ‘on the content of their character’ and not the colour of their skin. ‘Now, it’s all about the colour of your skin. That cannot be,’ she says emphatically. ‘You can’t pick and choose the rules depending on the colour of someone’s skin. That is what the racists do.’
White supremacists and their helpers, like Badenoch, will often try to hide behind the words of Dr Martin Luther King and repurpose them to suit their objectives. Yet, when King was alive, he was labelled as a “communist” and much else besides by angry whites and Black collaborators. Do these people know that? I don’t think they do. The use of Dr King’s words to justify a deeply flawed “equalities” agenda is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty and doesn’t bear scrutiny.
Today, I found this tweet from Katharine Burbalsingh, who has been collaborating with the Tories for more than a decade.
Burbalsingh, who writes for the Daily Telegraph and Spiked Online, has offered her services to white supremacists in government and the media. Here, she not only claims that anti-racists are “the real racists”, she also quote tweets the far-right Turning Point UK site. Now, Turning Point can claim that they aren’t racist, because they count a few Black faces among their number, but such claims are empty when the group is viewed against the backdrop of its links to far-right groups in the United States. The group is also supported by hardline far-right Tories like Jacob Rees Mogg and Priti Patel, who have both used the phrase “Cultural Marxism”, which is both an antisemitic trope and a conspiracy theory. I reported on this in 2012.
Burbalsingh wilfully ignores collaborationists because it doesn’t suit her or her masters’ version of history, which posits that the British Empire was a “civilizing” institution, when in fact, it was barbaric and committed numerous atrocities across the globe, all of which were intellectually supported by a racial hierarchical framework that was justified by the social Darwinism of Francis Galton.
In response to the demands for equality, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson demanded that there should be a “narrative of success” to nullify concerns about structural racism. Hence, the reason why figures like Badenoch, Burbalsingh and Calvin Robinson have been deployed to make, what is in effect, a weak counter-argument. In the case of Robinson, who writes for Spiked Online and who has stood as a Conservative local council candidate, he’s teamed up with self-styled “fierce liberal” Laurence Fox, in fairly pathetic attempt to elide and diminish the lived experience of Black and Brown people by denying the continued existence of racism and calls for Britain to come to terms with its imperial past, which it continues to mythologize.
There is no evidence to support Robinson’s claim that “Britain is the most tolerant, least racist nation on earth. Anyone can live a fruitful life here and achieve success”. If we look at his first sentence, the paper for which he’s writing has a long history of attacks on people of colour and immigrants. The second sentence is an unsupported claim and a handful of “success stories” won’t change that (qv. The American Dream). There are newly-arrived immigrants and refugees who have been forced into squalid conditions in former army barracks and so-called “hotels”, and if any of them are lucky enough to gain permanent residence or even citizenship, they will find it difficult. Moreover, the conditions for people of colour and newly-arrived immigrants have become increasingly difficult since Brexit, which has further widened the space for the expression of far-right discourses on identity, nationality and immigration that were opened up by Tony Blair during the 2005 general election. Robinson, who supported Brexit, ignores this.
Robinson also accuses Black and Brown people (and the vaguely-defined “Left”), who don’t support his contentions of “division and hatred”, while ignoring the divisiveness and hatred of the likes of Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson and a host of media commentators who are stuck in some colonial-nostalgic time loop. Robinson is clearly colour-blind when it comes to racism, which apparently, he’s never experienced, but then contradicted himself, but only to get in an attack on Prof. Kehinde Andrews on BBC1’s The Big Questions (14/02/2021). Thus, his words are at best, intellectually dishonest and smack of denial. At worst, they’re the words of the master expressed through the mouth of the slave.
Since the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol last year, there have been numerous outpourings of anger from white supremacists, who have claimed that their history is being “erased” or “cancelled”. Ironically, these are the very same people who have edited their own history, by removing the uncomfortable truths in order to present a flattering picture of a civilizing nation that spread goodness throughout the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Fanon, F. (2008). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Grove Press.
Fanon, F. (2007). The Wretched Of The Earth. Grove/Atlantic, Inc..
You may have seen Professor Matthew Goodwin (above eating pages from his book) on television or heard him speak on the radio. Perhaps you may have read his tweets or articles on the internet. Goodwin, professor of Politics at the University of Kent, is one of the media’s go-to experts on all issues political, including citizenship, nationality and identity, and the discourses which stem from those issues.
…work focuses on British and European politics, extremism, immigration and Euroscepticism.
So far, so good.
He’s a pretty telegenic fellow, who always appears so plausible, even on controversial issues like race and racism. It is on these issues that the Cat takes issue with the Prof.
Since the brutal killing of George Floyd, captured on camera and sent around the world in a split second, the United States and the rest of the world has been outraged by what they see as, not just a simple clear-cut case of police brutality on an unarmed civilian, but yet another example of the systemic racism that’s stained civil society in the USA for centuries. Such matters don’t appear to have concerned the Prof, who believes that, even in the UK, racism is, apparently, on a downward spiral to its imminent demise. What’s more, he says he has the statistics to support his claim, but all is not what it seems.
A few days ago, I found this tweet, which asserts:
The first sentence of his tweet uses the terrible construction “woke-ism”, which is utilised as a linguistic weapon to diminish the demands for justice following the killing of George Floyd. The tone has been set and the tweet follows the, by now, familiar pattern of Goodwin’s “racial” tweets. The discourse behind this tweet is unequivocal: he neither approves of Black Lives Matters, nor does he approve the removal of controversial memorials to slavers. However, he patently lacks the courage to say so directly, and instead, conceals himself beneath a carpet of numbers.
Given his Goodwin’s fondness for surveys, I thought that I’d have a look and see for myself the reasons for his jubilation. I found that the YouGov survey that he links to doesn’t provide a breakdown of which social groups – that is to say, ethnicities, rather than the usual demographics (age, gender, region and so on) – were surveyed. For all we know, YouGov could have polled an entirely white cohort of respondents. The questions themselves are also problematic, because they appear to steer the respondent towards the “correct” reply. The relevant questions appear as part of what’s called an omnibus survey in the polling business. I previously discussed the problems with polling companies in this 2016 article.
That Goodwin seizes on this survey, which was commissioned by The S*n on Sunday, a Murdoch paper with a poor reputation on matters of race and equality, with such unabashed glee, reveals more about him and his motives than he actually realises.
Goodwin always seems at pains to dismiss the level of racism in Britain. The question is why does he seem so eager to diminish the actual experience of, not just people of colour, but the experiences of other minority groups, like Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, whom Goodwin appears to have ignored in his analysis.
Last August, Goodwin tweeted the following with an accompanying graph, which is itself flaunted like a magic amulet to ward off awkward questions about the integrity of his claims.
In January, he was questioned about his use of statistics by Dr Christine Cheng. Goodwin was pretty dismissive.
For a man with probably no direct experience of racism, Goodwin tells Dr Cheng, a woman who has probably experienced racism firsthand, that he would be happy to ‘debate racism’ with her. I find that, not just insulting, but patronising as well. His reply is unbelievably smug and condescending, but it’s mixed with a cold and clinical detachment of the subject of racism, which is in his claim that “evidence” points to a ‘long-term decline in racial prejudice’. Perhaps, he’d like to present his “evidence” to the victims of racially-aggravated assaults, like K, in Bristol, who was hit by a car carrying three white youths, who shouted racist epithets as they fled the scene.
Then, there’s the story of a black family who came home to find a swastika daubed on their front door. There are plenty more examples, here, here and here. Today, a Black senior civil servant was accused by police of car theft while out jogging. She was clearly profiled. Yet, Goodwin ignores the real life experiences, like these, of everyday racism to advance a pretty shaky thesis of racism-in-retreat. He’s not interested in people’s stories; he only wants spreadsheets and statistics. He’s a political scientist, and perhaps he sees himself as a “real” scientist in relation to those effete social scientists. Yet, as any social science and humanities researcher will tell you, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but Goodwin thinks otherwise. Political Science and its allied fields are just as much as social science as Sociology or Anthropology. It is therefore not as pure (sic) a science as some of its adherents may claim.
One of Eatwell and Goodwin’s key moves is to define ‘racism’ so narrowly that the populists mostly escape. It should be confined, they say, “to the erroneous and dangerous belief that the world is divided into hierarchically ordered races, to anti-Semitism which plays more on conspiracy theory, and to violence and aggressive attitudes towards others based on their ethnicity”. But that’s it. “Where the disparagement and fear of different cultural groups is not linked to this form of systematic thinking” they prefer the term ‘xenophobia’.
Goodwin, in common with his associates in the Continuity RevolutionaryCommunist Party (CRCP), refuses to acknowledge the existence of structural and institutional forms of racism. Unsurprisingly, he’s pleased at Boris Johnson’s appointment of CRCP alumna, Munira Mirza, to head the government’s racial inequality commission.
The smugness, the arrogance, the boastful claims, the dismissal of critical race theory as a purely emotional pursuit. This kind of discourse is as deeply unpleasant as it is worrying.
In this tweet, he claims to be above ideology, and appears to suggest that research can be conducted in an ideological vacuum and yet, if you look at his tweets and articles, there is a discourse there. I saw this kind of thing nearly 20 years ago on US internet forums, like Delphi Forums, which are populated by right-wing zealots, many of whom claimed to be “above ideology”.
So where does Goodwin really stand politically? He’s never one to declare, upfront, his political biases. Perhaps, he believes he’s above such things or that he’s truly objective and unbiased. But no one is free of bias or discourse. Maybe this article on the right-wing site UnHerd can shed some light. Goodwin reports on a recent Policy Studies (there are significant links between them and the Continuity RCP) report that claims universities “shut out” conservative academics. Here’s an excerpt from Goodwin’s article.
Fast forward to today, however, and you do not need to look hard to find a growing sense of public alarm about how these ancient and much-cherished freedoms are under serious threat. This concern over the surveillance of speech, the dismissal of controversial or problematic speakers and anxieties over a new “cancel culture” perhaps explain why, only last week, one of Britain’s leading pollsters found that nearly one in every two of us believe that “people these days are less free to say what they think”.
But most worrying of all is how these freedoms seem to be under attack in the one place where people are supposed to feel completely free to say what they think: higher education. Universities, in theory at least, are meant to be the purest example of the marketplace of ideas — institutions where we debate and discuss the pursuit of truth from different perspectives and where, along the way, we develop well-rounded, critical thinkers who go on to become the leaders of tomorrow.
But something, somewhere has gone fundamentally wrong. At least that’s the conclusion one draws after reading an important new Policy Exchange report, Academic Freedom in the UK: Protecting Viewpoint Diversity, co-authored by Remi Adekoya, Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Simpson. It paints a depressing picture of what is unfolding in our universities. Based on the largest survey of academics that has been carried out in years, it suggests that many of our higher education institutions are failing to protect and promote the “viewpoint diversity” that has long been one of their core strengths.
In recent years British universities have drifted way to the Left. Three-quarters of academics who were surveyed support Left-wing parties; fewer than one in five support parties of the Right. Just 9% of academics in the social sciences and humanities voted to Leave the European Union and just 7% identify as “right of centre”. It also points to how those who do deviate from the orthodoxy experience a tough time. Only 54%of academics would feel comfortable sitting next to a Leave supporter over lunch, and just 37% would feel comfortable sitting next to somebody who holds gender-critical views.
If British universities have “drifted way to the Left”, then I haven’t noticed it. What I’ve actually witnessed is the way in which universities have been corporatized and subjected to market logic, and have come under increased attack from the Right, which sees them as hotbeds of leftist plots to overthrow “civilization”. Jonathan Portes of Kings College London has written an excellent riposte to Goodwin’s screed here.
This notion that universities subject students to “left-wing indoctrination” is a charge which has been levelled at them for decades, and has recently gained more traction in the right-wing media. More recently, campus “free speech” has been taken up as a cause by the likes of Spiked, who claim, inter alia, that “free speech” is being “no platformed” at universities. Indeed, it is easy to dismiss such claims by simply stating that universities are places of discussion, argumentation, analysis and debate; they are not schools, nor should they be regarded as such.
Let’s return to Goodwin’s fondness for cold statistics. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who’s conducted academic research that there are significant drawbacks to relying solely on quantitative methodologies to make determinations of how society sees itself. Perhaps this is the reason why Goodwin cleaves so tightly to numbers: because he believes they’re impersonal and sees them as inherently “unbiased” or “scientific” and are thus beyond criticism. Not true. Although, the collection and analysis of data is much quicker than with qualitative methods, the drawbacks of quantitative methods are straightforward.
Numbers alone cannot provide a complete picture.
It’s difficult to set up a workable research model
Can be misleading
By contrast, qualitative research often takes more time and effort to set up. There are question frames to produce, potential interviewees to be identified, interviews to be transcribed and the data has to be analyzed and interpreted. Thus, the data produced is richer than by utilising pure quantitative methodologies. Quantitative research may ask questions, but its aim is to produce raw data in the form of statistics, which are then analyzed and their meaning extrapolated. The only way in which views of whether Britain is racist can be more accurately measured is through the use of a mixed methodology. Surveys, like those produced by polling companies such as YouGov tell us nothing. They are at best a distorted snapshot riven with bias and the commissioner’s ideological intent. Hence their enduring appeal with mental onanists and petty point-scorers alike.
The BBC Radio 4 programme, More or Less, debunks the way in which statistics and numbers are used and misused in politics and in everyday life. It opens with the phrase “numbers aren’t neutral”. Goodwin et al would be wise to tune in.
Print media has been in a parlous state for decades and the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected sales, has seen journalists from newspapers like The S*n beg people to buy their papers. I must confess that I stopped buying newspapers over 20 years ago. Not because I felt that they were gaslighting me, but because I saw them as a waste of money. I’d buy the weekend Guardian and would never read all of it. I simply didn’t have the time. Something had to give and it was the Guardian that went.
Since The Guardian (and The Observer) announced that it was to shed 180 jobs, the cry from the country’s journalists – especially those working for The Guardian – has been, predictably, one of dismay. Job losses are always regrettable. However, the way these journalists have reacted to supporters of former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who are ridiculed by the same journalists as “Corbynistas”, a word coined to situate Democratic Socialism as something foreign, maybe “unBritish” and perhaps, Latin American, has been unseemly. Yes, many on the left have delighted over the paper’s misfortunes and not without good reason. However, the response from Britain’s journalists has been to gaslight and bully those who’ve taken the view that the paper deserves its karmic fate.
The Guardian’s left-wing readers, who assumed that the paper shared their views, have felt a sense of schadenfreude over the possibility of the paper actually folding. This has raised the hackles of Britain’s press corps, most of whom probably aren’t actually journalists or reporters, but purveyors of opinions. Indeed, this is where the paper has gone wrong: it blurred the line between factual reporting and opinion-forming, and over the course of the last five years, it has offered up opinions as fact, and has pursued an anti-Corbyn smear campaign.
First, we need to be clear about something: the Guardian is not and never has been a left-wing paper. It has always been a Liberal paper and was founded to reflect the views of Northern Liberals in the 19th century. It had a brief moment in the 1930s when it won praise from left-wingers for its coverage of the Spanish Civil War. Since that time, the editorial line of the paper has intersected with the views of large sections of the British Left. That is no more. About 10 years ago, the paper decided to take a more right-wing line, perhaps because of its reporting of Operation Cast Lead and pressure from sites like, CiFWatch (now called CAMERA UK).
The Guardian has some left-leaning writers who offered qualifed support for Corbyn like Owen Jones, Aditya Chakrabortty, Nesrine Malik and a few more. However, the paper is dominated by white Liberal and right-wing writers like Jonathan Freedland, Marina Hyde, Gaby Hinsliff, Hadley Freeman (who?), Nick Cohen, John Harris, Jessica Elgot, Rafael Behr and Matthew D’Ancona (chair of moderate Tory think-tank, Bright Blue) who were opposed to Corbyn. Harris, a former music journalist, spent a great deal of time telling readers he was some kind of spokesperson for the working class, but was quite prepared leave them to the clutches of the Tories and worse, the Brexit Party. Thus, it would be fair to argue that on the balance of the political views among its columnists and reporters, the Guardian is not a left-wing paper. Its leftism is an illusion. However, its writers and supporters don’t seem too clear on how businesses work to attract or retain customers or, in its case, readers.
If the Graun really doesn’t want to lose readers, then maybe it needs to ask itself why and where it all went wrong. Instead, rather than do that, its hacks and supporters have resorted to abusing the paper’s former readers for turning their backs on it. Is this really the way a business should behave if it wants to win back customers? Why have they responded in this way? Maybe this quote from Karl Marx in The German Ideology can shed some light.
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an “eternal law.
Karl Marx, The German Ideology, Part I: Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook, The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas
The ruling class’s ideas must never be challenged, and those who propagate (if that’s the right word) them believe they have an automatic right to your money and your mind. It is simply not enough for them to control the means of material production, they must also control intellectual production. Being the descendants of the those who governed the British Empire, they have quite literally colonized people’s minds.
We can, therefore, read the Guardian’s writers and supporters’ outpourings of rage as a predictable reaction from the country’s bourgeoisie; it is a manifestation of their class entitlement, and it’s underpinned by a kind of confidence that comes with having had an exclusive and expensive education followed by a degree from Oxbridge. It is because of these social factors that they feel a sense of haughty superiority towards those whom they believe be inferior (is it any wonder that eugenics is enthusiastically embraced by the bourgeoisie and not, say, the working-class?). They knew that they were born to rule from an early age. Thus, it is their views which dominate and which are endlessly circulated in the public domain, despite being as stale as airline cabin air.
Marina Hyde thought that bullying one of the paper’s erstwhile readers-turned-critics was a smart move.
There are many reasons why many Twitter users adopt other names and hide their identities, one of which is that they may be whistleblowers, autistic or it, or in my case, it’s my stage name. This doesn’t mean that I’m “anonymous”, which is a charge that so-called “blue tick” users will often throw at Twitter users to counter robust criticism. In fact, it would be fair to say that many “blue tick” users have at least one sockpuppet account. I know this from personal experience and when I called them out, they vanished.
Hadley Freeman also thought she’d gaslight former readers.
Freeman participated in the so-called Never Again stunt organized by supporters of Luciana Berger, but which looked and felt like a gathering of right-wing white politicians and their media supporters who were pursuing a vendetta against, not just Corbyn, but anyone on the left on the basis of flimsy evidence. Worse, perhaps, was the view held by the protesters, who had never protested anything in their lives, and who spent a great deal of effort deriding protests as a form of “student politics”, that the Labour Party was the single largest reservoir of anti-Semitism in Britain. Ironically, all of these people were content to stand side-by-side by some of Parliament’s biggest bigots, like Ian Paisley Jr. The event was also attended by Conservatives, a party whose racism is routinely ignored by writers like Freeman. When it comes to other forms of racism, these people can be seen wringing their hands and muttering to themselves. This is not just a bourgeois reaction, it’s the reaction of white Liberals, who enjoy a great deal of white privilege. Like the rest of Fleet Street, the Guardian is mostly staffed by the same kind of white middle-class people, who control print and broadcast media.
Guardian-supporting actor and comedian, David Schneider tried emotional blackmail.
“The joy in Tory HQ”? Seriously? They honestly couldn’t care less. Schneider followed up with this tweet:
That he believes The Guardian to be some kind of bulwark against the Right and the Tory-supporting media is laughable. Schneider was less than enthusiastic about Corbyn and he appears to be more content with Keir Starmer as Labour leader. Whatever the case, to The Cat, his affected leftism looks more like Liberalism. Indeed, together with its supporters, the Guardian, overall, has shown that it has nothing but contempt for the Left.
Even The Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges, a man who is wrong about nearly everything, believed it was the fault of the beastly “Corbynites” that the Guardian was shedding jobs.
This has been the style of the right-wing press since the 1980s: if you’re not ridiculing and mocking the left, then blame them for “cancelling” the Guardian or worse. Hodges then followed up with this:
To say Hodges reasoning is poor is an understatement: it’s melodramatic tosh. Remember, this is a man who regards mild democratic socialist reformism as “hard left”.
The Guardian has never supported socialism or the Left. It is and always has been a Liberal paper that has had a left-wing readership, which has, over the course of 5 years, been bullied, ridiculed, mocked, smeared and gaslighted. This is a paper that many on the left saw as an ally before Corbyn became Labour leader and which turned on them in short order. No wonder these people feel some sense of schadenfreude.
The establishment, represented by papers like the Guardian, used any means at its disposal to marginalize the left, and realized that its best line of attack lay with accusations of anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear about something, accusing the Left of any other form of racism would have lacked the same emotional and social value, in their eyes, as a hatred of Jews. Racism against Black people or Gypsies simply wouldn’t appeal to the racist base instincts of the bourgeoisie and reactionary subalterns who accept whatever newspapers tell them without criticism. However, the way in which anti-Semitism was trivialized and transformed into a political weapon was always a dangerous and irresponsible strategy, because in the process, left-wing Jews were smeared as “self-hating” and “anti-Semitic”, and the fall-out from this episode has affected all minorities, not just Jews. Alternatively, according to the likes of Dan Hodges, who himself isn’t Jewish, they were the “wrong kind of Jews” on account of their politics. If there was any justice in this world, Hodges would have lost his job over this.
One really can’t blame “Corbyn supporters” for reacting the way they did at the Graun’s misfortunes. In the cutthroat world of print media, as in any business, if customers are going elsewhere or no longer buying your product(s), you don’t abuse them: you try to, somehow, win them back. The Guardian has lost these people forever.
I think many of us will agree that many of Britain’s cohort of journalists are, to a man and woman, sycophants, who are more interested in their careers and their social standing than reporting the news accurately and faithfully. The same cohort, many of whom hide behind paywalls, have used the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to continue smearing Jeremy Corbyn, but stopping short of blaming him for the virus, while others, like the Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey, see it as an opportunity to accuse people on the amorphous Left of “playing politics” with the crisis. All bullies are cowards and Fleet Street’s bullies are no exception. They hide behind paywalls and are protected by the rich proprietors, who pay them lots of money to write the same articles over and over again. Who holds these small-minded hacks to account? Only we can. IPSO certainly won’t.
Tominey’s paywalled article is no different to the tweets that I’ve seen from Tory MPs and their hangers-on.
London mayor Sadiq Khan was the first to start fighting dirty, seeking to deflect attention from crowded Tube trains under his watch
Tominey’s point is weak for it fails to accept that Tube train drivers have also had to take time off work sick, while the numbers of trains have been reduced by Transport for London (TfL). I’m not Sadiq Khan’s biggest fan (his tendency to hobnob with property developers is particularly sickening), but didn’t TfL merely act on the government’s advice? I believe it did. Never let the truth get in the way of a good smear, eh Cammie?
What Tominey and her fellow hacks continue to ignore is the government’s sluggish response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its insistence that its “herd immunity” was the best line of attack. Tominey ignores the evident social Darwinism that underpinned it. Why? Because it doesn’t conform to the finger-pointing narratives constructed by the government in its attempt to deflect from its piss-poor performance and its casual disregard for human life.
According to Dan Hodges (a man who is wrong about nearly everything), the world outside Twitter is pleased with the government’s handling of the epidemic.
Of course, Dan doesn’t believe he needs to support his claim with evidence. Him being a Daily Mail hack is qualification enough.
Tominey, Hodges and the rest of them refuse to ask the right questions about the government’s handling of the crisis. Instead, they demand complete and total obeisance from the public, because, in their view, offering constructive criticism is tantamount to treason, and they will even brandish World War 2 and Churchill as amulets to ward off criticism. In this tweet, Iain Martin uses the war to make a feeble jab.
Former S*n editor and tabloid thug, Stig Abell, tweeted this in response to a BBC interview with Jeremy Corbyn.
What Abell knows about economics could barely cover one side of a postage stamp; he’s been inured in the Thatcherite economic model, which has been presented to us as holy writ, and the mantra of TINA continues to dominate socio-economic discourse in the public domain, and is manifested in the hack’s question: “but can we afford it?/how will we pay for it?”.
Even when the facts are laid bare before him, Abell, like the rest of his colleagues, refuse to accept the truth or ask questions that are critical of the government or the economic model to which he and they cleave so tightly. For to do so, is tantamount to questioning the existence of God. Instead, these high priests of laissez-faire economics, who masquerade as objective interpreters of current affairs, believe that the current model of capitalism has an adequate response to the crisis, when, in fact, the opposite has been demonstrated.
Tory MPs have lost no time in using the “playing politics” line either. A couple of days ago, Nadine Dorries, who supposedly tested positive for Covid-19, and who went into self-isolation and made an “Ernest Saunders” style recovery a week later, used the opportunity to accuse Emily Thornberry of “political point scoring”. Ironic, when you think that’s exactly what Dorries has done with this tweet.
You can’t bet any money you like that if the situation was reversed, and a Labour government was handling the crisis badly, the Tories would criticize the response and rightly so. But Tories like Dorries believe they’re above criticism, and have adopted the haughty and condescending attitudes of absolute monarchs rather than public servants. Someone needs to remind them that they’re elected officials, who rely on our votes to put them where they are. As for Fleet Street, most of its denizens will remain steadfastly loyal to the current government and will continue to tell us up is down and black is white. The tragedy is that too many people continue to swallow their nonsense uncritically.
It was inevitable that various conspiracy theories would emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many, if not the majority, of these conspiracy theories come from the far-right and Right libertarians. For self-styled libertarians like Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, who also takes the Murdoch shilling, the crisis is really all about liberal-left spoilsports wanting to curtail his right to infect others in confined spaces.
The pandemic has provided O’Neill with the opportunity to attack his favourite targets: the Greens, left-wingers, anti-racists, socialists, you name them, O’Neill hates them. He’s like one of those pub bores you meet supping in the local Wetherspoons, talking about how the country is “going to hell in a handcart”.
The first paragraph of O’Neill’s article starts predictably, but messily.
People’s refusal to panic has been a great source of frustration for the establishment in recent years. ‘The planet is burning’, they lie, in relation to climate change, and yet we do not weep or wail or even pay very much attention. ‘I want you to panic’, instructs the newest mouthpiece of green apocalypticism, Greta Thunberg, and yet most of us refuse to do so. A No Deal Brexit would unleash economic mayhem, racist pogroms and even a pandemic of super-gonorrhoea, they squealed, incessantly, like millenarian preachers balking at the imminent arrival of the lightning bolt of final judgement, and yet we didn’t flinch. We went to work. We went home. We still supported Brexit.
How any of this is related to the pandemic is a mystery, but O’Neill persists:
Our skittish elites have been so baffled, infuriated in fact, by our calm response to their hysterical warnings that they have invented pathologies to explain our unacceptable behaviour. The therapeutic language of ‘denialism’ is used to explain the masses’ refusal to fret over climate change. Environmentalists write articles on ‘the psychology of climate-change denial’, on ‘the self-deception and mass denial’ coursing through this society that refuses to flatter or engage with the hysteria of the eco-elites. Likewise, the refusal of voters to succumb to the dire, hollow warnings of the ferociously anti-Brexit wing of the establishment was interpreted by self-styled experts as a psychological disorder. ‘[This is] people taking action for essentially psychological reasons, irrespective of the economic cost’, said one professor.
Ah, so this is about the mysterious ‘elites’? Find me an O’Neill article without the word ‘elite’ and I’ll show you a caring Conservative. O’Neill is in complete denial; his brain (if he has one) is in total lockdown. He refuses to accept the fact that Covid-19 is a communicable disease and is highly contagious. The fact that people of all ages have died is of no matter to him. For O’Neill, people ignoring medical advice and mingling in public spaces like parks and the beaches is seen as an act of defiance against the shadowy ‘elites’ who want to you to eat your vegetables.
Of course, the replies beneath Spiked’s article are just as barking, if not worse.
This one looks like a bot.
What analysis? What insight? There’s more. This one talks about “The Cabal”. Cue eerie theremin music.
You should see the rest of his timeline. It’s a catalogue of conspiracy theories and the usual mush about horrible Greens wanting to spoil his freedom. Here’s my reply to one of Matt’s tweets on his timeline. You’ll notice that he hangs on Donald Trump’s every word.
This is one is incomprehensible.
This one uses the opportunity to spout racist and xenophobic nonsense.
O’Neill and his followers are ignorant of science and disdainful of expert advice from clinical practitioners. They think their ignorance trumps years of study, and clinical work, and all that matters is their ‘freedom’. I don’t like wishing illness or death on anyone, but in the case of O’Neill and his deadbeat acolytes, I’m happy to make exceptions. Perhaps a dose of Covid-19 will teach all of them a valuable lesson. Then again, maybe it won’t.
There’s a massive threat to public health, much of it is caused by Covid-19, but some of it will be caused by ignoramuses and anti-intellectual schmucks like O’Neill taking to social media and telling people that there’s nothing to worry about.
I’ve just been listening to the very unpleasant, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary talk about what he called Labour’s ‘open door immigration’ policy. This is not just a signal that the Tories intend to revert to their comfortable default position, it’s also a glaring example of racist dog-whistling. We know that over the decades, the British press has sold its readers stories of how immigration is bad, how it drives wages down, how immigrants are coming here and ‘taking our jobs’ and so on. Petty nativism and small-minded xenophobia sell papers, but don’t provide the public with the details they need to make informed choices. Instead, many members of the public internalize these lies and accept them as truths.
The Tories, Brexit Party and UKIP all talk about how they want to see an ‘Australian points-based system’. When I hear politicians use that phrase, I think of Australia’s whites only immigration policy, which I suspect they really want to implement here. Raab also repeated the line, also uttered by his fellow Randroid, Priti Patel, that they wanted the ‘best and the brightest’ to come to this country. Somehow, I can’t see ‘the best and the brightest’ wanting to come here. Why would they? Why would they want to come to a small backwater off the north-west coast of Europe, especially if they’re well qualified? They’ll go to Canada or the United States. I’ve read stories of how doctors and dentists from African countries and the Indian subcontinent come here, only to be told that their qualifications aren’t recognized. They end up working as cleaners, cab drivers and security guards.
Kenan Malik, writing in The Guardian in this April, wrote about the flaws in the Australian points-based system and its baked-in racism.
Australia introduced its points-based immigration system in the 1970s. The idea was to create a kind of non-racist version of the “white Australia” policy that had held sway for almost a century. Middle-class professionalism now came to replace “whiteness” as the measure of a good migrant. The trouble is, being middle class and skilled guarantees neither a job nor social acceptance.
A study last year showed that of skilled migrants from non-English speaking countries who came to Australia between 2011 and 2016, fewer than a third had found a professional or managerial job. Another study revealed that such migrants were 25% more likely to be in the bottom income quintile than either migrants from English-speaking countries (primarily white migrants) or those born in Australia. The unemployment rate for recent migrants on a permanent visa is more than 50% higher than it is for Australians in general.
There is also the question of racism. A study by the economist Andrew Leigh showed that an individual with an Anglo-Saxon name is far more likely to get a job interview than someone with the same qualifications and experience, but with a Chinese, Middle Eastern or Indigenous Australian name.
We haven’t left the European Union, but already we have people being told to ‘go home’ because they look different and speak with an accent. The Australian points-based system that right-wing politicians long for are just words that are used to placate xenophobes and racists. In reality, such a system would still discriminate against people of colour.
Whether politicians like Raab, Patel, Farage et all want to admit or not, Britain relies heavily on immigrant labour to plug the gaps in the workforce. Our NHS especially relies on immigrant labour and so does agriculture. Last month when I tweeted about fruit being left to rot in the field because there was no one to pick it, I was rounded on by angry Brexiteers and self-styled Lexiters, who first claimed that ‘farmers hadn’t prepared’ for this, while someone else said ‘I hope they go out of business’. Others told me that the unemployed should be forced to pick fruit for their benefits. The fact of the matter is that fruit pickers from EU countries don’t want to come here anymore, because they’ve heard how foreign workers aren’t welcome. None of the people who attacked me, especially the Lexiters, would admit that this was a factor. Worse, they seemed to have no problem with food waste. Ironically, the papers which usually publish lies on their front pages about immigration, also complained about millions of apples being left to rot.
When it comes to racism, some forms of racism are clearly more equal than others. In our currently febrile social climate this has never been more true a statement. Our present public discourse has become polluted by notions of free speech absolutism, put forward by zealots like the right-wing libertarian outfit, Spiked and their associates on one hand, and the self-appointed anti-Semitism language police in the Labour Party and their media allies on the other. Anyone with a brain in their head could see where the weaponization and cheapening of anti-Semitism for political ends would lead to: a sharp increase in attacks on minorities – especially people of colour. Indeed, those who spend much of their time complaining about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party tend to be, for the most part, white and they’re not too concerned about other forms of racism within and outwith the party.
Anti-Semitism witch hunters will scoff at any suggestion that, through their words and deeds, a hierarchy of racism now exists in which weak claims anti-Semitism are prioritised over genuine cases of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. What passes for anti-Semitism these days is more often than not, a conflation with anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Other claims are the product of lazy thinking. One such incident involved the right-wing Labour MP, Siobhan McDonagh, who in an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4 deliberately conflated anti-capitalism with anti-Semitism. This anti-Semitic trope, which is heavily reliant on the knowledge of the Other, was allowed to pass unchallenged by Humphrys. Worse, the usual witch hunters kept schtum. Meanwhile, stories of anti-Semitic attacks like the one in Islington in February of this year, are rarely, if ever, afforded national airtime nor are they mentioned by our supposedly objective broadcast journalists. Furthermore, the media focus on anti-Semitism gives the impression to other ethnic minorities that the racism they experience is either imagined or of no importance (this has happened to me quite recently when I complained about racism directed towards me). Other forms of racism simply aren’t sexy or cool enough, and don’t possess the same emotional value as anti-Semitism.
So it is with the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT), one of the country’s most marginalised and persecuted socio-ethnic groups, not just in the United Kingdom but across Europe in countries like Hungary, Italy,Romania and Slovakia among others. So normalised has anti-GRT racism become that even our elected representatives are given a free pass to air their obnoxious racist views on the floor of the House of Commons. In April, the Conservative MP and former leader of Wandsworth Council, Paul Beresford, said in an adjournment debate to the House of Commons.
“We’re now in what we call the summer traveller season, it’s like a disease.”
That something like this can be said in the Commons without fear of censure, either from the Speaker, his party leader, the usual Labour MPs or the national media, speaks volumes. The fact that Beresford used the word ‘disease’, a word associated with the Nazi and BritFash discourses to refer to people not deemed as “Aryan” reveals to us the extent to which racism has become normalized in everyday political discourse. The Surrey Live website was one of several sources to carry the Beresford story, the other was Show Racism The Red Card. There is nothing on the BBC News site or any of the other national carriers, nor did the national press mention it. Beresford has been pressed to make an apology, but has, thus far, not done so. Moreover, the most vociferous anti-Semitism witch hunters in the Labour and Conservative Parties have said nothing.
Beresford is by no means the only Tory MP to openly express hatred towards GRT people. In 2017, when asked what he want to see more than anything else, Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross told reporters:
“Tougher enforcement against gypsies and travellers”.
In 2017, Tory MP, Julian Knight also attacked GRT people.
The Tories aren’t alone when it comes to anti-GRT bigotry, Labour MP, John Mann, himself a self-appointed anti-Semitism witch hunter, sent an anti-GRT booklet to his Bassetlaw constituents and yet, national news broadcasters said nothing and his fellow MPs said nothing. Instead, broadcasters like the BBC eagerly provide him with plenty of airtime to denounce someone, usually a left-wing figure, for anti-Semitism, or pronounce them a “Nazi sympathiser”. The interviewers, for their part, will always entertain his rants and his poorly-reasoned judgements without a semblance of criticism. Why? Because he makes “good telly”.
So where’s the outrage? The media’s silence appears to indicate an often casual complicity in the perpetuation of anti-GRT racism,which is both structural and institutional. GRT people are discriminated against in terms of access to education, medical treatment and even the law as this research paper from the London School of Economics makes clear.
On Twitter, recently, I had someone purporting to be a Corbyn supporter tell me that he “didn’t like Travellers but the old-fashioned Romanis were okay”. I blocked them. These kinds of views aren’t unique nor are they limited to one political party or another. They are informed by a knowledge of the Other, and further serve to illustrate the role in which myths and stereotypes play in shaping many people’s views of, not just GRT people, but people from other ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, it also reveals a fundamental ignorance of GRT history and, in particular, the Porajmos, the Romani Holocaust.
When it comes to anti-GRT racism, some of the worst offenders are the self-declared, hair-shirt wearing, anti-racist politicians, especially right-wing Labour politicians, who ignore anti-GRT racism while pursuing phantom claims of anti-Semitism. Their anti-racism is selective and no one, whether they are a member of a minority group or not, should be fooled by the calculatedly cynical flaunting of their flimsy credentials. If your anti-racism is selective, then you’re not an anti-racist but a person with an agenda: in other words, you’re someone who uses a selectivized form of anti-racism for political motives. That means you’re no better than the people of whom you’re accusing of anti-Semitism. In short, you’re a racist and you’re no good to those of us who are involved in the daily struggle against racism.
Anti-racism, therefore, must be intersectional. Since the EU referendum and the ensuing political turmoil, much of it the making of the professional politicians themselves, few MPs are capable of fathoming, not just the complex political situation they’ve found themselves in, but are reluctant or just too stupid to understand the powerful and dark forces that they have unleashed; forces for which they clearly lack the intellects and philosophical nous to defeat. Instead, they would rather blame anyone but themselves. Not only that, they show no concern that the fallout from their baseless accusations will hit other minorities, namely people of colour and GRT people.