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Step away from the lectern and cook a baked potato

By Jo Phillips

By Jo Phillips

Does the UK government know what racism is? Jo, doesn't even think they know what a baked potato is?

Defending the government’s new definition of extremism on the airwaves Michael Gove said ‘we should choose our friends wisely.’ Well, hold on a sec Michael but what about choosing who your party accepts money from? You know, that Hester bloke who apparently said Diane Abbott made him want to ‘hate all black women’ and ‘she should be shot’. The same man who’s given around £10million to the Tory party and has trousered millions himself from government contracts running IT systems in healthcare.

I’ve been around the political block long enough to know that ministers and MPs are sent out to defend the indefensible, to fudge and deny – it’s part of the job. But when a senior government minister in the shape of Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride uttered the words: “I think the critical point here is I don’t think what he was saying was a gender-based or a race-based comment,” it’s hard to see how this government has a shred of credibility left.

What bit of ‘hate all black women’ isn’t gender or race based?

But it got worse as another minister, Kevin Hollinrake was wheeled out to vainly try and distinguish being a racist from just sounding like one. “I think the key thing now is, is Mr Hester himself a racist?” he told Sky News. “I don’t believe so from what I know, and I don’t know him.”

Who’s writing their scripts, Armando Ianucci?

But 24 hours after the donor had hit the fan, and apparently only after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said Mr Hester’s comments were indeed racist, squirming ministers didn’t have to try and find a new definition of racism. They’d just allowed themselves to sound and be utterly, incomprehensibly stupid. Remember these people when they pop up as directors of companies and organisations in their post political careers.

This is the same party, and government that couldn’t say that its former vice chairman Lee Anderson’s comments suggesting that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was being run by Islamists were racist. The same party and government that wants to bring in a new definition of extremism. Given that it refuses to or is unable to recognise racism, misogyny or a direct threat it’s hard to see how they could ever manage to define extremism in a way that would be legally and socially acceptable.

When Rishi Sunak leapt to the lectern outside Downing Street on a Friday evening a couple of weeks ago, I and probably many others might have hoped he was going to call an election. But no, it was the equivalent of the deputy head telling everyone to be nice, tolerant and kind to each other.

Meanwhile in the real world of real head teachers, Jason Ashley, head of Redbridge Community School in Southampton has apologised to parents for poor quality school dinners served to pupils, criticising the catering company Chartwells who hold the school’s catering contract over which the school has no control or escape route. Mr Ashley posted a series of photos of school meals and said that Chartwells do seem to be unable to ‘bake a potato’ correctly.’

Maybe Chartwells could get Mel Stride to defend the meals but given that he and his colleagues can’t recognise downright racism I doubt they’d have more luck with a baked potato. Come to think of it, a baked potato might do a better job on the airwaves defending the government.

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