After last week’s farcical attempt to attract knuckle-scraping nationalists by having flags hanging behind them wherever they go, Labour’s leaders have found another way to distract from the fact that they have no policies distinct from the Tories.
Keir Starmer was instantly denounced as a “flag-shagger” after details of a Labour Party briefing urging representatives to wear suits and be seen with the Union Flag were leaked to the public.
I don’t know the origin of the phrase. I wonder whether it has something to do with politicians who have their wives standing behind them when they make a speech (Donald Trump comes to mind).
Now consider this:
(I know, it’s from The Times, which is not considered a bastion of the left-wing press.)
“Labour tells MPs to woo stars and influencers ahead of local elections” the headline proclaims.
And the picture caption adds: “Labour has previously won endorsements from music and film stars such as the actor Martin Freeman, the singer Dua Lipa and the rapper Stormzy.”
I don’t know what you think, but This Writer can’t see any of the three stars named there being particularly keen for Starmer to shag them – even if only figuratively.
Facebook has been a goldmine of comments on this. For instance: “I’m wondering which celebrities will come forward to endorse Keir Starmer. All the celebs who endorsed Jeremy Corbyn will understandably still feel a bit sore after the PLP turned cannibal on its own members. Robert Webb and Hal Cruttenden (who he?) tore up their membership cards.”
This is true, and it means that Labour would probably have to offer something to any “name” before getting their endorsement.
In other words (and this is from another Facebook comment): “‘We want you to whore out and whore out hard! You saw what Miliband did with Russell Brand? Yeah. That!'”
No political party should ever put itself in a position where it is comparable with a prostitute – selling itself for short-term gain.
Think about it. What message does that send out to the public?
It says Labour is available for hire and will do what it is told. It doesn’t stand for anything and certainly won’t represent the best interests of anybody but Keir Starmer and his cronies.
Tone-deaf Toryism strikes again: Theodora Dickinson didn’t think there was anything wrong with telling Labour MP Naz Shah to go “back to Pakistan”, even at a time when racism is at the top of the news agenda.
This Writer doubts that it ever entered her head that she could lose her party membership – even for the two weeks that seems to be the maximum punishment for Conservatives accused of racism.
I doubt it would have occurred to her that she would get into trouble for belittling a person from a minority ethnic group. That’s white privilege.
She had responded to a post showing the Bradford West MP discussing her experience of poverty, saying that if “Naz Shah hates this country so much why doesn’t she go back to Pakistan?!”
Ms Shah is not only MP for Bradford West; she was born in that city. She has been to Pakistan, but the circumstances are unlikely to have endeared that country to her.
Perhaps Ms Dickinson thought she could get away with a racist tweet against Ms Shah because the Labour MP had previously been forced to admit anti-Semitic intent behind tweets that she had sent in 2014 (before she became an MP)? Sauce for the goose?
It’s not good enough.
And all at a time when celebrities are opening up about the racism they have been forced to endure – bringing the unacceptability of Ms Dickinson’s behaviour into sharp focus.
We hear former X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke talking about entertainment industry demands for her to bleach her skin, not wear braided hair and tailor her music to a white audience. She also says she was told to “be quiet” during attacks on her in the press during Strictly.
Skin bleaching is seen as a way of making a black person more acceptable. Blackness is seen as indicative of poverty and powerlessness – of undesirability. As Akala wrote in his book Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, “That even black people can seriously internalise anti-black sentiment can be seen in the massive trend for skin bleaching across black communities… As long as whiteness is a metaphor for power, blackness must of course function as a metaphor for powerlessness, and as long as money whitens, poverty must blacken.”
News presenter Clive Myrie said racist abuse he receives is at its worst now than at any time since he started his career in 1988. He toldThe Guardian: “What bothers me is the general sense that we live in a country where some people think racism is either imagined, or in people’s minds, and I think that is a notion that has to be fought.
“We’ve had God knows how many reports over the last 40 years detailing systemic racism and systemic lack of diversity across a range of institutions across British society, but nothing seems to get done,” he said.
“Without dealing in opinion, we’ve had numerous reports and we’ve had little action done on the recommendations. One wonders what is the point of reports if the recommendations are not going to be acted on.”
“You can’t just stop people on the street because they’re black, and that is what’s happening,” he said.
How about the “terrifying” racist abuse against Ian Wright – Wrighty – on social media? He shared some of it:
These aren't isolated incidents!!! It's daily!! This is what I received for posting and talking about #BlackLivesMatter yesterday. The abuse started a week earlier, the taunting is terrifying. Coming back and back again. pic.twitter.com/2un0ZbqOlV
According to (again) The Guardian: “Wright has now called on others who had been racially abused on social media to speak up. ‘Let’s show these social media companies how bad this has got, it’s ridiculous!!! So easy for them!!’ he wrote.
“’If you or a black friend has had online racist abuse then please post a tweet with the hashtags #NoConsequences and #BlackLivesMatter.'”
When the actor David Harewood saw a link to the article, he questioned whether he should talk about his own experiences. I doubt I’m the only person who encouraged him to do so:
Talk about it in public, David. Make people aware of what it is, what it does and what it means. @guardian
The message is right, too – we all need to do better. The problem is systemic, as Clive Myrie said – it is part of the society in which we live. It is long past time we all understood that and called for change, because it is holding us back.
Black people – and other ethnic minorities – are told they are of less value by incidents like police stopping and searching them because of their skin colour, or teachers marking them down and otherwise sabotaging their education, or employers finding reason not to take them on. Society pushes many of them towards crime – and then uses this to justify the way it treats them. Even those who achieve success suffer appalling abuse every day of their lives. Consider the examples above. Think of Diane Abbott, who still receives more than half of all racial abuse directed at BAME MPs.
Harming people in this way harms society. It diverts resources into both harming and punishing them that could be used for better purposes – and that includes the resources that are put into the detection (or should I say the pretence of it?) of racist abusers? And it holds society back because, instead of nurturing talents these people may have that would benefit us all, the system is actively creating problems for itself.
That situation will not magically change by itself. We have an actively racist government – look at the Windrush scandal and Boris Johnson’s many racist outbursts. He is the prime minister.
The UK needs a mass movement for change – that helps everyone, rather than victimising a vulnerable few.
We won’t get it while we have rulers who are openly racist while pretending to punish members of their gang who get caught out.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Certain people seem to be forgetting that the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press was partly prompted by a newspaper’s interference in criminal investigations after a schoolgirl was murdered.
It is understood that reporters from the News of the World (I don’t know how many of them did it) hacked into Millie Dowler’s mobile phone, listened to voice messages left on it, and then deleted them, allowing new messages to be left and illicitly monitored, and leading her parents to believe that the teenager, who had been killed by Levi Bellfield, was still alive. This act also hindered the police investigation into what had happened.
Rebekah Brooks, a close friend of Conservative MP David Cameron – who later became leader of the Tories, and Prime Minister in 2010 – was editor of that newspaper at the time. The New York Times alleged that, if the allegations were true, then it was possible Mrs Brooks knew about the hacking and allowed it.
I am a newspaper reporter – and was editor of The Brecon and Radnor Express for a while before running my own online news business for a few years. I know the scale of our respective operations was vastly different, but I can promise that I always knew how my reporters were getting their stories. If I didn’t know, I asked.
Mrs Brooks was followed as editor of the News of the World by one Andy Coulson, who went on to become Conservative Party Communications Director and then Director of Communications for the Prime Minister (when David Cameron assumed that role in 2010). He had taken up the Conservative Party position after resigning from the newspaper over the phone hacking affair. He had been subjected to allegations that he was aware his reporters were hacking into the telephones of private individuals, including celebrities.
The Andy Coulson/David Cameron (or AC/DC, as I propose to call it from now on) relationship is the important issue here.
The main question behind the Leveson Inquiry has always been this: Did David Cameron allow a criminal, who used illegal methods to monitor the activities of others, into the heart of the British government?
This would have been a colossal error of judgement – possibly an unforgivable one.
The editor of The Independent seems to have forgotten that this is what it’s all about. Responding to a letter from the Inquiry, Chris Blackhurst claimed that Lord Justice Leveson was “loading a gun” that he was preparing to fire at the newspaper industry.
He told the BBC it was “a point by point demolition of the industry”, describing it as a “diatribe” raising criticisms that did not bear any relation to practices at his “end of the market”.
This is a man who badly needs to get over himself. Serious questions have been raised about the behaviour of our national newspapers, and if the Inquiry has found that they are justified, then they need to be addressed.
He does not know the full extent of the Inquiry’s findings. The letter he received is a standard part of inquiry procedures and gives notice of possible criticism, offering those concerned a chance to respond before a conclusion is reached. They are one-sided because positive findings do not necessitate a warning.
And we should not gloss over the fact that Mr Blackhurst has broken the rules by making the complaint. The letter he received was confidential and those who receive such correspondence are obliged to keep them that way and not discuss them openly.
By whining about it, Mr Blackhurst has made Leveson’s point for him.
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