From here to nonentity

In every hyperventilated political ‘scandal’ there is, inevitably, backbench MP on the make and desperate to get his name in the paper, and the Tory MP for Monmouth, David Davies, has to be one of the more desperate examples of a political nonentity you’re likely to find anywhere at the moment.

Here, this is him – take a good look…

daviddavies.jpg

And before anyone get’s the idea that I’ve been playing with Photoshop (again) he’s apparently sitting on a balcony at an election count in that photo, and not in the dock – just so no one (i.e. PragueTory) gets any more dumb ideas and starts emailing the press to claim that this nasty wickle blogger’s trying to make a fine upstanding Tory MP look like a criminal. Just thought I’d mention that, to be on the safe side, you know – never underestimate the political venality of some Tories and all that.

But back to David Davies, who’s the MP for Monmouth in Wales and (apparently) the party’s deputy leader in Wales – which sounds impressive until you look at how many seats the Tory’s have actually got in Wales and realise that all this means is that he came second in a three horse race.

It can’t be easy for young David to make his mark in Westminster – not only is he one of the intake elected in 2005 but he has the desperate misfortune of having a name only an ‘e’ removed from the far more illustrious and well known David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary (and the ‘e’ is not a drug reference, either – fuck me you have to be soooo careful these days), so if he does manage to pop up from behind the media parapet from time to time and get his name mentioned in the press the most people will think they’re talking about the other David Davis.

“David Davies said what? You mean the David Davis, the guy that ran for the Tory leadership? Oh. There are two of them… MP for Monmouth, you say… who’s he?”

He does, however, ask a lot of Parliamentary questions, 412 thus far in his parliamentary career at £134 a pop – so that’s £55,000 worth of worth of questions in a little over 18 months including a most illuminating series in which managed to ask every single government department in turn (individual questions every time) about their total expenditure of taxi fares in the last five years…

…look, can we stop there for a second.

Why the fuck can’t this kind of banal information just be put automatically on an internal website for MPs (at a considerably reduced cost) without all the time, trouble and expense of a question in the House. Surely, most of this stuff is so routine that its been asked loads of time before, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to predict what this years of crop of banalities and likely to ask in advance and have the information ready in advance.

Oh, and if David’s so desperate to find a cheap Taxi firm, why not just ring Yellow fucking Pages at 40p a minute?

But that’s by the by, because his sole significance here is that he’s the Tory rent-a-gob making noises about reporting Bob Piper to the Commission for Racial Equality for reposting an image on his blog that was first posted here and judging from the information on his parliamentary career to date (provided, as ever, by They Work For You) that’s more excitement than he’s had in the last 18 months.

Mind you, I don’t suppose it helps his public profile that thanks to the bizarre nature of some Parliamentary conventions, he contrived to make his maiden speech in the Commons (which must be on a non-political topic) in the middle of a Foreign Affairs and Defence debate, rising to speak on the history of Monmouth since the Middle Ages right in between discussions of extraordinary rendition and international development. I guess parliament just has this way of making newbies look like total idiots.

That’s the thing about the media – no overheated non-story is complete without its Sir tufton Bufton to huff and puff in the background about how terrible it all is and how something must/will be done – blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. All about as real as everything else over the last few days. Just another dickhead jumping on the bandwagon in the hope of getting his fifteen minutes of fame… because Andy pwomised.

What a load of bollocks!

By far the most ridiculous element in this whole furore has been the faux outrage this has supposedly cause in Tory ranks.

David ‘Who’s he? No not that one.’ can’t even report the right guy to the CRE.

The Daily Mail have made claims that Bob (and I guess me as well) was taking a shot at the Tory’s efforts to be more inclusive of ethnic minorities, an allegation that never once came up in debate – at least until we a dumb fucker turned up to parrot it at me, having read the Mail’s half-arsed interpretation of events – not even from the Tory bloggers who swarmed all over Bob’s blog – I guess that just shows why PragueTory et al are just bloggers and not tabloid journalists. No imagination.

That’s really sad, when you think about it. Not having sufficient imagination to work for a tabloid.

By far the most ridiculous arguments, however, are those that are trying to conflate this ‘incident’ with Ellenor Bland’s recent faux pas, in which she was caught out emailing ‘The Illegal Immigrant’s Poem’ from her own mailbox and the stock claim that ‘A Tory would never have got away with this’, which sadly has cropped up amongst a few Labour bloggers as well and, perhaps, says rather more about them than it does about either Bob or myself.

These two things seem to run together, as the general allegation seems to be that Labour and the Lib-Dems don’t ‘play fair’ with the Tories on race issues and are far too quick to (hypocritically) play the ‘racism card’ and swarm all over Tories who might inadvertantly drop a bit of bollock, like dear Ellenor.

That may well be true – in general terms – but is that really a valid excuse?

Does joining a political party really mean that one loses all trace of individual identity (no Blair jokes, please – I’ve heard them all before, trust me) and all capacity to think for themselves (and yes, I will grant you Hazel Blears on that one) or should we not still be trying to treat people as individuals?

You see, again we’re back to stereotypes again. Over the last few days its been Labour-this, Labour-that, Labour-the-other – for the last few days, Bob, and to a lesser extent myself, became nothing more than generic and entirely stereotypical Labour supporters, and in some cases even ‘New Labour supporters’ (come on guys, leave off the fucking insults) even though I doubt that anyone who actually reads either of our blogs could consider us to be representative of some sort of generic Labour supporter of the kind that does routinely chuck in the racism card at the drop of a hat. I’m not going to say that there aren’t the odd one or two Labour bloogers out there to whom such a charge could be fairly and reasonably levelled, but no one stopped to ask, ‘well, are either of these two bloggers really a part of all that blind political tribalism?’

Bob, you’ll have to judge for yourself – I don’t think he is – but as for me, well ask yourself this, just how ‘tribal’ is someone who habitually refers to the current Labour Home Secretary as Dr Demento (whoops, there I go again) and has recently decribed the Party Chairman as both a ‘demented ginger weeble’ and, after a particularly awful appearance on Question Time, as having wobbled around in her seat like a meerkat doing an impression of Stevie Wonder.

Would a Tory blogger have ‘got away’ with posting a picture of Tony Blair in Blackface? Probably not – there are as many ‘tribalists’ as our side of the political fence as there are on theirs. But then that’s not really the question that should be asked – that question is ‘is there any to suggest that this guy might join in with that kind of thing?’.

In my case the answer’s no – as mnay of those who’ve kindly posted supportive messages in the last few days know all to well.

How I’d respond to an image like that all depend on context – on what the image is trying to say. Is it making a political statement, offering up a bit of social commentary, talking about race relations in an intelligent way. And most importantly, who is talking about and why.

Let’s not be mistaken, if a Tory, or anyone else for that matter, did produce a ‘blacked-up’ image of Tony Blair (or anyone else) as a means of denigrating Black people or deriding Black culture, then not only is such an image racist but you’ll find me up at the head of the queue to lay into the wanker responsible.

If, however, its just a pisstake of Blair or a play on racially loaded imagery to make a valid point, then no, I’m not going to lay into someone for that. In fact my inclination would be applaud their bravery to taking on a taboo in an intelligent manner and defend them and their actions – even against members of my own party.

You see I have this unfortunate habit of thinking for myself – try it some time, you might just get to enjoy it.

Do Tories get handled with unnecessary roughness if and when they make a bit of faux pas around race?

Some probably do, but then any sympathy I might have in such circumstances tends to be mitigated by the fact that their rather iffy reputation is largely a rod they’ve made for their own back.

The area in which I live, oddly enough, is famous (or notiorious, depending on you point of view) for having played host to the most nakedly racist by-election campaign fought by a mainstream political party – the Tories – in the modern era. A campaign so racist that it prompted Malcolm X to the visit the town (this was not long before he was assassinated.

That was back in the 1960s, more than 40 years ago but still within living memory for some, and something that people round here still remember vividly. You see the Tory candidate at the time, Peter Griffiths, had a nice catchy campaign slogan which he put on his literature:

“If you want a Nigger for a Neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour’

– awww, how sweet, it even ryhmes.

Smethwick, the town in question, actually has a bit of a strange history in that respect – despite being the most ethnically-mixed area in Sandwell, it also ranks amongst its former MPs one Sir Oswald Moseley.

I guess that unless you’re local, or you have an interest in the history of such things, that particular campaign has been rather forgotten, having been overshadowed by Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, given just a few years later.

Then there was Tebbit’s ‘Cricket Test’ and, more recently, the massive over-concentration on immigration in general election campaigns and even the marked for ordinary Tory members to get themselves into a bit of strife by saying the wrong thing.

Younger Tories may well feel that most of that is now ancient history and that they, and the party, have moved on and turned over a new leaf. Good for them…

…but that doesn’t mean either that their party’s past misdemeanours aren’t going to follow them for while longer or that their party’s unfortunate reputation when it comes to equality and race relations isn’t one of its own contrivance.

Sorry guys, you’re going to have to do a bit more that push a new model Toff front and centre and carry out a bit of tokenistic jiggery-pokery with your selection procedures to slough the reputation you’ve created for yourself over the years – coming on all self-righteous about race is not going to make that much difference, at least not for a while. It just leaves you looking like a bunch of sanctimonious arseholes.

(And don’t think for a minute that I’m suggesting that my own party is 100% squeaky clean right down the last individual member – it isn’t, we’re just rather better at keeping our own minority of idiots in check and out of situations where they can fuck up in public)

The comparisons made between this latest artifical furore and the situation that Ellenor Bland found herself in are simply absurd.

For one thing, the poem she was emailing around is quite clearly racist in its tone and intent, although thanks to the coyness of the media coverage I can’t be certain of the exact version she sent out – it comes in many different variants – but this is one version fo the poem from the US, that’s been doing the rounds in racist circles over on that side of the pond.

Illegal Immigrants Poem

I cross ocean, poor and broke,
Take bus, see employment folk.
Nice man treat me good in there,
Say I need to see welfare..

Welfare say, “You come no more,
We send cash right to your door.”
Welfare checks, they make you wealthy,
Medicaid it keep you healthy!

By and by, I got plenty money,
Thanks to you, American dummy.
Write to friends in motherland,
Tell them ‘come fast as you can.’
They come in turbans and Ford trucks,
I buy big house with welfare bucks
They come here, we live together,
More welfare checks, it gets better!
Fourteen families, they moving in,
But neighbor’s patience wearing thin.
Finally, white guy moves away,
Now I buy his house, and then I say,

“Find more aliens for house to rent.”
And in the yard I put a tent.
Send for family they just trash,
But they, too, draw the welfare cash!

Everything is very good,
And soon we own the neighborhood.
We have hobby it’s called breeding,
Welfare pay for baby feeding.

Kids need dentist? Wife need pills?
We get free! We got no bills!
American crazy! He pay all year,
To keep welfare running here.

We think America darn good place!
Too darn good for the white man race.
If they no like us, they can scram,
Got lots of room in Pakistan.

The difference between that poem and the image of Cameron in Blackface should be obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together. The poem sets out to denigrate and deride migrants in everything from is affectation of a form of pidgin English to its depiction of them as workshy spongers who bleed the welfare system dry and breed like rabbits.

Does having e-mailed that to a few people make Ellenor Bland a racist?

My immediate reaction is ‘how the fuck should I know, I’ve never met the woman’.

The poem certainly is racist but without knowing more about her and the context in which the poem was sent out to people I can’t say whether her actions are motiviated by or indicate any real racist intent. Sure, if there was something else in the email to support the contention that she made be racist, derogatory remarks of her own contrivance and made of her own violition, then maybe I could make a judgment, but on its own and on the strength of the poem alone I really can’t say whether she’s racist or not. It just be a email she’d received from someone and forwarded on to others without comment (or thinking).

What I can say is that she’s a fucking idiot on several grounds:

– for not appreciating just how racist the content of the poem is

– for forwarding it one to others

– for being dumb enough to forward the fucking thing from her own e-mail box instead on an anonymous Hotmail account.

And I think I can also say, fairly safely, that she appears rather naive when it comes to matters of race, ethnicity and identity. Why else would they try something so obviously dumb as the Fuckwit Defence – “And we have friends who are Asian. I wouldn’t be rude to them.”

Sorry Ellenor, but that’s not really a defence in this case. Just because you wouldn’t racially abuse someone to their face is not proof-postive that you aren’t racist, just as forwarding this email doesn’t prove that you are.

That being said, on this occasion, the Lib Dems provided the rent-a-gob:

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem chair of campaigns and communications, has asked the CRE to rule on whether the message conformed with the watchdog’s guidelines to political parties and individuals in elected public office.

“It is totally unacceptable for elected representatives to be distributing this kind of material. Racism has absolutely no place in British politics and I am asking the CRE to advise on what further action can be taken,” he said.

Which all seems a bit excessive, if you ask me. Her political career’s already nicely down the shitter and you want to rub her nose in it even further. Fuck off!

Offensive as the poem is, it does fall some considerable way short of anything like incitement to racial hatred, which would, quite rightly, demand further action and as far as I can see she (or her husband, who she claims actually forwarded the email using her account – guess he’s in the fucking doghouse, big time, if that’s true) was acting in a private capacity – it doesn’t look to me as if she prefaced the email ‘Dear Constituent’, so what the fuck it should have to do with the ‘watchdog’, which I suspect is a reference to the Standards Board, is beyond me.

Well not, beyond me, as I’m fully that the SBE can get involved, but only because its guidelines a drawn far too widely – if her constituent’s think she’s racist or just a complete idiot, they’ll get a chance to tell her so and vote her out of office the next time she comes up for re-election. So let them decide what to do with her and keep the bureaucrats out of it.

And of course, Davey’s asking the CRE to advise on what further action can be taken – and beyond laying criminal charges, which would get laughed out of court if they even got that far, I can’t see what else the CRE could advise Davey to do, apart from to fuck off and stop bothering them with trivial matters that have already been more than adequately dealt with just to make a political point at the Tories expense.

Just like PragueTory have been laying it on thick with Bob Piper to make a political point at his, and the Labour Party’s expense.

It might be politics, but I don’t have to like it – nor do I have to put up with it and do/say nothing, which is why I’ve already posted a message to Bob, who’s sadly decided to take a (hopefully short) break from blogging, to the effect that should the CRE or Standards Board come calling then not only am I backing him all the way, but I’ll stand up for him and make any representations necessary, even at the price of shedding my own anonymity as a blogger.

That’s solidarity – a word we used to use a lot in Labour circles, although I’m beginning to wonder whether some of our current members either know or understand what it really means. Not swarming all over someone, or something, to make a pathetic political point or to try to elevate yourself into the next Guido or Iain Dale, but standing by someone you know to be a damn good person, to have a good heart to be committed to doing the right thing – and someone who’s honest enough to try and be himself and not just toe the party line and play safe.

I’ll leave the last word, as I often do, to a quotation, which I’d hope some people might just muse upon if and when they come to consider what any of this has to say about the state of our current political culture.

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless. – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

UPDATE:

One thing I should have said at the time I wrote this, which echoes my comments on the later post about Peter Willows.

Unless Ellenor Bland (or her badly in-the-dog-house husband, if what she says is true) did something mind-bogglingly stupid, like send the e-mail to a journalist, then someone, somewhere down the line ratted her out to the press – which is pretty fucking low in my estimation if it was done without first giving the Tories the chance to sort this out for themselves.

Again, the only mitigation here would have been a refusal by the Tories to respond to or act upon an ‘internal’ complaint about conduct, or a genuinely held and well-founded belief either that such a complaint would not be dealt with appropriately or that Bland is a raving fascist wingnut better suited to life in the BNP.

In the absence of either mitigiating factor, the right thing to do was to report the matter to her Local Association and Tory group (and because she was up for a slot as a parliamentary candidate, to Tory Central Office) and give them a chance to deal with it.

And again, I should repeat, that if the Tories are to throw off their reputation as the nasty party, they need to be given some space to deal with their quota of unreconstructed idiots and headbangers of their own violition – commitments to equality mean fuck all if they only come into play because the press are screaming, its what the Tories do off their own bat that actually matters and will demonstrate whether they’re really making progress or not.

  • Be fair. David Davies is a genius and his blog is a lot funnier than Bob’s.

    http://daviddaviesam.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_daviddaviesam_archive.html

    My memory of the Griffiths campaign is that the Libs didn’t get a mention. Although the campaign slogan was offensive, it can be seen with hindsight to also have been truthful. I’ve been doing the Hawthorns-Rolfe Street walk for 30 years and I’ve seen the transformation of Smethwick.

  • anonymous

    MoT on this whole saga

    “Me thinks you doth protest too much!”

  • David Davies… Healey to Howe comes to mind… savaged by a dead ‘sheep’.

    As for Laban… ‘with hindsight (it’s) truthful’ overlooks the fact that the Conservatives have been in power for 17 years of his 30 years street tramping… and considering the massive slow down in immigration in terms of black immigrants over the last ten years, you can actually say 17 years out of the 20 years in which Griffiths’ prediction was so bloody ‘truthful’ was not under Labour at all. But I’m not complaining.. I can eat out cheaply and conveniently, we have a diversity of cultures, plenty of festivals and celebrations… bring it on.

  • >>> My memory of the Griffiths campaign is that the Libs didn

  • That’s fine, U. But it’s not always a good idea to base national policy on ‘what I like’. Not everyone living in Smathwick 40 years back may have been as keen.

    One of my favourite exes came from Smethwick – salt of the earth people – her dad did 40 years in the Cape Hill brewery. None of the family remain there now – she and her kids are in Australia.

    I watched the DVD of the Baggies returning through the streets with the FA Cup in 1968. A vanished world – and a vanished people.