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Monday, November 17, 2003
A few weeks ago, I was musing on the beliefs of our three political leaders: Blair (flirting with Roman Catholicism), Iain Duncan Smith (Roman Catholic) and Charles Kennedy (Roman Catholic). Ho hum - where’s the choice there, folks? Where’s the member of the true faith, eh? So, what does the victory of Michael Howard in the Conservative ‘election’ mean to observers of faithful idiots? Irritatingly, in the election preamble, I find out that Michael Howard is Jewish. ‘Can we not have one leader free from the grave defect of believing rubbish?’ I ask myself.
Then, last Saturday, I read Simon Hoggart’s Guardian column. I cannot give you a link to the piece. Apparently, it’s only been released as hard copy. If it turns up I’ll give it to you a posterioblogically - so here it is, added on 20th November. (I do find that initial failure to index the piece vaguely sinister. Still, as it's the Grauniad, the 'cockup' explanation is more likely.) He describes a discussion, unfortunately off-the-air, with another contributor to a radio programme who maintained that to call Michael Howard ‘sinister’ or ‘spooky’ was code for Jewish: ‘It’s a form of hidden, unconscious anti-semitism,’ Hoggart’s (unnamed) accuser maintained. Hoggart was, quite rightly, cross. Danny Finkelstein, formerly of Tory Central Office, asked Hoggart if he would ever use the word ‘sinister’ about the blacks Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng. Hoggart is having to think about it but I have a bit of analysis to offer him.
One wouldn’t use the adjective ‘sinister’ about Abbot because she’s not. She’s silly, vain, and often worse than useless - watch her in late night programmes with Portillo and Andrew Neil. Why is it that the left’s amiable buffoon tendency, e.g. Austin Mitchell, gets so much airtime? One might describe Boateng as arrogant; he shares one of Howards’s traits: they’re both too fond of their own voices – a barristorial fault, perhaps. To flinch from using derogatory adjectives out of fear of being thought racist is taking self-censorship too far. And we have to say, if we are ever unjustly accused of racism, that accusations of this type are themselves sinister. Such accusations, levelled at people like Simon Hoggart, invite withering scorn. I always saw Michael Howard as sinister, well before Ann Widdecombe’s attack and, again, long before I knew he was ‘Jewish’, whatever that means.
This brings me to a very serious point: is ‘Jewishness’ a race or a religion? Strictly, it cannot be both; religions are belief systems that are, notionally, a matter of choice. If, despite this, Jews insist that it is both, they cannot cry ‘racial foul’ when attacked. It has to be open to everyone else to be critical of belief systems. On the other hand, race is a matter of heredity over which we have no control and it is right that there are constraints on comment. People who insist that their belief system is somehow ‘special’ should not be privileged and I deprecate the way in which ‘race’ is being stretched to include religions. We must not be frightened or ashamed of using appropriate epithets about unjust accusations, either
The Jewish community should ponder this question carefully. Sammy Davis Jnr. once described himself as ‘a one-eyed, Jewish Negro’. So was he black and/or was he Jewish?
Does that help your thinking at all, Simon? Free-thinkers are often too careful in avoiding the sensitivities of ‘believing’ groups and it’s about time you responded aggressively. It is galling to hear Jews, Sikhs, Moslems, and others claim that we are being racist when we deride their faiths.
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