dem ole not in my backyard Blues…

November 9, 2006

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‘I’m not a racist’. Like death, taxes, vein twitchingly annoying exhibtionists on Big Brother and mindless drivel at number one in the charts for Christmas, it’s one of life’s certainties that whenever anyone says ‘I’m not a racist’, they’re about to follow it up by saying something racist.

So seems to be the case for recently suspended Tory councillor, and former parliamentary candidate, Ellenor Bland after she was reported to the Council for Racial Equality for forwarding on from her e-mail account a racist “Illegal Immigrants Poem” written in pidgin English describing the luxurious life of a migrant living on welfare.

Bland claims that her husband, also a Tory councillor, forwarded the poem.

That’s alright then.

She also said that the leak was “an infringement of my life” and that she was “finding all this rather tiresome”.

(Beautifully expressed. Not just an infringement of her privacy but her entire life. With a sublime grasp of rhetoric, hyperbole is neatly followed by understatement. A fuss over an elected official forwarding on a racist message is a storm in a teacup and her suspension is not really distressing just, “rather tiresome”)

She may have a point. In this PC world gone mad, we can’t mock fat people for being fat and it’s clearly wrong to discriminate on the grounds of skin colour- why should racists be excluded from this culture of sensitivity towards others.

It’s one of the last bastions of taboo and begs the question- how racist does someone have to be before they’ll put their hands up and say, ‘I’m a racist’?

It’s simultaneously a success story and a dismal failure that, as a society, we haven’t managed to eradicate racist behaviour on the part of elected officers of the major political parties but we have, at least, managed to make them deny that their actions are racist. We’ve made a pariah out of the concept without addressing the actions.

Just as the re-distribution of wealth should universally start with ‘people who are that bit richer than me’, racism isn’t racism unless it’s expressed in terms ‘that little bit more vehement than the ones I would use’.

What’s next, “I’m not a paedophile, I just like to have sex with children”?

The councillor’s defence, in this case, seems to be two-fold. On the one hand, says Bland, the message has nothing to do with her political career. Fair enough. Racism, as we all know, has no place in politics and should be kept in the police force where it enjoys a fine and well-established heritage.

On the other hand, she claims not to have written the poem.

This seems to be a tacit admission that it is, in fact, racist, particularly when followed up by another old chestnut, “And we have friends who are Asian”. (It’s a well-known fact that anyone who is “not a racist” also “has friends” from whichever minority group they are currently decrying).

Not only that but the multicultural Blands “actually have German in-laws”.

Marvellous- not potential, or imaginary, in-laws from another country but honest-to-goodness “actual” ones.

There is, of course, the argument that ‘if you live by the sword you die by the sword’- (and the Blands are obviously partial to a bit of fencing) but you’d have to be “churlish” to use that, and I’m not churlish- honest. I’m just a bit surly and pedantic. It’s not the same thing at all.

Sullen pedantry is a perfectly valid response to the proliferation of things to comment upon in this world. There are too many of them arriving on our platforms for debate and they’re crowding out the traditional talking points that have stood the test of time and are part of a long history of conversation. ‘Churlishness’ is, however, completely unacceptable and I would never stoop so low.

Unsurprisingly the Conservative high command have distanced themselves from this hot potato faster than you can say “I don’t mind some of them but…”. Shadow solicitor general Dominic Grieve said that the poem “has an underlying unpleasantness”. (I’d have gone for ‘overriding’ myself but you can’t have everything).

Still, Mrs.Bland can console herself with possibility of another position in the party if her role as a councillor proves unworkable.

Bernard Jenkin has just been removed from his role overseeing A-list candidates. Ali Miraj, who failed to be selected for a seat said that Mr. Jenkin, despite wishing him luck, said that he would be “shocked if a white male candidate was not selected”. Mr Miraj added, “…he was merely reflecting the reality on the ground, and he wasn’t the only one who said that to me”.

Mr.Miraj was also apparently told he’d have a better chance of becoming an MP in the Labour Party. If the Blands are anything to go by, he probably would. Given Labour’s headlong charge to the right he might want to think about it. Either that or start wearing a hooded top- I hear they’re all the rage with upper echelons of the Tory party.

I don’t want to appear churlish but it looks as if the all-new ‘Cuddly Conservatives’ have got their work cut out for them.