Column JN July 15 2018
Remember Bigotgate? Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown undoubtedly does, as his unguarded comments after meeting Rochdale widow Gillian Duffy in the 2010 general election arguably cost him the entire election.
As it happens Mrs Duffy was commenting unfavourably — to Brown’s ears, at any rate — about Labour’s policy on immigration. Viewed from the psychotic kaleidoscope that is politics in 2018, the Brown “gaffe” seems almost endearing, almost enough to be regarded with wistful regret.
Politicians — and wannabe politicos — often say, or commit to paper, or, more often, screen, really terrible things which makes you wonder what on earth they were thinking. Or if indeed they were thinking at all.
Two examples are up for consideration this week: what we might call #Fabrican’tbeserious, and #Pininginthewoodshed.
The first is the case of the Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant, who is Jewish, and thus, of all people, ought to know better. Mickey Fabb, as he was once memorably dubbed by the late Guardian sketchwriter Simon Hoggart, is most noticeable in the Commons, where he sits for Lichfield in Staffordshire, for his, er, eclectic hair-covering. It is a bright blond colour and has the air of having arrived upon Mickey rather later than the rest of his outfit.
But his hair is the least of our concerns today. Instead, he has been obliged to apologise, at length, over a cartoon he posted on Twitter whose aim, ostensibly, was to push back at much of the anti-Trump cartoons and demonstrations. The cartoon Fabricant posted showed a giant Trump balloon in the foreground, and, in the background, another balloon, bearing the face of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The Khan balloon was being molested by a pig.
It surely doesn’t need spelling out how offensive this was on so many levels, not least because the mayor is an observant Muslim who takes pride in his identity — and also in London’s diversity.
Fabricant has variously blamed the person who sent him the cartoon, saying he thought he had better judgment; claimed he had not realised the face on the small balloon was that of Sadiq Khan; and complained that journalists who attacked him should have known better, because he prided himself on being a liberal Conservative.
Nevertheless, when caught bang to rights, Fabricant did apologise. My take is that he will be more careful in future — at least, I hope so.
The other case is more egregious, that of Roslyn Pine, who — until last week — represented Finchley United Synagogue at the Board of Deputies.
In an unexpected turn of events the Board has issued a draconian sentence against Mrs Pine, suspending her as a deputy for six years — that is, two triennial sessions of the deputies — for bringing the Board into disrepute.
At issue were comments Mrs Pine made on social media relating to Muslims. She had shared tweets, for example, describing Muslims as “the vilest of animals” and attacked Islam. She has made a point of not apologising, and instead has claimed that her views are held by “most normative Jews”, which I sincerely hope is not the case.
The Board has been attacked for its treatment of Mrs Pine, who unsuccessfully stood as a member of the International committee — before her views were made known to most deputies.
But neither she, nor “most normative Jews”, can have their cake and eat it. What we demand of the Labour Party, for instance, in cleaning house and ridding itself of antisemites, has to begin at home. Pinegate views should have no place in our community. End of.