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 the LSE 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.
I don’t think anyone can convincingly argue that the current general election is a fair fight. The Tories and their friends in the establishment media will never concede when they’re in the wrong nor will they admit to doctoring photographs or editing video footage to flatter their hero, Boris Johnson, nor will they admit that the words they’ve chosen to use in each political, news or current affair programme have been carefully selected to implant messages in voters’ minds.
The BBC’s so-called Question Time leaders’ debate on Thursday was such an occasion. Few people, apart from those with agendas or whose senses have been so badly compromised that they fail to see what’s in front of them, can say that Boris Johnson performed well, nor can any of those people claim that Jo Swinson did well. Yet, former Blairite SpAd, propagandist and wannabe comedian, Matt Forde tweeted.
He must have been watching a different leaders’ ‘debate’ because I found Swinson to be superficial, lacking in detail and all too quick to fall back on the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite’ slur to get her out of trouble. Swinson may be quick to use anti-Semitism as a political weapon but when it comes to Hostile Environment and Windrush, she’s nowhere to be seen. Indeed, a hierarchy of racism and suffering has been constructed over the course of the last 5 years, in which non-Jewish minorities come a long way down in the taxonomy of ‘races’, and politicians like Swinson promote and perpetuate it through their words and deeds.
In the aftermath of that ‘debate’, only one poll surfaced, which laughingly claimed that the Conservatives were 17 points ahead of Labour.
Yesterday, Murdoch hack, Tim Shipman tweeted his seat projection based on that fake poll.
But that isn’t the worst of it. In the BBC News bulletins that followed the ‘debate’, newsreaders and reporters kept telling us how each leader faced questions of trust. Be in no doubt, this is the BBC’s way of telling you that, if you don’t trust any of the leaders, then you may as well vote Tory (because they’re the natural party of government). This is the same cynical “they’re all as bad as each other” approach that was used by David Cameron in 2015 and Theresa May in 2017. Only this time, it’s the BBC, the state broadcaster, who are using it.
Even when the BBC are caught editing video footage, they continue to lie about it. Take this tweet from Peter Oborne, who’d noticed what thousands of other viewers had noticed about the editing out of laughter when Johnson gave his reply to the question of trust.
Instead of putting their hands up and admitting to the doctoring of video footage, they doubled down and added a lie instead.
Tory Fibs tweeted the doctored footage:
Steve Brookstein added.
Ironically, the BBC’s technology editor, Rory Cellan-Jones wrote this piece for the BBC website in October in which he says:
New research shows an alarming surge in the creation of so-called deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months. There is also evidence that production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business.
And while much of the concern about deepfakes has centred on their use for political purposes, the evidence is that pornography accounts for the overwhelming majority of the clips.
As Orgreave and ‘Wreathgate’ show us, the BBC isn’t above producing deepfake videos of its own.
The BBC has a fact-checking service that it’s named ‘Reality Check’. It may want to reconsider that name in the near future.
Jo Swinson often accuses Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism without any proof. She lies, then she lies some more and few media commentators challenge her lies or questions her tactics. Jo Swinson likes to pretend she’s some kind of opponent of racism, but there are qualifiers.
Swinson has said nothing about Hostile Environment, which disproportionately affects people of colour, and she’s said very little about the Windrush Scandal. She’s said absolutely nothing about the government’s policy of persecuting Britain’s Romani Gypsy and Traveller communities. She’s less than vocal about the rise in hate crimes against people of colour and has nothing to say about Islamophobia, but she can smear Corbyn as an anti-Semite all day long.
Over the course of this year, Swinson was silent as Sir Paul Beresford stood up in the Commons and called Travellers a ‘disease’. She welcomed former Tory Philip Lee into the Lib Dem ranks. Lee has often resorted to dog-whistle racism when speaking about immigration. Lee also has some rather unpleasant views about LGBT, a fact that has upset many of her supporters. Former Labour and Change UK MP, Angela Smith was also welcomed, despite her off the cuff ‘funny tinge’ comment about people of colour. In Swinson’s mind, evidently, that kind of racism is permissible.
In 2018, Swinson told her party conference that her party needed to ‘own the failures of the coalition’. These are just empty words. There’s no sincerity behind them. Hindsight is great but it’s only valuable when the person in question is acting self-reflexively and given her propensity for lies, it’s likely that Swinson uttered those words simply to placate her following. She’s learnt nothing at all.
There are signs that not all Lib Dem members are happy with their leader. Points of irritation include her fantasies about becoming Prime Minister and her refusal to adopt a more conciliatory tone. Swinson will lie about almost anything. The Cat is surprised she hasn’t told porkies about being the first woman in space and having discovered a cure for cancer in her kitchen.
Here’s Swinson appearing on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge programme. Ridge catches her out, but watch how Swinson doubles down on the lie.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Swinson said she believed Butler encountered racial discrimination and that Wilson’s apology had been “essential”. However, she was criticised for not suspending him or revealing whether he faced any kind of disciplinary process. Butler is also demanding Wilson and Smith undergo diversity training.
Butler herself is reported to have said:
“By protecting a white man who denied a black woman’s experience, the Lib Dems are actively condoning racism in their party and promoting it in wider society. Steve Wilson should be suspended from their party immediately.”
Before 2019, there were no people of colour among the Lib Dem MPs. They’ve relied entirely on defectors to give them a couple of Black MPs: Chuka Umunna and Sam Gyimah. The latter stands accused of lying about Emma Dent Coad, the Labour candidate for Kensington, who is also a local councillor, of being involved in the decision to clad Grenfell Tower in flammable materials. She has reported Gyimah to the police.
It seems that Swinson’s constant lying has spread like a contagion throughout her party, because Gyiamah isn’t the only one to have been telling lies and defaming a fellow candidate. Dr Geoffrey Seeff has been resorted to dog-whistling and lying about Faiza Shaheen, the Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green.
The Lib Dem candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green in east London wrote that the IHRC had “been quoted saying some very unpleasant things” and criticised its support for the Iran government.
Seeff, who said he had sent a copy of the letter to the local paper, wrote that it “seems clear that the IHRC is nothing but a front for the mullahs of Tehran” and highlighted Jeremy Corbyn’s previous support for the London-based organisation, which was formed in 1997.
He wrote: “What I and the electorate want to know is how you stand on this. Can you respect and work under a person who shares the views of this unsavoury organisation or is so gullible that he has been duped by them?”
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.
This morning, the Today programme on Radio 4 told its listeners that Tom Harris, who they described as a “former minister in the Blair government” had announced that he was voting for the Tories in the General Election and urged others to do so. There’s a reason why Today chose to do this: to take the sting out of former Tory minister, David Gauke’s, harsh words and his intention to stand as an independent.
So who is Tom Harris? Harris was Labour MP for Glasgow Cathcart and then Glasgow South from 2001 to 2015. He served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a few government ministers but was never elevated to cabinet rank. He served as Shadow Environment Minister under Ed Miliband from 2010 to 2013 when he abruptly resigned, claiming that he “wanted to spend more time with his family” – a likely story. Around the same time, he began writing regular columns in the Daily Telegraph, replacing the extremely bitter hack, Dan Hodges, who had moved to the Daily Mail.
Harris also founded a public affairs firm called Third Avenue. In March 2016, he became the executive director of the Scottish branch of Vote Leave. He left the Labour Party last year.
So, is Harris important? No. If you look at his Twitter feed, you’ll see that he retweets CapX, the website belonging to the Thatcherite think-tank, Centre for Policy Studies, as well as prominent Tories.
Here’s his tweet in which he claims to have “lived, ate and breathed Labour”.
For someone who was an MP, he doesn’t appear to have grasped the fact that we don’t directly elect Prime Ministers. Personally, I think Harris has always been Tory. In fact, he’s just as racist as the rest of the party to which he now pledges his support. Take thisTelegraph article from 2013 in which he rails against immigration and spews forth hatred for Roma people.
It’s not bigoted to worry about filthy and vastly overcrowded living arrangements, organised aggressive begging and the ghetto-isation of local streets
On, but it is bigoted, Tom but you’re clearly in the right company now.
The last few days haven’t been kind to the Tories’ election campaign and, as sure as night follows day, there was a manufactured distraction to divert the gaze away from their myriad problems. First, came Tom Watson standing down as a candidate for West Bromwich. Then this morning, rather predictably, came the next distraction in the shape of the extremely bitter fraud, Ian Austin. Indeed, in the figure of Austin the BBC et al believed they found the right man to scupper Labour’s election campaign. The trouble with Austin and the BBC is that he has a less than unblemished record when it comes to fighting racism. To put it bluntly, his anti-racism is selective. Worse, is that he’s said nothing about Boris Johnson’s racism nor has he commented on Priti Patel and Jacob Rees Mogg’s dog-whistle anti-Semitism. It’s as if, in his mind, those incidents never happened. For, if you were to believe him and the media, Labour is the single biggest reservoir of racism in the country. But it’s not any old racism we’re talking about here: it’s manufactured and weak allegations of anti-Semitism, which are treated with a greater degree of seriousness than other forms of racism and even actual incidents of anti-Semitism themselves.
Rich and posh southerners have refused to take in asylum seekers – while Birmingham and the Black Country are taking in more than their fair share, an MP has claimed.
Black Country MP Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North) told MPs that too many asylum seekers had been housed in the Midlands and North, and this could lead to worse public services including schools and hospitals.
And he insisted the Government must “learn from the mistakes they made in the past” when providing homes for new asylum seekers – including the 20,000 Syrian refugees whom David Cameron has announced the UK will take in.
Today, while touring the nation’s radio and television studios, Austin urged voters to support Boris Johnson. Leaving aside the fact that we don’t vote directly for Prime Ministers, Austin’s entreaty to the nation’s listeners and viewers smacked, not only of gross hypocrisy, but of tacit support for the Tories’ racist policies.
Austin was elected as Labour MP for Dudley South in 2005 and was elevated to the position of Parliamentary Private Secretary to Gordon Brown two years later. I’ve documented Brown’s selective anti-racism here. Remember, it was Brown who uttered the infamous phrase ‘British jobs for British workers’ Brown also demanded that the county became more patriotic, citing the United States as an example. In so doing, he encouraged the forces unleashed by Nu Labour’s 2005 general election campaign, in which the party sought to raise the stakes by producing anti-immigration rhetoric of its own in response to Michael Howard’s xenophobic and racist dog-whistling.
Austin may be the adopted son of British Jews, but I would argue that he uses it to shield to deflect criticism for his rampant xenophobia and his casual acceptance of other forms of racism, particularly from the Tory benches. In fact, if you’re Jewish and you disagree with Austin, you can expect to be abused, as Michael Rosen has found out not once, but twice.
Here’s a video clip which shows the exchange between bully boy Austin and Rosen. Austin looks and sounds thuggish.
In July, he was appointed as trade envoy to Israel by outgoing PM, Theresa May. If the Tories form the next government, then he will no doubt stay in that role.
A liar, a bully and a selective anti-racist, Ian Austin is nothing less than a fraud, who would happily sell out other minorities and those he deems to be the “wrong sort of Jew”.
Instead of asking serious questions of Austin’s motives and of his flaky anti-racism, the media treats him seriously, even deferentially. He’s no friend to people of colour. In fact, Twitter advanced search reveals that Austin hasn’t once tweeted about either Windrush or Hostile Environment. Now what does that tell you?
Remember Gordon Brown? Who could forget him? He was dubbed the “Iron Chancellor”, who would “hit the ground running” as soon as he came into government. He was also the man who seemingly channelled every British right-wing politician who ever existed, when he said, without irony, “British jobs for British workers”. This is the same Gordon Brown, who said nothing when Phil Woolas, the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, got kicked out the Commons for distributing racist leaflets to his constituents. “Scare the white vote” he was told. Brown was also happy to adopt anti-immigration rhetoric rather than challenge Michael Howard’s dog-whistle racism during the 2005 General Election campaign.
That’s the same Jewish Labour Movement that accepts non-Jews into its ranks and which has spent the last four years smearing left-wing Jews and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as “anti-Semitic”. Notice also Brown’s suggestion that the JLM and the organizations which share their ideology and loathing for anything left-wing, is definitively representative of a homogenized, Jewish community (sic). But he goes further, even misrepresenting the words of Chris Williamson, who was farcically suspended again after having the whip restored less than 48 hours earlier.
For somewhere along the way it became possible for a Labour MP, close to the leader, to suggest that in dealing with antisemitism we were being “too apologetic”.
Counterfire provides the context to Williamson’s speech here.
In an effort to show that he’s being even-handed when it comes to racism, Brown adds:
Of course, this poison is not restricted to the Jewish community or to Labour. Islamophobes who use social media to condemn all Muslims also exhibit a racism that disfigures more and more of our society – especially now that a populist nationalism, which needs enemies, is on the rise.
All well and good, but there’s not a single mention of people of colour, who have seen the biggest rise in hate crimes against them, nor is there, predictably, any mention of the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. It’s as if, by our very visibility, we’ve become somehow invisible to Brown’s one good eye. He flourishes his credentials, which are, to adapt Baudrillard, a flaunting of his collection of signs.
And while I gave the go-ahead under the last Labour government for the establishment of a post-Holocaust envoy, it is now clear we need to go much further. The next Labour government should announce it will appoint a designated minister, backed up by an ambassador. This role should be to combat antisemitism – by monitoring and reporting on its evil presence and pressurising governments everywhere to eradicate it.
More lip service is paid to anti-racism as a sign in the following paragraph:
When, in 2016, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission reviewed 50 years of anti-racist legislation and enforcement, it called on the government to formulate a comprehensive anti-racism strategy fit for new times. The need is more urgent now and, in preparation for the next Labour government, we should consult on a new and broader strategy that begins with better education in our schools – for example, we should do more to support the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust – and include stronger laws against racism in all its forms.
There is a hierarchy of racism (and race) in the United Kingdom and Brown and the others have either consciously or unconsciously accepted it as fait accompli in their speech and in their actions – though they would deny it. If you’re Black, for example, the racism that you experience comes a distant second, third or fourth place behind the smears. Even genuine cases of anti-Semitism come a long way behind the confected accusations. For example, while the following story may appear on news websites, it wasn’t mentioned on any of the national television or radio news bulletins that I watched or listened to yesterday.
Far-right extremist Tristan Morgan, who set fire to a synagogue on a day commemorating the Holocaust, has been locked up in hospital indefinitely.
He laughed after he set fire to the synagogue in Exeter, Devon, the Old Bailey heard.
Morgan, from the city, was set on fire by the blast after he poured petrol into a window of the 18th Century building on 21 July 2018.
He had previously admitted arson and two terrorism-related charges.
A genuine case of anti-Semitism, you would think and one which certainly deserved more attention than it actually received. You’d be right.
For those who say, in the words of Howard and Crosby’s 2005 dog-whistle posters that “it isn’t racist to be concerned about immigration”, I would argue that may or may not be the case, in and of itself, but behind such concerns often lurk the unpleasant discourses of racism, xenophobia and eugenics. Opposition to immigration provides a useful rallying point that also provides cover to deeply-bigoted sentiments.
Just over a year ago, Brown made speech in which he oversimplified the reasons that impelled many voters to use the EU referendum to send a message to Westminster. True to form, he reduced those reasons into a single anti-immigration discourse. The Guardian’s Larry Elliott wrote:
Brown presented a six-point plan for dealing with concerns about migration: no undercutting of wages by migrants; registration of jobs to give local people a chance to apply; registration of migrants on arrival in the UK; possible removal of migrants if they failed to find a job within nine months; a ban on employment agencies advertising jobs abroad that had not been advertised in the UK; and a bigger fund to help mitigate the impact of migration on local communities.
Indeed, last month, in his speech to an event organized by the Fabian Society and Hope Not Hate, the latter of which pretends to be an all-encompassing anti-racism campaign group, but which in reality, has become little more than a vehicle for anti-Semitism witch hunters like Ruth Smeeth, Brown suggested that in order to combat the far-right, one needed to adopt their positions or, at least, listen to them more. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?
The ‘Go Home’ vans, Hostile Environment and the Windrush Scandal didn’t appear from nowhere, they are ontologically related and have their roots in Nu Labour’s 2005 anti-immigration discourses. Gordon Brown would have you believe he’s on the side of the anti-racists. He isn’t. He’s part of the problem.
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.