Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Diane Abbott - Pots and Kettles

After the disastrous Dieppe Raid of 19 August, 1942, the German and pro-Nazi media exploded with a protracted period of gloating. This seemingly unrelated event came to mind when I saw the outbreaks of mirth from the right-wing press over Diane Abbott's "car crash" interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC. Quentin Letts, in yesterday's Daily Mail said:
"..the BBC forced her to listen – while a TV camera was focused on her face – to her bloopers on the Ferrari show."
With what seems to be purely malevolent relish, Letts goes on to say:
"The poor pudding just sat there and her mouth alternated between flickers of a smile and something more sad, possibly close to tears."
Even the irritating Michael Gove, whose tenure as Minister for Education was a standing joke, seized upon the opportunity to attack an opponent in trouble:
“... it would be uniquely dangerous if we were to allow them (i.e. Labour) to come to power because not enough people had voted Conservative at this election, and they were able to preside over some ramshackle chaotic coalition which would pitch this country into danger.”
Mr Gove knows a lot about chaotic coalitions - he used to belong to one.
I cannot deny that Ms Abbott's performance on LBC was substandard and she needs to learn from her mistakes, but the malicious glee with which she has been attacked is disgusting. This is all part and parcel of the right-wing media's campaign to smear the Labour Party leadership and their policies. The personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn are well enough known - he has been labelled everything from a supporter of terrorism to a Wurzel Gummidge lookalike. What is less well known is the vilification of Diane Abbott on social media, in phone calls, emails and letters. Anyone who doubts this can type her name into YouTube and see some of the vile stuff that surfaces. She is abused for her ethnicity and for being a woman. She is regularly subjected to racist abuse and threats of rape and murder. Since the killing of Jo Cox, such threats cannot be taken lightly. Quentin Letts, patronisingly, concludes his triumphalist article by saying:
"Politics, like farce, is a hard game. You trifle with it at your peril."
Really, Mr Letts? The pressures faced by Diane Abbott and all female and ethnic minority MPs are no laughing matter. And since when did a hard game have to be dangerous to life and limb?
Nor is Diane Abbott the only politician or public figure ever to make foolish gaffes when facing the questions of the press. There was the famous occasion when the Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, was interviewed by Nick Ferrari before the 2015 Election. Ferrari asked Ms Bennett how her party would pay for an additional 500,000 new social homes. Ms Bennett's reply was a masterpiece of vagueness:
Ms Bennett said:
“Well, what we want to do is fund that particularly by removing tax relief on mortgage interests for private landlords. We have a situation where…”
Mr Ferrari asked how much that would raise, to which Ms Bennett stumbled: "Erm... well... it's... that's part of the whole costing."
Then there was Gordon Brown's blunder in describing a constituent, Gillian Duffy, as "a bigoted woman" - for which he later apologised. But perhaps the car crash interview that resonates the most is that of Margaret Thatcher in 1983. As The Mirror says:
"...Margaret Thatcher was floored by a member of the public who asked her about the sinking of the Belgrano.Appearing on Nationwide during the 1983 election campaign Mrs Thatcher was grilled by a voter, Diana Gould, on the sinking of the Argentine warship the General Belgrano during the previous year's Falklands war."
Nor are car crash interviews exclusive to Britain:
 Sarah Palin of Alaska enlivened the 2008 US presidential race when first nominated — until her lack of knowledge of current affairs became an embarrassment. Just before the election, she could not name a single newspaper or magazine she read daily:
. “All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years. I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.”
Then, in 2011, there was the awful interview given by Tony Abbott (no relation to Diane). When Abbott was leader of the Australian parliamentary opposition, a TV interviewer asked him about an appallingly tactless remark he  made about the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan -"Shit happens". During the interview, Abbott did not speak at all. He simply stared at the interviewer and nodded his head.
To conclude, Diane Abbott does need to take stock of her blunder and make sure she never again gives the malicious Tory press such an easy propaganda victory. However, she is not the first politician to make a mess of things on air and she won't be the last.

1 comment:

  1. Reading the Daily Mail, Geoff?

    If the media gave the Tories as hard a time as they give opposition parties, especially Labour under Corbyn, the Tories would be way down in the polls. The sight of Theresa May parading up and down in front of her MPs after the announcement of the election, flapping her arms like a demented penguin should surely have been mocked if the media made any attempt at even-handed reporting.