Tag Archives: selective anti-racism

The Jo Swinson File

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.

Recently, Labour’s Equality Spokesperson, Dawn Butler, accused Swinson of ‘failings’ over a Commons racism row. The Guardian’s Kate Proctor writes:

The Liberal Democrats’ leader, Jo Swinson, has been accused by Labour of not properly investigating an activist who claimed one of their MPs had made up her experience of racism.

Swinson said it was right that Steve Wilson, the husband of parliamentary candidate Angela Smith, had apologised to the shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler, for writing on social media that she had lied about her experience of racism in the House of Commons.

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?”

Shaheen tweeted:

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have run dog-whistling campaigns: there was Langbaurgh in 1991 in which the local party produced leaflets which urged voters to cast their vote for a ‘local candidate’. In 2009, the Lib Dems in Islington were accused of dog-whistle politics over Gypsies and Travellers. When they were running Tower Hamlets Council in the 1990s, they used similar tactics to pander to BNP voters.

If Swinson isn’t lying, she’s fantasising about becoming Prime Minister. If she isn’t doing that, she’s claiming that her spokespeople are a ‘shadow cabinet‘. In September, Swinson was heckled by her own party members who were unhappy that she’d admitted Tory defectors into the party. Come 13 December, I’m hoping the voters of East Dunbartonshire do the right thing and vote Swinson out.

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Ian Austin: Fraudulent Anti-Racist

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.

Austin has previous form when it comes to racism and xenophobia. In 2013, he was forced to apologise for labelling a Palestinian human rights group ‘anti-Semitic’ and Holocaust deniers. When he was a minister under Gordon Brown, he was a vocal critic of ‘asylum seekers’ who are, by and large, people of colour. Indeed, in 2016, Birmingham Live, a local news site, carried a story in which Austin claimed, without any evidence, that there were “too many asylum seekers in the Black Country”. The site reported:

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?

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Tory MP, Paul Beresford: ‘Travellers Are A Disease’

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.

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