Friday, 23 June 2017

Getting Away With It

Earlier this week, I read a remark on Twitter about how long it seems to be taking for the post-election Tory-DUP voting arrangement to be agreed. The poster mused that if we were in the same situation with a proposed deal between Labour and the SNP dragging on and on – leaving the country effectively without a stable government in the meantime – the press would be all over it! I think he's right, and I think the Tories are being given far more leeway on this matter than Labour would be afforded in similar circumstances.

But the implied conclusion – that our media (and our society) harbours an inherent bias towards the Conservatives – doesn't really hold water, for me. What we are seeing here is not an intentional skewing of the playing field, or weighting of the dice, but simply the potency of our own preconceptions.

Reputations are powerful things. The general perception of the Tories is that they are competent and efficient governors, and utterly heartless bastards. You have only to look at the reactions to the Conservative Party manifesto last month to see how this impacts on reporting; by and large, they get away with including no costing details for their policies at all, because it is assumed that they're Tories so they know what they're doing with money – whilst they get hammered in the press for even the slightest hint of heartlessness and bastardness, like the so-called 'dementia tax' (the intentions of which were actually rather more noble than you think – to reduce intergenerational inequality).

On the other side of the coin, Labour have so much farther to go to prove themselves fiscally responsible, thanks to an ingrained reputation for profligacy (which, it can be argued, has not always been entirely deserved). And yet, Labour politicians can get away with some things their Conservative counterparts could never hope to…

I am constantly baffled, for example, how the odious Labour MP John McDonnell has managed to remain in the senior job of Shadow Chancellor for as long as he has. McDonnell is a thug and a bully who not only makes excuses for violence and rioting, but actively praises and encourages it. He is to the left what Tommy Robinson is to the right – and I know beyond doubt that he would not be able to stay in such a high-ranking position within the party if he were Conservative, rather than a Labour MP.

But McDonnell is Labour. They're the nice ones, right? Not great with money, maybe – but they mean well, and at least they care about people… So his inflammatory rhetoric and his incitements to violence – his descriptions of recent riots in London as 'the best of our movement' – are given a pass, when they surely would not be if they came from a right-winger.

McDonnell's recent calls for a 'Day Of Rage' and for 'a million people on the streets' to force out the government are dog whistles to violence and insurrection; the term 'Day Of Rage' is even borrowed from his boss Jeremy Corbyn's 'friends' in Hamas.

Controversial right-wing broadcaster Katie Hopkins (deservedly) lost her job at LBC radio after tweeting about jihadist terrorism using the phrase 'final solution' – an expression synonymous with the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. But Labour's Shadow Chancellor can employ the vernacular of an organisation designated on the EU's terrorism blacklist – whose constitution, until earlier this year, explicitly called for jihad and the killing of jews – and not even be asked to apologise.

McDonnell's 'joke' about Esther McVey – 'Why aren't we lynching the bitch?' – during a former election campaign, for which he refused to apologise, was condemned by prominent members of his own party as 'atrocious' 'misogynistic' 'vitriol'. This alone would've been enough to see a Tory MP forced to resign his position; the Shadow Chancellor escapes with barely a scratch, yet again.

By any reasonable assessment, John McDonnell is a truly nasty piece of work. The fact that he is still allowed to retain a high-profile shadow cabinet job – even after all his incitements to rioting and 'lynching', and using the language of terrorists – is testament to the strength of people's perceptions of Labour politicians – even when they get things wrong – as fundamentally good, well-intentioned, kind-hearted people. And that's how he gets away with it.