Raging Bull

It was, perhaps, inevitable that Iain Dale and Derek Draper would end up trying to settle their differences by two falls, a submission or a knock-out. It’s just rather a pity that they chose to make their first major set-to, over the BBC’s decision to ditch Carol Thatcher from its early evening magazine programme ‘The One Show’, in ending rather abruptly in a double-disqualification.

Fighting out of the red corner we have the comeback kid, Derek ‘Randy the Ram’ Draper.

Never one to miss the opportunity to make an ostentatious gesture, Draper chose to make a three-course meal out a somewhat childish decision to remove Iain from Labour List’s blogroll for daring to his attempt to ride to  Carol Thatcher’s defence. That decision alone marks Del-Boy out as a total n00b – its not like Iain doesn’t have plenty of previous form when it comes to leaping feet first to the defence of friends and party colleagues. It’s something he does pretty consistently even if it does occasionally turn out quite badly.

Anyone hoping for a good clean fight has, I’m sad to say, been left feeling rather disappointed by Del-Boy’s in-ring conduct. Even in mixed-martial arts they don’t allow gouging, a fact he clearly chose to disregard when attemping to lay the smackdown on Iain via this message on Twitter:

“10.00 am Ashcroft sock puppet Iain Dale has defended Carol Thatcher and the use of the word “Golliwog”. See, even the nice seeming ones are nasty underneath. On the Today programme he said Adrian Chiles must hear much worse every week. No, Iain, he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t make a habit of hanging out with racist Tories. Until Dale thinks again we are suspending his listing on our blogroll. Come on Iain, do the decent thing and admit you got this wrong. Listen to Dale here.”

We’ll get round to Iain’s defence in a moment, but the bit I have a problem with in all this lies here…

See, even the nice seeming ones are nasty underneath

For all that Iain has his faults, especially when it comes to his credulity in the face of Tim Mongomerie and Nadine Dorries’ penchant for ill-conceived anti-abortion-mongering, the allusion to the Tory’s reputation as the nasty party, much of which is founded on some of its member’s unnlightened attitudes on race, is all rather uncalled for when it comes to Iain.

If there’s one issue that you can pretty much guarantee will trip up the unwary and undetoxified Tory at some point then its the issue of immigration and its actually quite noticeable that that’s an issue on which Iain rarely comments, other that express a bit fo general terms support for the basic Tory line of having ‘controlled immigration’. Quite exactly why he steers clear of that issue only Iain fully knows, but from the odd comment of his I’ve seen, describing the tone of his own party’s 2005 election campaign as having been ‘shrill’, I suspect that it may be that he recognises that its an issue that can, and often does, still bring out the worst in some of his party colleagues and avoids it accordingly.

So far as I can see, the worst that could be said of Iain is that he’s sometimes just that bit too enthusiatic in talking up Nadine Dorries’ periodic bouts of fatuous gyppo-bashing:

For all the bleeding hearts that are about to blog me and tell me that gypsies and travellers are now classed as an ethnic group because of their culture and beliefs I say this – I have no problem with that. You can believe and follow whatever culture you like – but if you want to live in England you do it living in a house, send your children to school and conform to the societal framework that the rest of us have to, because that’s how it is in Britain. That’s how we live; it’s a British culture thing.

But fair’s fair – that looks to be very much more a case of latent class prejudice a la Daily Mail than anything else.

So, Randy the Ram, is getting thrown out of the contest in the first round for gouging and what looks suspiciously like a very low blow.

Moving over to the blue corner and ‘Cricklewood’ Iain Dale, Iain’s problem in all this is that he had only one halfway plausible argument to put up in Thatcher’s defence and the more that we discover about the incident that resulted in her being shown the door, the less plausible that argument looks.

Iain’s right to say that context is critical in this situation. How we judge Carol Thatcher’s ‘golliwog’ remark does depend entirely on the context in which is was made – the problem being that that context is looking ever more damning as time progresses.

This initial ‘cover story’, which Iain put out after, presumably, contracting it from the party grapevine, suggested that Thatcher may have been referring to the curly-haired but very much white Andy Murray when making the golliwog remark. Had that genuinely been the case then the context of the remark would have put it firmly in the category of idiotic and rather ill-judged, but not really offensive – the kind of remark that someone would genuinely have to go out of their way to be offended by. That would, then, have given a measure of credence to Iain’s efforts to turn this matter around into a fairly formulaic attack on political correctness at the BBC.

Unfortunately, its now being widely reported the player she was referring to is black and that the comment made was along the lines of suggesting that Roger Federer would have difficulty in getting past ‘that golliwog’.

Context matters, and the context of such a remark is racist and offensive, even if there was no express intention to offend.

However, its not for that reason that Dale earns his own disqualification, not even for the implausibility of his other chosen lines of defence.

As inevitably happens whenever a golliwog surfaces, we get regaled with the ‘but it was on a jam jar when we were kids and no one was offended then’ defence. Dale has already thrown that one into the pot and it now seems that Thatcher, herself, is trying to rely on it as proof of her lack of intent:

The spokesman told The Times that Thatcher “never intended any racist comment” and that she had “made a light aside about this tennis player and his similarity to the golliwog on the jam pot when she was growing up”.

That’s a line you might just away with had you spent the last 30 years or so living as a hermit in a cave in Siberia, but otherwise the clear response to the ‘but it wasn’t considered offensive when I was a child’ defence can onl;y be ‘but you’re still old enough to know better’.

No, what get Dale thrown out of the contest is his attempt to distract the referree by attacking a member of the audience, i.e. the suggestion, made the Today programme, that maybe Adrian Chile shouldn’t really have been offended by Thatcher’s remark because, as a West Brom fan who regularly attends games at the Hawthorns, he must obviously hear much worse remarks every Saturday afternoon.

What that demonstrates is that not only must it be a very long time since Iain followed his own team (West Ham) to an away game at the Hawthorns – if he’s ever even been to the ground – but that he’s also markedly ignorant when it comes to the Albion and their unique place in English football history as the first professional club side to field three black footballers on a regular basis.

Adrian is about a year or so younger than I am, which makes him part of my generation of Albion fans, a generation of young white working class kids all of whom, at around 11-14 years of age, had only one real wish in the whole world…

…and that was to grow up to be one of these two guys…


If you don’t follow football or you’re too young to remember the great West Brom side of the late 1970’s then let me explain that the two guys you’re looking at there are, on the left, Cyrille Regis, one of the three truly great centre-forwards to play for the Albion in the post-war era (the other two being Jeff Astle and Ronnie Allen) and, on the right, Laurie Cunningham, the most naturally-gifted football to ever wear an Albion shirt, a winger who, at his best, made Ashley Young look like he’s running through treacle and Christiano Ronaldo look like he’s got two left feet.

It’s perfectly apparent what Iain was thinking when he took a big of a dig at Adrian on this morning’s Today programme, that this is all just the usual BBC political correctness gone mad, and that may well be true for others at the BBC, but it isn’t true of Adrian, or me, or any other Albion fan of our generation.

You see, its perfectly true that we have heard worse than ‘golliwog’ while attended games at the Hawthorns and at many other football clubs we’ve visited while following the Baggies. As teenagers, we used to hear people throwing around terms like ‘golliwog’ and ‘nigger’, week-in, week-out, not to mention all the monkey noises to go with those remarks and, as a bit of visual ‘treat’, the bananas that were regularly thrown on the pitch.

Not one shred of which came from our own fans, but always from the supporters of other clubs, the racists who hated the fact that we had black players in our first team and hated those players even more for the skill, ability and talent they brought to the club.

So, yes, Adrian, me and the rest our generation have heard it all before, and we learned very quickly to loathe all of it with a visceral passion that I doubt very much that Iain could even begin to imagine.

Actually, perhaps that’s a little unfair. Maybe Iain could understand. Perhaps he could try to imagine how he and other West Ham fans might feel on hearing homophobic comments after having spent their teenage years listening  to opposing fans sing an obscene song about Billy Bonds fucking Bobby Moore up the arse to the tune of ‘Bubbles’ at every single game they attended. Then maybe, just maybe, he’ll have some of idea of how my generation of Albion fans feel about racism and racist remarks.

Adrian was reportedly ‘outraged’ by Thatcher’s remark, and I can well believe it, because what I and every other Albion fan of our generation know is that when he heard her refer to a black tennis player as a ‘golliwog’ he will have remembered what we all remember about the way that Cyrille, Laurie and Brendan were treated back in the late 70s…

…and all the loathing and hatred we felt for the racist scum of that time, will have come flooding right back.

6 thoughts on “Raging Bull

  1. Good post comrade, and 99% spot on. The 1%? Well, there is no way that Albiod side of the late 80’s could possibly be described as ‘great’… whatever the qualities of Cyril and Laurie.

    As for the specific slur Dale hurls at West Brom fans, I think you make the point perfectly. Whatever I may think of them, they certainly don’t deserve that insult.

    West Ham supporters, from the heartland of the NF, are hardly the most appropriate fans to be casting aspersions.

  2. I’ve given up trying to get people to see reason over this, but seeing as you haven’t done a Draper and jerked your knee, let me just say one thing on the Adrian Chiles remark. I can see why you think I must have been referring to racial comments at the Hawthorns (a ground I have yet had the pleasure of visiting) but I can assure you that is not what I meant. I just meant that at football grounds in general, the ‘banter’ is of a fairy extreme variety, and not a place for those of a delicate nature. I am only too well aware of WBA’s trailblazing record in this area, so I would certainly not wish to cast a slur on the club in the manner which you suggest here, or Bob Piper has now done on his blog.

    I deplore racism in all its forms and if I thought Carol Thatcher’s remark was racially motivated I would be joining the people who seem to be delighting in her predicament. I’m not going to rehearse all the arguments here as they have been aired elsewhere.

    The reason I want to clarify my remarks regarding WBA is that I recognise how horrible it is not just to be accused of racism, but for it even to be hinted at. I was appalled by the three blogposts on LabourList suggesting that I was in some way condoning racism. I would do nothing of the sort.

    Indeed, on two occasions at West Ham I have intervened when I heard a racial comment being directed at a player (on the first occasion it was aimed at one of our own players, Matthew Rush) and asked the idiot to button it. I can’t pretend I wasn’t nervous about doing it, but everyone around me backed me up (luckily!) on each occasion. I would like to think I would do it again but I am glad to say it hasn’t happened since 2001.

    A couple of months ago, someone a couple of rows behind me shouted out to an opposing player something which many would regard as homophobic. I couldn’t decide whether it was banter or really was homophobic. By the time I had decided that yes, it was homophobic, the moment had kind of passed and I did nothing. I’d like to think if it happens again I’d have the guts to turn around and say “that’s me you are talking about. You got a problem?” If it does happen, no doubt you’ll read about it.

  3. My God, Mr Piper truly is a plank and no mistaking. Never one to miss a sideswipe at the Hammers with his judgement clouded by the Northern monkeys team he supports. Mind you, even by his standards, a passing reference to the National Front in the same breath as West Ham supporters is breaking new grounds in terms of indecency.

  4. Iain said: “I’d like to think if it happens again I’d have the guts to turn around and say ‘that’s me you are talking about. You got a problem?'”

    Is that in all cases, Iain, or only at sporting events?

    [Yes, I’m talking (again) about the former members of Anne Milton’s campaign team who used an anonymous website to claim that a political rival was a paedophile. Presented as ‘evidence’ of this; the victim’s admission to being gay. I bet you still haven’t bothered to look into it properly even after all this time. No matter. You’re a busy man, and I’m sure you’ll be suitably horrified once you eventually take a look at it.]

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