Tag Archives: Michael Howard

Telling Stories

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.

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Lisa Nandy And Me

I’ve told this story many times on Twitter and Facebook, but it needs to be repeated here. Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, is the broadcast media’s pet faux lefty. She often appears on television programmes like ITV’s godawful Peston and rocks up on the BBC’s Politics Live and Question Time. Sometimes, she’s mentioned as the media’s pick to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, along with self-publicists like Jess Phillips (far and away the right-wing media’s choice) and dull careerists like Yvette Cooper. But Nandy’s supposedly left-wing credentials are moot at best. She makes some nice noises but beyond that, I believe her grasp of left-wing politics to be weak. It certainly lacks class analysis.

It was the 2005 General Election when I met Nandy. In those days, she was a councillor for the Hammersmith Broadway ward on what was then the Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The Iraq War was still raging and millions of voters were starting to turn their backs on Labour. Worse, the party, rather than challenge the dog-whistle racism of Michael Howard’s election campaign (Directed by Lynton Crosby. Who else?), constructed its own anti-immigrant rhetoric, and it is that failure to meet Howard’s racist campaign with a head-on rational argument in favour of immigration, which gave the far-right space to thrive. We are in this place because of Blair and New Labour was very much a racist endeavour

Like those millions of voters who had turned away from the Labour, I felt let down by the party. Nandy, who was canvassing on behalf of the Labour candidate, Melanie Smallman, herself a member of Progress and a Blairite, turned up on my doorstep after climbing the seven flights of steps up to my flat. She asked me if I was going to vote Labour in the election. I told her “No” and added that I’d been let down by Blair’s rush to invade Iraq on a faulty premise, to which she appeared to nod in agreement. I then finished by telling her that I was a socialist and at that point she turned around and headed back down the stairs. I’d never seen anyone move so fast upon hearing the word “socialist”.

Yesterday, Nandy donned her hair shirt, grabbed her sword and joined Wes Streeting, Margaret Hodge et al aboard the passing anti-Semitism witch-hunt bandwagon with this ill-considered tweet, in which she appears to suck up the accusers and accept their baseless allegations at face value.

My reply to her was to the point.

Somehow, I don’t think Nandy will deign to reply.

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Filed under Government & politics, Hammersmith & Fulham Labour, Labour, Political parties

The Top Four Weasel Words Used By Racists

Michael Howard’s “Are you thinking what we’re thinking” backfired.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the statement “I hate it when people use the word ‘racist’ to shut people up” or something like it when racists are challenged on their abhorrent views.  I often see statements like this on the comments threads on Telegraph blogs or Huffington Post. The funny thing is, the ones who use that statement will often say something really racist in the next sentence.

Racists don’t like to be called racists. That’s understandable. It’s a pretty horrible word but then racists are pretty horrible people; there is really nothing nice about them. Scratch a racist and you’ll likely find a sexist, an anti-Semite and a bully underneath.

Then there are those who use weasel words to claim they aren’t racists but actually succeed in achieving the opposite of what they’d intended to do.

Here is my Top Four.

  1. “What’s wrong with loving my own people”?
  2. “I’m not a racist, I’m an ethno-nationalist”
  3. “I’m concerned about immigration, that doesn’t make me a racist”
  4. “Anti-racism = anti-white”

The first one attempts to refute the charge of racism but fails to work, because when the phrase “my own people” is used it refers to a specific ethnic group. It also implies that the speaker loves every person who shares their pigmentation regardless of never having met them and regardless of their ideologies. The speaker fools no one but him/herself.

The second one uses the compound word “ethno-nationalist” to claim that the speaker isn’t racist but some kind of nationalist. But the construction of this compound informs the reader or the listener, that only one ethnic group can have citizenship bestowed upon them – in other words, the ethnic group of the speaker.

The third phrase is fairly common and was used by Michael Howard when he was leader of the Tory party (“Are you thinking what we’re thinking”?). The trouble with this innocuous looking phrase is that it is used to deflect attention away from some pretty unsavoury notions. More often than not the phrase will be accompanied by revealing remarks like “swamped” or will make a reference to hygiene or contamination.

The fourth phrase is a favourite of Telegraph commenter, “danoconnor” and has been adopted by others. There are two things about this phrase that interest me. First, there’s the insistence that anti-racism campaigners hate white people or that anti-racist efforts are directed against whites. No, we hate white people who are racist. There’s a big difference.  Second, it suggests a well-developed sense of victimhood on the part of the speaker who will also make the claim that most violent crime is committed by blacks on whites.

Perhaps the worst excuse that I’ve heard is “racism is natural”. Yes, someone actually said that on Telegraph blogs. He then proceeded to compare the entire country to an enormous village where they’re suspicious of strangers and lynch them upon sight. “Us simple folks don’t take kindly to yo metropolitan Fancy Dan ways ’round here, fella. Now git yo ass outta here or git it lynched”.

If you’re the sort of person who uses racist language and insists that certain ethnic groups leave the country, then you’re a racist. If you think Enoch Powell was “right”, then you’re a racist.  If you think that by saying “Islam isn’t a race, it’s a religion” lets you off the hook, then you’re most likely a racist.  There’s an old saying that can be applied in all cases: “If the cap fits”.

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Filed under anti-Semitism, Anti-Ziganism, racism, sexism, Society & culture

Life on Gilligan’s Island (Part 34)

Today, Gilly writes,

Ken this week engraved yet another page in his golden treasury of indefensible outbursts, pronouncing that we should “hang a banker a week.” This one went global – Dutch bankers, for instance, could read about Ken wanting to “hang elke week een bankier op,” just the thing to make them feel like moving their business to London. Ken’s spokesman protested to the FT that he’d made the remark “20 or 30 times” before, perhaps not the most brilliant defence ever mounted….

Quite honestly I think a lot of bankers should hang. Perhaps Kennite thinks that bankers take more risks than those soldiers fighting a capitalist war in Afghanistan and thus they deserve to earn more money. A private earns around £20,000, while a banker earns a handsome 6-figure salary before bonuses. You do the maths and the risk assessment and tell me that something isn’t wrong.

What Kennite has written in today’s Telegraph blogs is some of the laziest stuff that I’ve seen in a long while. If you doubted that Gilligan’s rants mounted to a personal vendetta, then doubt no more.

Gilligoon, who is quite happy to entertain the racists of the EDL, the British Freedom Party and the BNP, deliberately ignores Boris Johnson’s many racist remarks. It’s almost as if, by his silence, he condones the off-the-cuff casual racism of Boris simply because he isn’t Ken.

Last Wednesday Geordie Mark found the time to promote a Boris ‘achievement’.

In accordance with his election promise, Boris’s new open-platform Routemaster hits the streets of Hackney on February 27 for its first day carrying fare-paying passengers (passengers more likely to be paying their fares than on the bendies, anyway.) Bus-spotters will need to set their alarm clocks: the maiden voyage, on route 38 to Victoria, leaves Hackney garage at 6.09am. (TfL’s timekeeping fairy has been in action again – the first day has just been put back from the 20th.)

While Gilligan sings the praises of this replacement to the bendy bus, Boriswatch reminds us that the cost of this new ‘Routemaster’ continue to escalate.

Boriswatch also reminds us of the lies told about the bendy bus, which Bozza claimed had killed many more cyclists than skip lorries.

Apart from the fact that the New Bus For London is *not* a Routemaster, updated or otherwise, TfL is currently committed to nine prototypes, produced at a cost of £11,065,000, and there is no timescale or budget for the model to go into full production.

£11 million has already been spent on this vanity project and I understand that  the the bus’s long-awaited appearance on routes across the capital has been delayed again.

Before I go, one name to remember is Lynton Crosby. He’s Johnson’s campaign manager and an Australian national who is known as the Australian “Karl Rove”.  He runs a political consultancy business with Mark Textor. Here’s their company’s website.

Curiously, Gilly has made no mention of Crosby whom Political Scrapbook has recently accused of running a smear campaign.

Crosby was first hired by Michael Howard to improve the Tory Party image. It failed. Howard was ousted as leader and replaced by Disco Dave Cameron. On that basis the future doesn’t bode well for Crosby or Johnson.

Smears, lies, astroturfing, sockpuppeting and trolling. Expect to see more of those things in the run up to the election.

UPDATE: 20/2/12 @1238

I just had a look at some of the comments on Gilligan’s blog when I found this (You’ll need to click on it to view it properly)

The ironically named “imrankhan” says “Never trust a situationist”. I’d say “never trust someone on Gilligan’s blog who has given himself a Muslim-sounding name but spews forth loads of Islamophobic and racist drivel”. By the way, “imran” also pops up on Dave Hill’s blog to troll.

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Filed under London, London Mayoral election 2012, public transport

Nile Gardiner – visionary?

It shows you how long Nile Gardiner has been living in the States. He seems to have completely forgotten how the British political system works and, instead, conflates the US system with the British system. This is from a blog that he wrote for the Torygraph in May of  last year.

As I wrote in my op-ed piece earlier today, Nick Clegg is the first major party leader to run for Prime Minister on an anti-British ticket. He is filled with a self-loathing for his nation and its institutions, which came across in spades in his response to The Times letter.

First, no one “runs for Prime Minister” in this country. The leader of the party with the largest number of votes becomes the Prime Minister. Second, how is Nick Clegg “anti-British”?  While I have no love for Nick Clegg or the Liberal Democrats, this rant is quite bizarre and seems to come from the same wellspring as his Moonie faith. It’s the same kind of rant that he normally reserves for Barack Obama.

Gardiner spent the entire 10 days during the coalition negotiations fretting about a possible Labour-Lib Dem coalition. Little did he realise that the Lib Dems would hop into bed with the Tories – even I knew they would and I am not a well-paid political hack who writes third-rate articles for right wing magazines.

Here’s a taste of his paranoia.

Shamelessly, Gordon Brown is threatening to stay on as Prime Minister as late as September, despite overwhelmingly losing last week’s general election. In the meantime, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, according to Gordon’s grand plan, will stitch up a “progressive” government that will also include the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Once this government is formed, Brown will ask Labour to hold a leadership contest, with David Miliband as the likely front-runner to succeed him.

Simple arithmetic meant that a coalition between the Lib Dems and Labour wasn’t going to happen.  A Tory minority government would have easily collapsed. Gardiner persisted.

It is frankly the sort of farcical development one expects in Khartoum or Caracas, and not in one of the world’s greatest democracies

Khartoum? Caracas? Is he off his trolley? The short answer to that is “Yes, he is”. He chooses Khartoum simply because it is the capital of Sudan, a country that has long been associated with Islamism (remember ‘Chinese’ Gordon and the Mahdi Revolt?) and Caracas because it is the capital of Venezuela and it is where the US right’s Number One bogeyman, Hugo Chavez is in power.

On the very same day, Gardiner, presumably unable to sleep and sick with worry over the prospect of a Lib-Lab coalition,  wrote this blog. The headline screams “David Cameron should say no to a coalition with the Lib Dems”.

It is simply an illusion to believe the Liberals share with the Conservatives some kind of common vision for dealing with the massive debt crisis and saving Britain from a financial meltdown. They are, even more than Labour, the party of Big Government and endless state intervention, and are the enemies of free enterprise. Their socialist-style solutions will strangle the markets, force wealth out of the country, and scare away much needed investment. It is worth remembering Clegg’s pledge in the third televised debate to heavily tax banking profits and restrict bonuses in the financial services sector, the surest way to kill the City and end Britain’s supremacy as a centre of global finance.

“Socialist-style solutions”? In Britain? Gardiner is not a man of vision. Let’s put it this way, he’d never cut it as a seaside clairvoyant. The Petulengro family must be mightily relieved to hear this. But notice how he stirs up the paranoia, which he serves up with lashings of bile and hyperbole. That line “kill the City and end Britain’s supremacy as a centre of global finance” is meant to appeal to our collective sense of reason but quite honestly, I couldn’t care less if the banks pulled out of London. The British economy has recently been built on the daft products that have been dreamt up by City numbskulls looking for new ways to extend their greed. Those aren’t real products like ships or steel girders; they’re purely imagined.

Here he is on the Mellon Scaife-owned Newsmax Channel giving his ‘expert’ opinion.

His analysis is, again, wanting. A Conservative minority government? Is he serious?

In September, Gardiner made an almighty great cock up over prisoner’s voting rights as this blog points out. I quite like this quote,

The problem with Nile Gardiner is that he is a hypocrite. For a so-called expert dealing with the US led alliance against rogue states, not to see when the UK is itself a rogue state in Europe shows that he is either blind or as daft as George Bush and that he has the morals of Tony Blair going into an illegal war with Iraq and claiming he did what he believed to be right!

By the way, the Bush family was very close to Moon.

In 2008, this blog by Paul Waugh appeared in the Evening Standard. It’s about the former Labour minister Shahid Malik who was tricked into meeting with the Universal Peace Federation, a Unification Church front group. This is the most important bit,

Rev Moon was considered so dangerous that Michael Howard banned him from coming into the country in the Nineties. His views on Jews and homosexuals leave a lot to be desired to, it appears.

It was Michael, now Lord Howard, who was Home Secretary under John Major who issued the ban. Even though the Moon is banned from the UK, the Universal Peace Federation is allowed to continue its work here.

In October 2010, the baby-faced one was chuffed with Liam Fox, of whom he gushed,

Liam Fox is that rare politician of tremendous principle, who unfailingly places country before political self-interest. He believes strongly in the greatness of Britain as a nation, and that its continuing role as a global power depends upon her ability to project military force, including a capacity to fight alongside the UK’s closest ally, the United States.

It’s almost as if he’s writing about the US here and not the UK. What’s he trying to tell us? The headline says it all “Liam Fox is the Churchill of the coalition”. You see how he summoned up the ghost of Churchill, just as Thatcher had done in the 1980’s? This offers us a window into his thoughts. He uses Churchill as a mantra or a magical incantation that is intended to cast all demons aside – as though he were a shaman.  Trouble is, it is ineffective and makes him look desperate. His idol, Thatcher, tried to use the same trick and it blew up in her face.

Gardiner is an obsessive and a scaremonger. He’s also failed to tell us whether or not he is still a member of the Unification Church. However, it is unlikely that he’s left because Moonies don’t often leave the ‘church’ of their own accord.

Here is a quick look at what the Unification Church is and what it does,

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