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Both parties agonise over racism

By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

As the row over racism rages, Jim feels both parties are often guilty of putting pragmatism ahead of principle.

The Conservative Party have set a good example with a very diverse Cabinet, well balanced in terms of gender and race. Labour has (except under Corbyn) been heavily identified with campaigns against discrimination, through initiatives like women-only shortlists.

Sir Keir Starmer was happy to associate himself with the Prime Minister’s statement on the steps of No 10 raising the alarm at the rise of antisemitism, islamophobia and the general nastiness permeating our public discourse.

And yet when it comes to cases involving their own supporters and candidates, there are only signs of self-interest with party spokespeople insulting our intelligence by trying to dance on the head of multiple pins. I heard a Tory representative (who was black as it happens) trying to say that someone could use the n word and not be racist!

First, we had Labour’s agony over Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali. He said Israel had let Hamas commit their October atrocities to give them an excuse to invade Gaza. For 48 hours his retraction was enough to keep him in place against charges of antisemitism until “fresh evidence was produced”.

It took a comparable amount of time for the Prime Minister to describe as racist the following alleged comments from his top donor Frank Hester. Referring to Diane Abbott, he said she made him “want to hate all black women, she should be shot”. All day on Tuesday we had ministers equivocating including this gem from climate minister, Graham Stuart. He said Hester was a vocal backer of a Hindu Prime Minister and “he’s our biggest donor so I don’t think he is a racist.” As if donating to the Tories somehow clears him of racism.

For transparency, Abbot had the Labour whip removed for saying Jews did not experience racism in the same way as black people do.

These examples show that the first instincts of our two main parties is to protect the candidate or the money if they can and hope the media storm will pass. It rarely does. I am not in favour of instant judgement when anyone shouts racist, but with blatant examples like this, delay gives the impression that self-interest is put ahead of all the fine words on opposing discrimination.


In case some readers may feel the above shows I am only concerned with a woke liberal obsession about racist language, let me say that I think the defection of Lee Anderson to the Reform Party could be significant.

The fact is that there is a widespread view amongst working class people that immigration is too high, and they are not represented by politicians who are going to do anything about it. For 25 years they have been sending out the signals of their frustration. Initially there was some support for the British National Party, then UKIP and Brexit, now the Reform Party.

Both here and in America the perception that we don’t control our borders is a serious issue that is likely to see Donald Trump re-elected in the USA and Reform growing in support here.

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