Is it a sign of the times that I greeted the following quote with an awkward grimace rather than the risible smile it deserved? Former Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, on his death bed observed of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet in 1986 that “it was too little Old Etonian and a little too old Estonian“.
He was, of course, referring to the ethnic and racial makeup of her cabinet. For that cabinet was approximately one third of Jewish extract. For me there are two things that make the quote and observation remarkable. One, that Jews were so prevalent in the cabinet is extraordinary and two that such a comment could have passed without so much as bat of a defamatory eyelid. British politics has always been peppered with more than its fair share of Jews and British politics has been plastered with more than its fair share of anti-Semitic tropes, so what. I would surmise the following, no one was bothered and no one took offence.
So what is offensive? Well over the last couple of weeks (since the events of Paris) I’ve been trying to hold a dialogue with one of our British politicians. He is familiar to some of us for being, well let’s just say, “Not onside with Zionism”. David Ward is the MP for Bradford East. After the events of Paris, David shared his feelings on his social media using a cyber barometer, a hashtag. He hoped to trend with #JeSuisPalestinian following in the footsteps of other successful hashtags such as Charlie and Juif. But what, I wondered did this tag mean and where did it rate on the offence barometer? Now David is normally a very responsive sort of politician, but on this one he wasn’t willing to furnish me with a response despite several attempts. Even Daniel Taub seems unable to break his silence on the matter. This was my latest pitch to David. I was hoping to catch him in a good mood after his local football team’s historic victory over the Premiership giants of Chelsea in the FA Cup. But I also wanted to highlight just what British politicians can be like these days…
I imagine you are still recovering from the city’s remarkable FA Cup exploits. As a football fan (not Chelsea) I share in your joy! I think today maybe we are all #JeSuisBradfordCity.
But before we get to carried away, any explanation of another hashtag? I was hoping to hear from you by now regarding #JeSuisPalestinian reference to the Paris events (now becoming a more distant memory yet still painful). I have written to you 3 times previously regarding this. Previously when I’ve written to you on other matters, you have always responded promptly.
I have started to get a little paranoid as to why the silence. You might have gathered that I am not a Muslim. In fact, you may gather that I am Jewish. I am a member of our National Liberal Club in Whitehall as I have a political leaning towards Liberals (both with a big and little “l”).
My paranoia has been exasperated by reading that MPAC boasted about how it influenced the outcome of 2010 Bradford elections which you won.
The previous incumbent, Labour’s Terry Rooney (not Jewish, but pro-Israeli) lost by 365 votes in the 2010 general election after MPAC distributed thousands of leaflets calling him a Zionist Islamophobe and “warmonger” who could not represent Muslims. You appeared to be the beneficiary of this racial smear campaign, David.
And since then, you have fulfilled some of MPAC’s wildest expectations. In 2013, you were suspended from the Lib Dem parliamentary party after criticising “the Jews” for inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians and questioning Israel’s right to exist.
During the Gaza conflict last year you stated: “If I lived in Gaza, would I fire a rocket? Probably yes.”
Until January last year, you employed MPAC’s spokesman, Raza Nadim, as your constituency assistant.
Given all of this, would I really be making a wild leap of faith in assuming you might not dignify Jews with the same courtesies as others? You do seem to hold us responsible for some bad “stuff”?
David, I’m sure this would be easy to clarify if you would only answer my original question…… #JeSuisPalestinian? Porquois?
I hold out hope for a rational explanation and am sure you can dispel my paranoia.
I’m not holding my breath!
So with such established antisemitism heralded by certain communities and supporting politicians into power is it any wonder that the media trip over these narratives and journalists can’t always tell the right from the wrong.
Stand up Tim Willcox. Tim has caused quite a stir here in London and amongst those who watch with suspicion the behaviour of Auntie Beeb (the BBC’s fondly chosen moniker). Tim was on the march in Paris. He was there employed as one of the live reporters for the BBC. He thrust his trusty microphone in front of a couple of mourning Parisians (of potential Jewish extract) and proposed that the murdered Jews might have, in some way, deserved their fate due to the behaviour of Israel when dealing with its neighbours recently. His interviewees seemed speechless. He then followed up by trying to suggest there was justification for these murders. I expect there’s a good chance you’ve been following the whole messed up situation. Now many of us have complained and it appears that the BBC is taking the unusual step of expediting the complaint and dealing with all complaints in their totality. Well better late than never. But, here is the thing, if people hadn’t complained the BBC would have done nothing. A live reporter employed by the BBC at one of this decade’s most significant events is able to roll out an anti-Semitic narrative. That is quite remarkable. I can only imagine what Tim would have done if he was around at the time of Martin Luther King’s march to Selma?
Good luck Tim, I’m sure that British politics has a career waiting for you (strategist or PR, take your pick). Once the BBC finally work out what to do about racist opinions being delivered by their employees during live broadcasts, you’ll have the pick of the best Her Majesty’s Government has to offer.
And maybe, if Tim feels a strong leaning to the left he can join the Greens. Their leader, Natalie Bennett laid out the Green Party policy on membership of extremist organisations. She said it’s ok. If you want to join ISIS or al Quada you can. Natalie explained that people should be free to think what they want and to become members of organisations where similar values are held. So if you think beheading is good and slaughtering thousands of innocent children is just part of day to day life then it’s ok to go and join up with ISIS or other popular terrorist clubs. Well, it’s hard to know where to begin when our politicians are seriously espousing policies such as this. I could hardly wait to drop the leadership a line (and I’ll bet I wasn’t alone). I had two simple points:
1. Those that join terrorist organisations don’t normally stop there. The practice of getting involved is always encouraged. And getting involved usually involves murdering lots of innocent people for bad reasons.
2. If it’s ok to be a member of organisations that promote hate, I presume you’ll be supportive of those who wish to join organisations that promote hate and violence towards gay people, black people, Muslims, women, disabled people and so on. It’s ok to support and encourage terror and hate as long as they don’t “actually” do anything about it?
Are you sure this is a good idea?
PS. Before World War II lots of Germans joined a party. They didn’t have to do any terrorising themselves if they didn’t want to, just be supportive. It didn’t work out particularly well.
To finish on another MacMillan quote, “Events, dear boy, events” when asked what would be most likely to blow governments off course. However, Harold, it feels like “events” blowing chill winds through our society are currently knocking our moral compasses off course.