54 years since this Tory campaign poster, the Conservative Party proves it hasn’t changed a bit

A racist Tory campaign poster and Theresa May
Kerry-anne Mendoza

A newsletter issued by a local Conservative Action Team has brought back some of the worst memories of race-baiting by the party. The leaflet targets Labour’s London mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with barely veiled racist dog-whistles.

The newsletter

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The newsletter screams “Havering in danger!”, and warns that “Mayor Khan and Corbyn’s men are desperate to grab power in our town hall”. This, they say, would mean “Romford will increasingly become like an inner city area”. Subtext: this area will become less white.

In case that subtext was missed, the bullet point list of potential outcomes hammers the message home. Particularly the final three:

  • Our cherished Union Jack flag being taken down – back to Labour’s political correctness!

  • Havering ruled by Mayor Khan!

  • Havering resembling boroughs like Hackney, Newham, Camden and Barking, rather than a traditional part of Essex!

As word of the newsletter spread, voters made their feelings known:

Racist Tory campaigns

This comes after Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign against Khan, which was littered with dog-whistle racism.

Goldsmith also wrote a piece for those known race-baiters at the Daily Mail, linking Khan to the 7/7 terrorist attacks. The piece was so overtly racist and unbefitting of a candidate for political office that it provoked an immediate and angry response from Conservative peer Baroness Warsi.

Both campaigns hold overtones of the campaign for Smethwick during the 1964 general election – dubbed the most racist episode in British electoral history. Conservative candidate Peter Griffiths ran on the campaign slogan: If you want a n*gger for a neighbour, vote Labour.

Griffiths justified his campaign by telling The Times:

I would not condemn any man who said that, I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.

The saddest part of this piece of history is that Griffiths won. Despite wide Labour gains around the country, Smethwick swang sharply to the Conservatives and Griffiths secured victory. As Labour’s defeated incumbent Patrick Gordon Walker left the hall, Tory supporters jeered:

‘Where are your niggers now, Walker?’ and ‘Take your niggers away!’

Not racist? Don’t vote racist!

Over half a century later, it looks like Conservatives are still race-baiting to win elections. And they should be held accountable for their tactics. But they are not responsible for the choice of individual voters to allow such prejudices to fester in their own hearts. That’s the good news. Because Britain doesn’t have to wait for the Conservative Party to change or be voted out to make this stop. We can each choose to make this change happen ourselves, right now.

Get Involved!

– Support the Stop Funding Hate campaign. Demand that advertisers withdraw funding from newspapers and websites that promote hate speech.

– Support the work of Hope Not Hate.

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via Twitter/Flickr Creative Commons

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