Our free and fearless press has managed to watch The Andy Marr Show™ today and has given a free pass to UKIP leader Adolf von Batten claiming that Carl Benjamin, who is standing as a candidate for the party in the upcoming European Parliament elections, tweeting “I wouldn’t rape you” at Labour MP Jess Phillips was “satire” (clue: it wasn’t), and to Batten restating his claim that Islam is a “death cult”.
Because what they are instead fixated on is Ms Phillips’ fellow back bencher David Lammy, who represents Tottenham. And the reason for their fixation is that Lammy has had the audacity to tell the world some uncomfortable home truths about the Tory Party and the less than savoury associations some of its MPs have with the far right.
Marr played Lammy the video of him addressing a recent rally on the subject of appeasement, then told him “By implication, you’re comparing the ERG to the Nazi Party … that was an unacceptable comparison”. Would he row back? Would he heck. “Andrew, I would say that that wasn’t strong enough. In 1938, there were allies who hatched a plan for Hitler to annex parts of Czechoslovakia, and Churchill said no”. There was more.
“We must not appease. We’re in a situation now - and let me be clear, I’m an ethnic minority - we have in the ERG, in Jacob Rees Mogg, someone who is happy to [put] on to his web pages the horrible racist AfD party, a party that’s Islamophobic and on the far right of the German system. They’re happy to use the phrase ‘Grand Wizard’ - KKK is what it evokes to me … and the Deep South. I’m sorry … but of course we should not appease”.
Marr came back with “Jacob Rees Mogg has been absolutely clear that he does not endorse the AfD, and the ‘Grand Wizards’ stuff, we don’t know where that came from. It’s a dangerous thing, surely, to accuse him of being close to Nazi ideology”.
But Lammy was having none of it. “We do know that Boris Johnson is with Steve Bannon, who is a white supremacist. We do know that there are links between Viktor Orbán, Salvini and others … I’m not backing off on this. Never will I back off on this. On behalf of my constituents - and the BBC should not allow this extreme hard right fascism to flourish”.
Er, OUCH. “These are elected Conservative MPs” protested Marr. Lammy was not diverted. “I don’t care how elected they were. So was the far right in Germany. They are often elected, often giving a cover for the thugs on the ground, and I’m afraid when people are experiencing rising hate and extremism in this country, we must not concede ground, we must fight it and call it out for what it is”. Quite.
Lammy could also have mentioned Rees Mogg’s appearance before that gathering of the Traditional Britain Group, the rump of the Tory Monday Club which is now the domain of phoney snob Gregory “Lauder” Frost. More far-right association. Also, the Marr Show proved his point about promoting the far right by hosting Adolf von Batten.
So far, so unyielding, but it was the press response that was truly instructive. The Guardian has been its usual moderate self, telling “David Lammy says comparing ERG to Nazis 'not strong enough’ … Labour MP defends comments likening group to Nazi party and white supremacists”. Their report also contains a telling coda.
“He said he was deeply concerned about the future of the country if … Rees-Mogg and Johnson took control of the Conservative party. ‘What kind of country are we going to be like if these people are running it?’ he said … Asked if he was saying that Rees-Mogg and Johnson were the modern-day equivalent of Nazis, Lammy said: ‘Ask Boris Johnson why he’s hanging out with Steve Bannon.’” But Bozza is rarely challenged on that.
Meanwhile, the real press backlash has come from the Mail website, with “Fury as Labour second referendum campaigner David Lammy likens Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to NAZIS and says he 'doesn't care how elected they are' in rant to BBC”. This, remember, is the template that other right-wing media outlets will use tomorrow.
The Mail had enlisted Creepy Conor Burns, someone who might be best advised keeping his head down right now, to rebut Lammy. “Conservative MP Conor Burns said: 'I used to have regard for David Lammy. But this is batshit. Comparing ERG to Hitler is quite something. Fully lost it.’” He never had regard for David Lammy, who’s lost nothing.
Also, the Mail is not the only outlet putting the boot into Lammy. The increasingly alt-right Spectator’s Steerpike has sniffed “As tensions in Westminster continue to grow over Brexit, it’s become commonplace for politicians to use language that would have been unheard of in the past. Yet, even in these febrile times, the Labour politician David Lammy managed to go a step further earlier this month when he compared the ERG faction of the Tories to the Nazi party, during a speech at a People’s Vote rally”.
Followed by “But if anyone was hoping that the MP had toned down his language since his last intervention, they would have been disappointed by his remarkable appearance on Andrew Marr this morning. When Marr showed the Labour politician a clip of his recent speech, and asked if this was acceptable language to use, Lammy doubled down”.
Basically, those backing Rees Mogg and Bozza are already suggesting that This Ghastly Bleck Chep shouldn’t have any attention paid to him. Next up will be the Mail getting Amanda Platell to ask Lammy “is it asking too much that he show a scintilla of gratitude to the country that offered … him so much”? OK, she said that about Stormzy, but that’s the kind of low-level suck-it-up-non-white-people racism the press likes to dole out.
David Lammy was right: the Tory right is cosying up to the far right and everyone should be concerned. This kind of link has to be called out, whether it’s Rees Mogg with the AfD and TBG, Bozza with Bannon, either of them with Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, or any part of the media giving the far right cover under the pretence that it’s just FREEZE PEACH.
If appeasement was wrong in 1938, it’s definitely wrong now. No ifs, no buts.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at