In just two tweets, Laura Kuenssberg blew the lid on dangerous Tory racism

Laura Kuenssberg
Fréa Lockley

On 25 March, parliament voted to take back control of the ongoing Brexit chaos. Meanwhile, Laura Kuenssberg – the BBC‘s supposedly impartial political editor – sent out two tweets which some people felt betrayed dangerous casual racism. She reported that some hardline Brexiteers ‘informally’ use the name ‘Grand Wizards’. This term has also been used by the Ku Klux Klan since the 19th century.

“Grand Wizards”

Theresa May summoned key hardline Brexiteers to Chequers for crisis talks on 24 March. Those invited included Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and Jacob Rees-Mogg. This came amid rumours of a coup to topple May.

Kuenssberg announced that this group – apparently known as “The Grand Wizards” – met again on 25 March:

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.

Grand wizard is a name widely associated with the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. The term was first established in 1867. So with over 150 years of history in between, there’s nothing obscure about this link.

But instead of issuing any kind of acknowledgement, or apology, Kuenssberg sent another tweet. This time, she seemed to imply ‘it’s all OK’ because it’s just an ‘informal nickname’:

Everyday racism

Needless to say, the situation provoked outrage and anger. As Labour’s Dawn Butler noted, such language has no place in modern politics:

Those involved are no strangers to racism. In 2013, Rees-Mogg spoke at a dinner for a group that called for Stephen Lawrence’s mother to ‘go home’. Johnson said that women wearing burqas or niqabs look like “letter boxes” or ‘bank robbers’. In fact, he’s made a string of racist comments passed off as ‘gaffes’. It’s also emerged that, in 2016, Gove allegedly said:

I feel rather like the grand wizard of the KKK giving an address to the AGM of Black Lives Matter.

At the time, senior lecturer Dr Joe Street noted:

As I’m sure he’s aware, the Ku Klux Klan is little more than a terrorist group who engaged in systematic murder, violence, and intimidation to protect white supremacy.

Street also said this “quip” was “beneath contempt”. And now, the term has surfaced again, passed off by Kuenssberg as ‘informal’. As Butler commented, this doesn’t seem to be a coincidence:

And author Malorie Blackman agreed:

Labour’s David Lammy, meanwhile, pointed out that this same group is currently holding the UK “to ransom” over Brexit:

Many felt Kuenssberg’s second tweet was “telling”:

No excuses

It’s hard to determine whether Kuenssberg dropping the name so casually into a public forum is worse than her alleging it’s not an issue. Because, let’s not forget, she’s referring to the Conservative Party. This is the party responsible for the Windrush scandal, and the architects of the racist and damaging ‘hostile environment‘. Conservative MPs continue to make racist and Islamophobic comments. Yet calls led by Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi to investigate fully the “overwhelming evidence of Islamophobia” in the party go nowhere.

For a BBC journalist to throw such an abhorrent term with clear racist overtones into the discussion is unforgivable. So too is the fact that this is a name some MPs seem happy to use. That she still fails to see how problematic this is says it all.

Featured image via screengrab

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support
  • Show Comments
    1. I seem to recall something written by fantasy author Jack Vance in the ’50s or ’60s that there were no ‘petty’ wizards because they were- effectively – to far up ’emselves….

      Sorry I cannot provide a reference but I’ll keep looking.

    2. The Grand Wizard comment is English in substance, and is solely about a hard Brexit. Kusenberg made a revealing comment about this core group of hard brexiters who are now so close to winning after the referendum 2 1/2 years ago that they financed through fraud, lies etc. I’m sure they are laughing at the reference to the KKK meaning. They have nearly won, and certainly have dominated the conservation from even before the referendum. This was always their goal for 2 1/2 years , and no one caught on.
      Even after years of nothing happening in the discussions with the Eu, not allowing parliament to be engaged until it was forced upon the Tories within the last month, simplisitc jargon language of the dumbest kind to descibe the issues is what George Orwell would understand perfectly.
      Teresa May has done exactly what they have wanted her to do which why she isn’t resigning at the request of her own party. Utterly a contempt for democratic principals
      The people want a Revoke Article 50 vote in retaliation to this cynical coup over your democracy I would say.
      You’ve been distracted with the allusion to the KKK instead of focusing on what is real here.
      “Animal Farm” by Orwell is light reading compared with this show.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.