Remember the media outrage over ‘endemic racism’ in the Conservative Party? Nope. Neither do we.

Theresa May
Ed Sykes

Anyone remember the Westminster protests and media outrage about claims of “endemic racism” in the Conservative Party? No?

Neither do we.

But amid the media campaign currently targeting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, we really need to look back at the Conservatives’ own record.

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“There is endemic racism in the Tory party”

Andrew Lansley, previously a Conservative secretary of state for health, admitted in 2001 that:

There is endemic racism in the Tory party. It is in the system.

And years later, it seemed like little had been done to change that. In 2016, Britain’s biggest union – Unite – released a dossier [pdf] documenting offensive comments made by Conservative Party members and activists. Many of these, it said, had escaped punishment.

This release came in the wake of Zac Goldsmith’s racist campaign for mayor of London, which received the support of then-prime minister David Cameron. Goldsmith’s campaign put dog-whistle politics front and centre. But Lynton Crosby, the man responsible for this campaign, is still Sir Lynton Crosby. And Goldsmith is still a Conservative MP.

Unite’s list

The Unite list outlined the following comments, among many others:

  • Boris Johnson’s description of people of African origin as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” in a 2002 column for the Daily Telegraph. These terms referred to a caricature of dark-skinned children which is now considered to be racist and derogatory.
  • The 2009 posting of a gorilla picture next to a comment about a Labour councillor of Asian origin by Bolton Conservative councillor Bob Allen.
  • The 2010 complaint by Tory councillor for Colne, Smith Benson, that there were “too many Pak*s” in the town.
  • Dover councillor Bob Frost’s description of people involved in the 2011 riots as “jungle bunnies”, and of prospective Middle Eastern buyers of Dover port in 2014 as “sons of camel drivers”.
  • The comment allegedly made by a University College London Conservative Society member in 2014 that: “Jews own everything, we all know it’s true. I wish I was Jewish, but my nose isn’t long enough”.
  • Tory councillor for Leicestershire, Bob Fahey, referred to another councillor as a “Chink” in 2015.
  • Current cabinet member Oliver Letwin was revealed in 2015 to have said, while advisor to Margaret Thatcher, that schemes to help citizens of African origin would be spent in “the disco and drugs trade” and that employment programmes would only see them “graduate … into unemployment and crime”.

None of those mentioned above, Unite said, were expelled from the party over their comments.

The difference between the Labour and Conservative parties

Today’s Labour leader is a veteran anti-racism campaigner. And even an anti-Corbyn parliamentary committee has noted [pdf, p8] that “the majority of antisemitic abuse and crime” comes from the far right. Yet only Corbyn’s Labour Party has ordered investigations into antisemitism and made it crystal clear that all forms of discrimination are unwelcome. In 2016, lawyer and human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti concluded that Labour was “not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism”.

Labour’s 2018 rule book, meanwhile, insists [pdf, p104]:

The Labour Party is an anti-racist party, committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Labour will not tolerate racism in any form inside or outside the party.

There have apparently been no Conservative investigations into discrimination, however, in spite of recent examples including:

  • Tory MP Bob Blackman sharing an article suggesting rape and pedophilia are part of Muslim culture.
  • Foreign secretary Boris Johnson attending the launch of a ‘racist’ Tory campaign.
  • A Theresa May aide ‘exploiting homophobia for political ends’.
  • Boris Johnson making “sexist” comments in parliament.
  • A Conservative councillor undergoing anti-racism training.
  • A Tory MP using the word “n*gger” at a public meeting and returning to work after only a brief suspension.
  • Labour’s Diane Abbott receiving almost half of all Twitter abuse aimed at women MPs during the 2017 election, with Labour blaming the Conservatives for promoting “personal attacks as a core component of its national campaign”.

Media hypocrisy

Britain should absolutely call out all forms of prejudice, wherever they appear. But unfortunately, we can’t trust the mainstream media to hold all politicians to account equally – to treat the Conservative Party and its opponents in the same way.

Due to anti-Corbyn bias, we rarely see Westminster protests or media outrage about claims of “endemic racism” in the Conservative Party. And as a result, the ruling party essentially has a free pass to ignore its own problem.

Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out and taken action to deal with pockets of discrimination in his party. His stance is absolutely clear.

The Conservative Party’s stance, however, is less clear. And its relative silence regarding discrimination within its own ranks speaks volumes.

Get Involved!

– Read Unite’s full document on Conservative Party racism here [pdf].

– Support The Canary, so we can keep exposing the propaganda and hypocrisy of political and media elites.

– Support the work of Hope Not Hate and the Stop Funding Hate campaign. Demand that advertisers withdraw funding from newspapers and websites that promote hate speech.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Annika Haas

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