Some of what follows is very ugly indeed.
The left-wing journalist Owen Jones, together with Conservative MP Anna Soubry and who knows how many others were targeted by right-wing pro-Brexit protesters outside Parliament yesterday (Monday, January 7).
They were wearing yellow vests because they have styled themselves after France’s gilets jaunes, protesters against rising fuel prices and taxes who blocked roads wearing yellow high-vis jackets on November 18 last year, sparking a pan-European movement.
Think about that for a moment. These anti-EU protesters were aping people who are citizens of the very bloc they hate. That should give you an inkling as to their twisted thinking. But it gets worse.
Here’s Mr Jones’s tweeted video clip of his treatment at their hands:
Just met some lovely Tommy Robinson fans and I’d love for you to get to know them too pic.twitter.com/iRom8GavNy
— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) January 7, 2019
I’ll be honest – sometimes I disagree with Mr Jones’s opinions, but always in the most cordial way and always with reason. Calling him a “tampon”, a “traitor”, and a writer of “fake news” is neither cordial nor reasonable. And take note of the way the chief bully in the crowd called Mr Jones a bully; it’s a classic tactic, accusing a victim of one’s own behaviour.
The principle antagonist in the clip appears to be one James Goddard. You can witness more of his behaviour here:
Britain has become so normalised to extreme-right rhetoric that Brextremists like this can scream threats and threaten war and nothing is done about it.pic.twitter.com/9gelu2Cv7m
— Another Angry Voice (@Angry_Voice) January 7, 2019
It seems astonishing that this man retained his liberty after the behaviour in the clip tweeted by Another Angry Voice. If you’ve seen any of the many reality documentaries showing the police on duty, you’ll know that they usually issue a stern warning to members of the public who start exhibiting loud and threatening behaviour to desist, and arrest them if they don’t comply. The racist claim that the officer in the clip isn’t even British would be a chargeable offence, I believe.
There may be a reason he hasn’t been arrested, but it isn’t a very good one. We’ll come to it shortly.
(If I may interject a note of personal pride here, I seem to recall coining the term “Brextremist” on This Site. I am delighted to see that it has fallen into general usage.)
In a further tweet, Mr Jones added: “By the way, the things they’re yelling at me – traitor, terrorism supporter – are all legitimised by the right wing press and politicians. If anything happens to one of us on the left at the hands of these fascists, they will share the blame. Hope that’s clear.”
There’s just one issue with that comment, as Hazel Nolan makes clear:
Except something already has happened to one of us.
Her name was Jo Cox,
and she was politically assassinated by the far right- in the middle of a campaign with heightened rhetoric such as this.
Politicians screaming “Breaking point”, someone broke.
Words have consequences. https://t.co/plug84mkzB
— Hazel Nolan (@HazelJN) January 7, 2019
Have we become so normalised to right-wing rhetoric that this loathsome language, and the behaviour it encourages, is now deemed normal?
The experience of Anna Soubry would suggest otherwise.
The Remain-supporting Tory ventured outside the Palace of Westminster to give an interview on College Green, only to be interrupted by chants of “Soubry is a Nazi”:
— norman smith (@Thehackandhound) January 7, 2019
Afterwards, Twitter commentator Femi found her surrounded by the same people who had accosted Mr Jones:
After the thugs chanted Nazi at Anna Soubry while she was on BBC, I went to check on her. But she had company… pic.twitter.com/II7nIdqMoF
— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) January 7, 2019
Note the way they mistook him for Labour MP David Lammy. Was it because they are both of Afro-Caribbean descent?
Mr Goddard, it seems, followed up these incidents by crowing about them on the social media:
@metpoliceuk James Goddard is boasting on his Facebook page that he and his band of bullying thugs have today targeted @Anna_Soubry, journalist @OwenJones84 and campaigner @Femi_Sorry This harassment has to stop. pic.twitter.com/scPheVg8PQ
— Antonia Frances 🕷 🇪🇺🇬🇧 (@antoniafrances) January 7, 2019
The displays against Ms Soubry and Mr Jones, attracted widespread denunciation from both members of the public and the political classes.
Aislinn M-D, a doctor, tweeted: “Now im no fan of Soubry but the accusation of being a ‘Nazi’ seems to be one of the most flippantly overused and totally disconnected insult from reality. It disgracefully undermines what the Nazis actually did and makes those using it demonstrate total ignorance of history.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon stated, “This is appalling – as is footage today of Owen Jones facing a similar experience. We all have a duty to stand against this kind of behaviour. Robust debate is the hallmark of any democracy – but so too is decency, civility and respect for those holding different opinions.”
So why weren’t the perpetrators arrested?
Why aren't the Police arresting the far right thugs who were harassing Anna Soubry and Owen Jones, an MP was murdered by a far right loon ffs, i can only think the Police are acting on orders, the @Conservatives own this, they are responsible for the breakdown in our society.
— Loz Argyle ⚓ (@ArgyleLoz) January 7, 2019
“Citizen of Everywhere”, responding to a similar question from the Mail opinion hack Dan Hodges (with whom, for once, I found myself in agreement), suggested: “They’re trying to provoke an overreaction from the police so they can paint themselves as victims fighting the good fight against an oppressive regime. It’s usually better to mock them than arrest them, but I agree that changes when they cross the line into individual harassment.”
Nick Church also suggested: “The MPs who have legitimized this level of racism and xenophobia and allowed it to become mainstream should be utterly ashamed.”
Sadly, it seems Parliamentarians were only interested in protecting their own when the issue was raised as a point of order in the House of Commons.
Tory Nick Boles asked Speaker John Bercow, “Will you consult the Serjeant at Arms to see whether the Metropolitan police are doing everything they can to protect the public’s right to protest but also to ensure that Members are able to go about their business in total safety?”
Here’s the answer: “The House authorities are not technically responsible for the safety of Members off the estate—that is and remains a matter for the Metropolitan police—but naturally, I take this issue very seriously and so, I am sure, do the police, who have been made well aware of our concerns.
“Reflecting and reinforcing what the hon. Gentleman said about peaceful protest, let me say this. Peaceful protest is a vital democratic freedom, but so is the right of elected Members to go about their business without being threatened or abused, and that includes access to and from the media stands in Abingdon Green. I say no more than that I am concerned at this stage about what seems to be a pattern of protests targeted in particular—I do not say exclusively—at women. Female Members and, I am advised, in a number of cases, female journalists, have been subjected to aggressive protest and what many would regard as harassment.”
It took a further intervention from Labour MP Pat McFadden, asking Mr Bercow “to do everything possible to ensure that journalists and broadcasters can do their job and that Members of this House are free to speak their minds” before the Speaker included all members of the press, including Mr Jones, in his considerations.
Following on from this exchange, more than 50 MPs wrote to Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick, demanding stronger action to protect people who work in Westminster from aggressive far-right protesters.
The letter stated: “After months of peaceful and calm protests by groups representing a range of political views on Brexit, an ugly element of individuals with strong far right and extreme right connections – which your officers are well aware of – have increasingly engaged in intimidatory and potentially criminal acts targeting Members of Parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public.
“We understand there are ongoing investigations but there appears to be an ongoing lack of coordination in the response from the police and appropriate authorities including with Westminster borough policing – and despite clear assurances this would be dealt with following incidents before Christmas – there have been a number of further serious and well publicised incidents today.
“It is… utterly unacceptable for members of parliament, journalists, activists and members of the public to be subject to abuse, intimidation and threatening behaviour and indeed potentially serious offences while they go about their work.”
Would they have taken this step if only Mr Jones had been targeted? I have doubts about that.
He is a divisive figure, and often cannot count on other members of the media for support in matters such as this. Consider his clash with BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Tony Livesay. Mr Jones tweeted: “I went on
@bbc5live earlier and the presenter @tonylivesey said that by describing these fascists as “knuckle-dragging Tommy Robinson supporters” I was comparable to them. This is what we are dealing with in the British media.”
In return, Mr Jones stated: “There is no debate to be elevated with fascists screaming abuse. This is beyond a joke.”
It is. I had intended to present an example of the abuse tweeted to Mr Jones by someone using the handle “MidNightLion1”, threatening extreme violence. It has been deleted, but it read: “You will get smashed one day Owen. Someone will beat the life out of you and it will be brilliant to see.”
Mr Jones responded: “Whatever happens to me, we crushed fascism before and we’ll crush fascism all over again.”
“Whatever happens to me”? Nobody should have to contemplate the possibility of serious harm coming to them, simply for expressing opinions – which, in contrast with those of the so-called yellow vest protesters, do not threaten harm to anybody.
As Grace Petrie tweeted: “It is gravely strange that not three years ago an MP was murdered in an act of far-right terrorism and it had no meaningful effect on this country’s discourse.”
That MP was Jo Cox. Her widower Brendan added: “The problem isn’t (just) extremists like this but mainstream commentators who spur them on with talk of traitors, enemies & betrayal. We should be able to debate difficult issues without making out the other side is evil.”
I hope I am not overstepping the mark if I include politicians among the “mainstream commentators who spur them on”, because, as “Red ’til I’m Dead” points out…
This Tory government has done everything possible to stir the pot of racial hatred and division. And now when the racist thugs are at their door screaming at them, they cry foul.
Own. Your. Shit.
These are your people.
— Red 'til I'm Dead (@suziegeewizz) January 7, 2019
Yet when they start threatening people, the Establishment ranks rally around the Tory MP, while the lefty journalist is left to contemplate the possibility of serious physical harm.
Does that seem acceptable to you?
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