After the @DigitalTories Twitter account featured a racist attack on Labour front bencher Diane Abbott, we asked the party if the account was linked them in any way. The Conservatives gave an on-the-record answer that it was not. Now we know this is untrue. The account was linked to and promoted by Harrow Conservatives.
On Thursday 3 August, the account posted an openly racist tweet about Labour’s Diane Abbott. The account then deleted the tweet in the hope that no one had noticed. But it was too late:
Quick thinking to change it for an innocuous pic & then pin… but no. Here's your original tweet. Own it. pic.twitter.com/0KBUe9Y9nP
Water melons are a common racist trope used against people of colour. It is an import from the US, as William Black writes for The Atlantic:
The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence.
The creation of people of colour as watermelon-munching dim apes is now well established in the UK too. Conservative Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has written of the “watermelon smiles” of African people. And anyone in doubt should read the first reply Digital Tories received for the tweet:
This level of racist abuse is nothing new for Abbott. The Labour MP has endured ceaseless racial hostility since becoming Britain’s first black woman MP in 1987. Last December, a Conservative Party official shared a tweet of a fat ape wearing lip stick, captioned “Get the Diane Abbott look”. He added his own comment to the post, stating:
Nice lips kid. But a shade too much rouge.
And the simplest internet search will reveal a treasure trove of racist taunts aimed at the Hackney MP.
Gone in 24 hours
The Digital Tories account clearly spotted it was in trouble. First, it deleted the tweet – but it was already screengrabbed. Then, it made its tweets private:
In an email to The Canary, the Conservative Party denied any association to the Twitter account:
But further investigation revealed that the Twitter account was linked to and promoted by Harrow Conservatives.
Like the Twitter account the page was removed on Friday 4 August. But as Skwawkboxreports, an archived version can be viewed for posterity here.
The Conservative Party and its press have been quick to associate the ravings of lone anonymous Twitter accounts to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Yet, when an account linked to its own officials launches a racist attack on a Labour MP? *crickets.
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.