It was revealed this week that a Conservative MP, Anne-Marie Morris, had used the “N” word by repeating the old phrase about a woodpile. When she was reminded of this she immediately apologised and I think it is fair to say she is unlikely to repeat those particular words again.
Within hours – not days, weeks or months – and without the need of an inquiry chaired by someone who is then lined up for a peerage, Theresa May had the Tory Whip removed from her, effectively suspending her from the party. Proportionately, that was just; the phrase and its utterance had been condemned, and the MP properly reprimanded.
For some, however, that was not enough; demands were made she should resign her seat. The nauseating stench of hypocrisy and partisan advantage was suddenly all-pervasive.
But wait, when previously Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams tweeted he was “Watching Django Unchained – A Ballymurphy Ni...r!” he had to apologise and deleted his tweet. That appeared enough; he lost no position of authority, or even his party whip – so why should Anne-Marie Morris resign? Having one rule for one group of people (in this case a Conservative MP) and a different for another group (anyone on the left of politics) amounts to discrimination – surely that is the antithesis of creating a tolerant and equal society?
One example is how David Lammy, a London Labour MP, has called for the judge conducting the inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower to be dismissed because he is white. Surely the colour of the judge is irrelevant to how he conducts a judicial investigation, just as the colour of Lammy’s skin should be irrelevant to how he conducts himself as a legislator in parliament?
Unfortunately Lammy does not act in a colour-blind manner but believes his colour should influence his outlook, so who then is being the racialist? It is the height of prejudice that he should think that a judge cannot dispense dispassionate and objective justice because of his (or her) colour.
The double standards do not just apply to politicians; many of our broadcasters and commentators are guilty of it too. ITV’s Robert Peston felt moved to comment about the “N-Word” incident while his show is advertising for interns – so long as they are not white. ITV is not alone in this practice; with the BBC also stipulating applicants for some posts should not be white.
One perverse outcome of this approach is that a coloured applicant with an Eton education would be fine, but a working-class white kid would not. One man’s racism is another man’s discrimination – and vice versa. Surely our institutions should operate a colour-blind recruitment system?
What if, in their attempt to be multicultural, ITV and the BBC stipulated that recruits should not be Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English? Or male or female, or Christian or Muslim or Sikh? Surely anyone from those groups would be entitled to feel insulted and discriminated against?
A racist word is a racist word and the general use of the “N” word other than in a historical or academic discussion should be discouraged, and if otherwise used an apology requested. It is not, however, an incitement to violence against others or necessarily an open act of prejudice. Context is beyond doubt important. It is context, for instance, that makes it possible for African-American rap singers to use the word repeatedly.
If we want to live in harmony our politicians and the institutions that convey opinion need to show a greater degree of proportion, forgiveness and charity – and practise the egalitarian outlook they profess to preach.
Nobody deserves a statue more than ‘Winkle’
Edinburgh University Air Squadron are pushing for a statue of Eric “Winkle” Brown at Edinburgh airport and hope to raise the £75,000 needed to do it.
For those that don’t know the story of Winkle Brown, who died last year, aged 97, it is well worth investigating. A Leither, Brown became a Fleet Air Arm pilot and broke so many world records and achieved so many firsts in flying that will never be broken.
The Royal Navy’s most decorated pilot, Brown took off and landed on aircraft carriers more times than anyone (2407 and 2271), and was the first man ever to land a twin-engined aircraft, a jet-propelled aircraft and a helicopter on an aircraft carrier.
A much sought-after test pilot, Brown flew more aircraft types than anyone in history (487) including aircraft captured from enemy forces during and after the Second World War. I heard his interviews and read some of his writing and a more modest man you could not expect to meet.
The numbers behind his flying are just the bald facts, more revealing are the stories of his near death experiences – which are the stuff of legend. Statues are a terrific way to preserve our collective memory of great local personalities and I for one will be making a modest contribution to help the appeal. Get down to the library or go online to find out more.
When in Porto..
Last week I took some time off for a short break in Porto, and had a relaxing time investigating its environs, not least its restaurants bars – and Port. The Sandeman’s Port tour was especially agreeable and, amazingly, I never had an attack of gout, so my pills stayed in their box.
It was George Sandeman, from Perth, who established the company in 1790, and it remained independent until 1979. Sandeman’s famous caped figure “Don” was the first iconic logo for a wine, designed by another Scot, George Massiot Brown. My better half collects the ceramic Don decanters, but sadly they are always empty!