The racism of some Tories is usually not very far from the surface, scratch them and out it pops. Anne Morris MP has apologised for her “woodpile” comment but the real issue is why she said it in the first place. It’s not as if she is the only one, eight other Tories have been recorded using the phrase in public.
In twenty years of working in diversity and cultural inclusion, I have found that racist comments tend to come out because they are a reflection of what people really think. Usually people have the time and sense to censor themselves when speaking in public but sooner or later a person’s real thoughts are expressed.
It’s interesting that her constituency party president is now arguing that she “hasn’t got a racist thought in her head”. Grammatically speaking that is correct – she doesn’t have a racist thought in her head; she has lots of them. She’ll be telling us that many of her best friends are black next.
This was almost certainly something she had said many times in private but that she knew she should not repeat in a public setting. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has apologised for a number of racist comments he has made. Some that spring to mind are referring to black children as picanninies with watermelon smiles and claiming that black people have lower IQs than white people.
Much of this was brought up when he stood for Mayor of London and I have to admit to being surprised that he was elected in such a multicultural city despite his obvious racism.
But it’s the “dog whistle” racism that is often worse than the common or garden variety because it’s harder to spot. Johnson’s “part Kenyan” remark about Barack Obama is a classic example, but arguably worse is Zac Goldsmith’s attacks on Sadiq Khan during the London Mayoral Race. He now has a majority of only 45 let’s hope the voters of Richmond remember this at the next general election.
This entitled racism goes hand in hand with other ‘isms’ classism and misogyny. Britain has been ruled by an elite who believe themselves by virtue of birth and education, born to rule. Boris Johnson, David Cameron and George Osborne are all Eton educated and at Oxford were members of the Bullingdon Dining Club, whose initiation rites are rumoured to be a willingness to tear up a £50 note in front of a homeless person (as well as unmentionable acts with a pig). The only reason someone could be asked to do such a thing is to demonstrate their utter contempt for the poor (and pigs).
I was a student at Oxford in the 80s ironically at the same college that David Cameron attended and I can attest to the perceived superiority and casual racism of many of the public schoolboys I encountered. A student popped his head round the door of the college law library, when they when he saw that the library was empty except for me he said, “Where is everyone, I thought they’d all be working like Blacks this close to finals?”
The original title of Agatha Christie’s book “And then there were none” was actually “Ten Little N*****s” One of my fellow law students chose to direct a dramatisation of the play using the original name, despite objections from people who pointed out that this was racist. That person is now a QC.
There is a long history of Tories using racism as a political tool. Enoch Powell and his Rivers of blood speech started the modern trend. They like to claim it’s about immigration not race but the use of the oxymoron “second generation immigrant” to refer to black people who were born here gives the game away.
Margaret Thatcher referred to migrants “swamping” Britain in her 1979 election campaign. Micheal Howard ran the most openly racist political campaign in modern history in 2005 with his “Are you thinking what we’re thinking” billboards.
Theresa May gave a speech so anti-migration at the 2015 Tory Party conference that even Tories were ashamed of it. And that’s before we get to the “Go Home” billboards that she sent around the streets in minority ethnic areas of London in 2013, in my humble opinion this arguably constitutes incitement to racial hatred.
The viscount who offered a bounty to anyone who would kill EU campaigner Gina Miller has been found guilty of sending menacing messages. His actions have also been ruled racially aggravated. He has been told that he may be given a custodial sentence. I don’t know if he is a Tory but I doubt if he’s ever voted Labour.
I sincerely hope he is sent to jail. His comments were not ‘banter’ they were an incitement to kill. They form a continuum with the actions of the neo-nazi terrorist who murdered MP Jo Cox. Gina Miller has had to hire security to protect herself as a result of his actions.
He was not just arguing that black people are less worthy. He was advocating that an ‘uppity’ black woman who dares to challenge the government’s wrongdoing deserves to be killed.
Like the attacks on Diane Abbott, they are fine with her as long as she doesn’t get ideas above her station, and that station is ideally their underpaid cleaner. Once we speak up then the knives come out and the right wing media snigger “she asked for it”.
The Torygraph published an article entitled, It’s not racist to point out that Diane Abbott is a bungling disappointment . The irony that they don’t hold white male politicians to the same standards as those imposed on Diane is apparently lost on them. I searched in vain for articles about Boris Johnson’s car crash interviews described in a similar manner. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Gina Miller were white and male the death threats would not have been forthcoming.
Jo Cox was murdered by a neo-nazi who objected to her Remain position on the EU. Gina Miller could easily have been killed as a result of the vicious Viscount’s comments in relation to her successful action to force a vote in Parliament on the issue. She was simply supporting democracy and the primacy of Parliament. The casual racism of Tory politicians helps create a society in which the Viscount thinks he can get away with what he said.
This is why he should be sent to jail, these were not just words this was a death sentence waiting to be carried out. An no; we were are thinking what he was thinking.
Marcia Hutchinson MBE is a former lawyer and publisher of culturally diverse educational resources.