Head Spiked honcho Brendan O’Neill has been getting ever closer to flat-out racism for so long that the moment of tipping over was inevitable. Also inevitable was that he would pen another of his sneering I-know-more-about-this-than-all-the-Libs-who-get-triggered-by-my-oh-so-clever-writings posts on the kerfuffle surrounding John Cleese’s unfortunate comments about London recently. The result is perhaps O’Neill’s biggest turkey yet.
The problem for Bren is that he has introduced his rant about London being some kind of foreign city with a premise straight out of Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, after the headline, “A city without citizens. John Cleese has a point about London”.
Here it comes: “I know someone, now in the twilight of her life, who has lived on the same London street for the past 45 years. Many of her local friends have died or moved away. Where the street once buzzed with English, spoken in a variety of accents, now you can go through an entire day without hearing English. From her small terraced house, she hears Pashto over one garden fence, Romanian over the other.” There is more.
“In the nearby row of shops, the English-speaking Indian-owned mini-supermarkets have given way to Polish shops outside which young men gather every evening, speaking Polish … the most common shops now are African barbers and Eastern European markets with grand names like ‘International Food Emporium’. The people inside rarely speak English”. And then comes the pièce de résistance.
“This person says she often feels lonely and isolated, like a foreigner on her own street. Does that make her racist? In the eyes of the chattering-class defenders of the cult of diversity who raged against John Cleese last week, it probably does”. Ring any bells yet? Here is the part of Powell’s speech that O’Neill has recycled.
“Eight years ago in a respectable street in Wolverhampton a house was sold to a Negro. Now only one white (a woman old-age pensioner) lives there. This is her story. She lost her husband and both her sons in the war. So she turned her seven-roomed house, her only asset, into a boarding house. She worked hard and did well, paid off her mortgage and began to put something by for her old age. Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she saw one house after another taken over. The quiet street became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out”.
“The day after the last one left, she was awakened at 7am by two Negroes who wanted to use her 'phone to contact their employer. When she refused, as she would have refused any stranger at such an hour, she was abused and feared she would have been attacked but for the chain on her door. Immigrant families have tried to rent rooms in her house, but she always refused”. Then Powell went totally OTT.
“She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letter box. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. ‘Racialist,’ they chant. When the new Race Relations Bill is passed, this woman is convinced she will go to prison. And is she so wrong? I begin to wonder”.
Sure, the flat-out 1960s racism has been laundered out of O’Neill’s post, but the use of the alleged long-term resident who sees herself as “a foreigner on her own street” is the same in both his work and that of Powell. It’s blatant recycling. I suspect O’Neill knows that, but didn’t think anyone would remember the passage from Powell’s infamous speech.
Well, I did remember it. And one more thing I remember about that pensioner in Wolverhampton: she didn’t exist. Several journalists from local and national titles tried to track her down. All drew a blank. Their conclusion was that Powell had made it all up.
So I hope Brendan O’Neill has a real-life source for his Rivers of Blood recycling. Because if he hasn’t, he’s in even more trouble. It’s called Spiked, because it should have been.
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