When questioned by the host last Sunday on The Andy Marr Show (tm), Michael “Oiky” Gove was unequivocal in his disdain for the poster unveiled the previous Thursday by UKIP leader Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, suggesting that lots of Scary Brown Muslim refugees were all coming to Britain. That poster, Gove asserted, had made him shudder. Vote Leave, the mainstream Out campaign, was clearly above such behaviour.
Arabella Arkwright's now deleted Twitter avatar
But sadly this was not entirely true, as we discovered yesterday when Vote Leave board member Arabella Arkwright resigned after she was caught by the Guardian Retweeting some highly dubious content (her Twitter account has since been deleted). The material included “an image of a white girl in the middle of a group of people wearing burqas saying: ‘Britain 2050: why didn’t you stop them Grandad?’”
It got worse. “Other retweets included a link from Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League, suggesting UK Muslims were trying to build an Islamic state in Britain … Another retweet came in response to a Twitter user saying they would never eat tikka masala again if it ‘got seventh-century barbaric savagery’ out of Britain. A reply from Arkwright’s account said: ‘No to sharia law. By by [sic] tikka masala’”.
And it got worse still. “A further retweeted picture has a ‘Stop Islam’ badge in the corner and asks people to compare photographs of Yazidi women and Syrian men fleeing Isis”. Not surprisingly, the Remain camp was not impressed: “Labour MP Emma Reynolds said some of the material was racist and the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, called on Vote Leave to take action to stop stoking divisions”. Ms Arkwright was swift to excuse herself.
“I am absolutely appalled that there should be any underlying suggestion that I have any racist tendencies” she claimed, before going all defensive: “I would like to make it absolutely clear that my RTs and forwarding do not mean that I endorse in any way the content of them. I RT a wide variety of different views on issues related to the referendum with which I do not agree in order that others can see the breadth of opinion on these matters. Is there anything wrong in that?”
You didn’t get that? “You will note that my RTs are seldom accompanied by comments from me except Syrian Christians, who it was being widely reported at the time were being tortured for their faith. I am not a political animal and maybe am guilty of being naive, but I reject all prejudice and am deeply sorry for any offence that may have been caused. Moreover, perhaps I can be clear, I ABHOR ANY FORM OF RACISM”.
You may not have read about this embarrassment for the Leave campaign. Why should that be? Well, apart from the Guardian, most of the press - including all of that which is backing the Leave campaign - has ignored the story. You can see an account of the news at Politics Home, and also at ITV News, but after that, there is nothing.
Not that they’re trying to hide the reality from their readers, of course. Perish the thought!