Monday, 24 September 2007

Hazel Blears - prejudice cuts both ways

I'm not a fan of Hazel Blears. I've always found her smug, patronising, and packed full of nauseating doublethink. She's so irritatingly on-message that I even backed her for the deputy-leadership, as the candidate most likely to damage Labour's standing in the country.

Well, she's excelled herself today. Speaking at the Labour Party conference earlier on, she called Boris Johnson a "fogeyish, bigoted and upper-class twit". A conference hall full of New Labour muppets laughed, and gave her a round of applause.

I'm sure Labour and Lib Dem supporters (and a fair few Tories, I'll bet!) would be horrified to see Boris running Europe's largest city. But how on earth is it acceptable for Hazel Blears to use a class slur against the Tories' mayoral frontrunner?

You can call Boris Johnson a lot of things. He's bumbling. He's incompetent. His rather careless way with words has caused offence - unthinkingly, rather than maliciously, but hurtful nonetheless - to entirely blameless people. And compared to Brian Paddick, he knows very little about policing. These are all completely legitimate reasons to oppose Boris's candidacy. But his social background should be entirely off-limits.

In a fair society, everyone should be judged on their own personal merits and achievements. Nobody chooses their parents or their family, so it's entirely wrong to take their heritage into account. But that cuts both ways. If it's unacceptable to smear someone for having working class parents, it's equally wrong to label somebody a "toff" because their parents happened to be rich.

If Boris had smeared Ken Livingstone by calling him a "working-class twit", we would be up in arms. Ken didn't choose his parents or his background, and they can't be held against him. Hazel Blears would put on her smuggest face, walk up to the nearest camera, and talk about Tory prejudice, bias and bigotry. So how can she attack Boris for being "upper-class", and expect to get away with it? She's guilty of prejudice, pure and simple: bullying someone for circumstances entirely beyond their control, and beyond their choosing.

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Boris Johnson, but his parentage isn't one of them. And for a Labour MP - a Labour MP - to pour scorn on somebody's upbringing, when the Labour movement has been fighting for over a century to stop children being left behind in society, simply because they were born into under-privileged backgrounds - well, it just beggars belief.

I say this in all seriousness: she should resign, and if she doesn't resign, Gordon Brown should withdraw the whip from her.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice


Alex Wilcock said...

It’s a very Labour attitude: that things are awful when other people do it, but that anything is not merely justified but morally right if it’s in ‘the cause’. It’s why they can’t see the point of the Rule of Law; I think Conrad Russell summed it up perfectly when he said something like ‘Labour delight in saying “the boot’s on the other foot now,” but Liberals just hate jackboots, whoever’s wearing them.’

monsterravingloony said...

It's in Labour's blood to despise the upper classes, whether it is PC or not, and if those attitudes are going to come out in public it's going to be at a party conference where politicians try to rouse their rank and file by appealing to their basest instincts. No-one will bat an eyelid.

I disagree though about Boris being incompetent. I don't believe you really think he is. Ken certainly doesn't think so. He's taking Boris as a very serious threat indeed. Not only is Boris far more capable than his carefully crafted bumbling toff image suggests, he is charismatic and popular. I wouldn't fancy his chances if he were to go for Mayor of Liverpool, but London is a different matter.

al_yrpal said...

Hazel's comment was 'classist', and uninformed. Boris has been our MP for some years, and a very fine one too. He's the sort of person that takes an interest in everything going on in his patch, and then gets something done. His oratory is intelligent, and spurs people into action. Especially politically correct twits like Blears who speaks local council double talk, which they seem to think serves as a substitute for actually doing something. He has solved many problems for our community.

Boris will make a very fine Mayor of London simply because he gets things done.


GoodLiberal said...

Great post. quite agree.

Kimi raikkonen said...

um yep i agree?? lol

Samuel Wheeler said...

Actually, it is an issue. Class is not like race, denoting no more than biological inheritance, class tells us a great deal about how someone views the world, their allegiances, their upbringing etc. Boris's Old Etonian, Bullingdon roots do rather call into question his ability to connect with the wider electorate.

Beyond this though, "upper-class" is incredibly unlikely to offend. And this allows us to see the root of the difference. "Working class" as a slur has a long history, denoting a place at the bottom of the hierarchy. Being working class for a long time would disbar someone from the rights and privileges that the nobility thought their due. If a Tory aristocrat called Ken a "working class twit", it would be invoking millenia of oppression. "Upper class twit" is far more descriptive however, as there is not this backstory.

Incidentally, I think most of the social climbers in the Tory party would relish being called upper-class, whatever the subsequent label.

Anonymous said...

Have you any good ideas about meeting his parents?

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