Double-standards? MP who speaks out against ‘anti-Semitism’ accused of ‘hate crime’ against travellers

John Mann.

This was kept very quiet when it happened late last year.

John Mann, the right-wing Labour MP for Bassetlaw, whose contribution to UK public life in 2016 amounted to a false accusation of anti-Semitism against Ken Livingstone* was investigated for a historical hate crime against travellers later that year.

The Skwawkbox tells us (and will no doubt be accused of fake news for it):

Mann’s pugnacious nature led him into a race-related controversy that culminated in an interview with Nottinghamshire police after complaints about a brochure he issued on anti-social behaviour [The Bassetlaw anti-social behaviour handbook] singled out one ethnic community.

Amid a series of chapters on issues that are intrinsically anti-social, Mann included an entire ethnic group: ‘Travellers’.

The article goes on to quote Ben Bennett, a 13-year-old Gypsy Traveller who wrote about the pamphlet to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in 2016, as follows:

“I can’t understand why John Mann MP would choose to talk solely about my community in such a derogatory manner, with statements such as, ‘The police have powers to remove any Gypsies or Travellers and have powers to direct people to leave the land and remove any vehicles or property they have with them, if they believe, Trespass is occurring.’

“This makes me feel like my community are being blamed for all acts of trespass and it is also giving the wider settled community the impression that Gypsies and Travellers are the only people that commit trespass. John Mann MP’s booklet does not talk about any other ethnic minority or any group of people. By singling out Gypsies and Travellers, I feel that it takes away my dignity and that my community are being labelled as law breakers and criminals. This booklet makes me feel hurt and discriminated against.

He continued:

“If the same statement was made using the headline Jews then I know that many authority figures would say that it was anti-Semitic and they would be right, but somehow the headline saying Travellers is seen as acceptable. This is anti-Gypsyism, and my community feel that racism towards Gypsies and Travellers is seen as the last acceptable form of racism.

“John Mann MP said in May… “if Labour cannot combat racism, we are nothing.” I don’t understand why John Mann MP would talk publicly about how he wants to combat racism and yet write such racist comments in his booklet to single out my community.

So, is John Mann, who campaigned vocally against what he saw as anti-Semitism last year, a racist?

The matter was referred to the police who – we are told – interviewed Mr Mann before sending this letter to the Bennett family:

Hate Crime Manager David Alton wrote that he and Inspector Neil Bellamy “did offer advice to Mr mann concerning the section entitled “Travellers”, including any further publication of the booklet, on the basis that it should identify the problem… and not single out a group of people as responsible for the problem… which is in keeping with the rest of the booklet.”

He continued: “From my perspective this concludes my investigation into this hate incident,” indicating that he considered Mr Mann’s booklet to have constituted hate literature in this respect.

Mr Mann appears to have denied that the police interview took place, and to have claimed that Master Bennett’s comments about him were defamatory.

For the latter claim to be true, the comments would need to lower Mr Mann in the estimation of right-thinking members of society, and they would have to be false.

Were they?

This is a serious matter as Mr Mann’s conduct in this matter would affect the way his conduct towards Ken Livingstone – and in relation to anti-Semitism allegations in general – is regarded.

*That’s why ‘anti-Semitism’ is in quotation marks in the headline.

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