Our free and fearless press has spoken with one voice this morning, to send Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn their warning that the seven MPs who walked out on the party yesterday were only the start, and that he was the one who had to change. Even the right-leaning papers, with their love of peddling low-level racism, were kicking Jezza over alleged anti-Semitism. And, as so often, this was a routine display of double standards.
Angela Smith in mid-misspeak
Any claim that Labour was institutionally racist, and the seven who left were not, was shown to be utterly false after Angela Smith, who represents Penistone and Stocksbridge (on the North-West fringe of Sheffield), appeared on BBC Politics Live, and suffered what she would like us to consider an example of “mis-speaking”.
This is what she said. “It’s not just about colour … the history of a party of the left suggests it’s not just about being black, or … a funny tinge … er, y’know, from the BME community”. It was left to Ash Sarkar of Novara Media to fire back “A funny what?” Ms Sarkar’s expression prompted her later Tweet “Needless to say, I absolutely suck at poker”.
Ms Smith was not instantly taken aback by the kind of jaw-dropping moment that would have had the press down on the Labour Party like the proverbial tonne of bricks, had she still been a member of it. But after due consideration, and the sure and certain knowledge that she wasn’t going to get away with it, she got the message.
“I have seen the clip from Politics Live, I am very sorry about any offence caused and I am very upset that I misspoke so badly … It’s not what I am, I am committed to fighting racism wherever I find it in our society”. Not what she is? Did a big boy do it and run away?
Jane Merrick, not exactly a Corbyn cheerleader, was unimpressed. “Really shocking to hear the Angela Smith ‘funny tinge’ comments - how does that phrase even cross your mind when referring to racism? But those involved in the Independent Group should denounce what she’s said” Well, if they did, nobody noticed.
And, as Labour MP Rupa Huq observed, “They claim their new party is anti-racist and modern yet in the same breath describe black, Asian and minority ethnic people as having a ‘funny tinge’. This is, at best, the casual racism of the 1970s that I thought we’d long left behind. But it will strike many as an appalling, racist comment”.
So what did the press, Guardian and Independent excepted, have to say about the alleged mis-speak? As if you need to ask. This morning, the Mail has become extremely righteous about Jezza visiting his allotment. The increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph proudly pictured the Independent Group - including Ms Smith - in its front page lead. The Sun, Express, Times and i Paper choose to warn of more Labour MPs potentially leaving.
But no headlines denouncing Angela Smith’s casual racism, or indeed the silence from the Independent Group. The polar opposite from what they would have done if Ms Smith had dropped that one while still a Labour MP. And that’s most revealing.
It tells you all you need to know about the press’ attitude to racism. It’s only A Bad Thing when they say it is. Otherwise they turn a blind eye. And that’s not good enough.
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