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Artillery Row

Are Labour the real racists?

Conservatives should stop trying to play the victim on identitarian grounds

Among the more pathetic rhetorical gambits on the right is the attempt to argue that the left are the real racists, sexists, homophobes et cetera. Of course, it is entirely legitimate to argue that the outcomes of left-wing ideas would be bad for ethnic minorities, women and gay people. (One could talk about the impact of crime on black communities, the compromising of women’s spaces and attempts to deny people’s sexual preferences.) But this is not the same as arguing that leftists are motivated by animus against minorities.

It can happen. God knows we have seen leftists in the past months who have a serious problem with Jewish people. Certainly, a lot of them have a problem with white people. But the urge to simply catch left-wing arguments about majoritarian prejudice and reverse them is unhealthy. It accepts the premise that racism, sexism and homophobia are great animating principles of our politics.

So, when Keir Starmer claimed that Rishi Sunak “doesn’t get Britain” we saw Conservatives heavily implying that this was racist. “The Prime Minister is as British as Starmer,” Rishi Sunak’s press secretary sniffed. Others described Starmer’s words as a “dog whistle”, with Nadhim Zahawi saying:

I flinched when I heard the leader of His Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition trot out the sort of line that I’ve had to deal with all my life.

“Only he will know what he’s implying,” Claire Coutinho MP, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero grimly said (yes, that is a real position). But it is obvious what Keir Starmer was implying. He was referring to class and not to race. Sunak, a private schoolboy with a Stanford MBA, a professional background at Goldman Sachs and various hedge fund management firms, and a household wealth in the hundreds of millions, is so elite that he makes even Sir Keir Rodney Starmer KCB KC look down to earth. It would take an idiot to think that Starmer was maligning Sunak’s ethnicity and not his glistening education and fabulous riches — or, at least, someone acting like an idiot.

Of course, this little episode went nowhere. But if we learned one thing from the past thirteen years it is that the Conservatives struggle to learn from their mistakes. Now, Labour’s criticisms of Kemi Badenoch MP over her spat with the former Post Office chief Henry Staunton have been called into question. Christian Calgie of the Daily Express reports:

Lee Anderson accused Sir Keir and Labour of “obviously running scared of Kemi, just as they were with Suella”.

He added: “It’s obvious to me that Labour have a real problem with influential women in Parliament.

“What I want to know is why are Labour intent on attacking female politicians in our party.”

There are two possibilities here, Mr Anderson. The first is that it’s because Braverman and Badenoch are women. The second is that Braverman was the Home Secretary and Badenoch is the Business Secretary, and that these are important positions, the holders of which are naturally going to be in the line of fire. I could be wrong, but I suspect the latter is the case.

Calgie goes on:

Another Kemi Badenoch ally accused Labour MPs of “going after the black woman instead of the old white guy at the centre of this [Henry Staunton], who had bullying allegations hanging over him”.

Why is Labour going after the Conservative politician and not the former head of the Post Office? If you think the answer is that she is black and a woman and he is a white man you need to go and run the cold tap over your head. Are we meant to believe that Labour would not criticise the Conservative politician in this scenario if it happened to be a white bloke? Get out of here!

Conservatives must drop this kind of flaccid victimology

Naturally, this sort of accusation only affirms left-wing claims that people criticise politicians like, say, Diane Abbott because she is a black woman (as if we hold our tongues when it comes to someone like Richard Burgon). I appreciate that this kind of charge might be being thrown to give our friends on the left a taste of their own medicine. But that simply implies that the medicine works.

Conservatives must drop this kind of flaccid victimology. At best it is clever-clever and at worst it is pathetic. If there is a single person who is going to vote Conservative and not Labour because they think that Keir Starmer is a racist and Labour are a bunch of woman haters I will eat my hat, regurgitate it and eat it again. Yet it also makes the Tories far less able to defend themselves against such disingenuous attacks. And they will come. Oh, boy, they will come.

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