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.
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
I have lived in the same street for 30 years and in that time it has gone from 90% uk residents to 90% residents from other countries (mostly east european)and yes if I walk into my street and indeed the surrounding area the languages spoken are mostly foreign.
I have no idea what was in John Cleese's mind when he said what he said and it is difficult to ascertain whether he was being racist or not, similarly I have no idea what was going through Danny Baker's mind when he posted the gif with the monkey (I have listened to Danny for at least 20 years and seen no sign of racist behaviour), but what I do know is that if we continue to call people racist at every opportunity, when the evidence is flimsy to poor, it will entrench views on either side and no actual progress in fighting the real racists.
We should be aware that people have genuine concerns when the landscape they live in changes so quickly and they feel alienated in their own communities, voicing those fears is not necessarily racist, just fearful of change.
My opinion of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn is that the constant unsubstantionated claims of anti-semitism has done more to promote anti-semitism than people like Steve Bannon ever will.
The neo liberal left is damaging the cause of anti-racism by consistantly picking low hanging fruit like Baker and Cleese and making racism a political tool rather than a cause.
I dont know whether John Cleese or Danny Baker was being racist, and more to the point neither do the people who are writing about it in such definate terms, and every time you make accusations on shaky grounds you give ammunition and credance to the real racists in our society and make your opinions look less.
Remember if something can be percieved as a lie it can be used against you, and once people believe that your opinions are not based on solid evidence, then they cease to listen to you and assume that every utterance is similarly tainted.
I am a passionate anti-racist, but when I read orgies of condemnation for of the cuff remarks or ill thought out tweets, I wonder how genuine the condemnation is and how much of it is virtue signalling for political gain.
If we want to fight racism, lets go after the dangerous racists instead of attacking people who have no influence on our real world problems, if Danny Baker or John Cleese goes on a racist rant that makes your ears bleed and your sensibilities toes curl up, it matters in real terms only to the people in the same room and the sooner we learn this fact the better. lets attack the people who have real world influence instead of trying to interprate statements to suit ourselves
What John Cleese said WAS racist!
What Danny Baker posted WAS racist!
When I hear languages other than English spoken, I love the diversity shown and that many people have the desire to live in the UK making it a diverse multicultural country!
By NOT calling out racism when it DOES occur, allows racists to continue to spew their rancid opinions and anti-racists WILL continue to call them out EVERYTIME it happens, including the likes of John Cleese and Danny Baker!
"Head Spiked honcho Brendan O’Neill..."
Don't start a piece like that! You got my hopes up for a minute that Batty Bren had finally got his just deserts.
Thanks, John Smith.
Said with real sincerity and the sense that there's a human being with original thoughts behind the words rather than the usual knee-jerk spouting of clichéd indignation of which the shrieking rant from 'Joseph' is a classic example.
Brightbart O'Neill is moving ever more rightwards. How far will he go before his Spiked mates realise what he's really about? Perhaps he's having a laugh at their expense, coming out with this stuff and then gleefully watching them squirm trying to justify him. Will he draw upon Mein Kampf? They'd still make their tortuous excuses if he did.
With O'Neill being a good old Irish name, he should remember that the signs on the windows used to say 'No Irish' as well as 'No Blacks'; his lovely old dear would have been complaining about 'The Micks' had an Irish family turned up down her street.
Post a Comment