BY FRANK HAVILAND
With the best will in the world, it’s hard to sympathise with Diane Abbott. For the record, I don’t possess that will. Nevertheless, I did my utmost to read her ‘woe is me’ whinge-fest in the Independent last week with impartiality. It wasn’t easy.
The Hackney MP has had her ample plumage ruffled once again, this time by ‘racist’ mistreatment at the hands of the BBC. In her piece, she opens the batting with ‘I am not a snowflake on these matters’, but then proceeds to offer a splendid impression. Her principle objection appears to be that new Question Time anchor Fiona Bruce interrupted her excessively, and that Bruce’s polling knowledge was inaccurate.
Everyone makes mistakes (a cautionary maxim of which you’d feel Abbott should be aware), still the YouGov poll of the day confirmed a 5-point Tory lead, vindicating Bruce rather than Abbott.
In terms of interruption, Abbott’s mistake is the assumption of unconditional equal treatment. Fatuous comparisons of speech time or interruption only make sense if you wrongly assume panellists speak with equal authority. It is quite correct that cogency alone is rewarded, and eye-rolling condescension is not.
Diane has made a career dining out on the victim card. The issue of abuse however, is more complex than she lets on. While it is important to concede that she does indeed receive a lot of abuse, she is not the only one. The evidence is clear that male conservatives receive the most. Moreover, the next four female contenders for abuse are all white. It’s not sexism or racism that singles Diane out therefore, it is Diane herself.
Broadly speaking, I’d say she has four major problems which arouse the public’s enmity. Firstly, her politics are naïve at best (Venezuela, Trident, and Immigration). Secondly, her gaffes and their frequency are the stuff of legend (police cost £30 each, Mao did more good than harm, fire puts out water). Thirdly, she clearly despises Britain and its white electorate, and does little to conceal it; even in her article she couldn’t resist the allusion to gammons (red-faced men).
Perhaps most importantly of all, Diane suffers from her association with Corbyn. While most Labour leaders have had the wit to keep her firmly ensconced on the backbenches, Corbyn likes to have his comfort blanket close by. In his insatiable desire to pip Justin Trudeau to the ‘World’s Wokest Cabinet’ title, he has endeavoured to promote every whitewashing, drug-dealer employing, convicted felon of a fishwife he could lay his hands on. That includes ex-girlfriends.
Just as he did back in the 1970’s, Corbyn parades his relationship with Abbott as an emblem of his commitment to progressive politics. Promoting her where she is clearly out of her depth is actually quite cruel.
If Diane genuinely has never had such a horrible experience as she claims to have had last week, then there is something seriously wrong. Clearly the gammons of Derby did not receive the memo that Abbott must be treated with nods and indulgent smiles, but Derby ought to be Labour heartland. If Diane cannot connect with these voters (misguided Leave voters though they are), then she is not connecting with her base.
The job of Home Secretary is one of the great offices of state. In fact (cautious fellow that I am) I’d place it second only to Prime Minster. Defence of the realm is one where competence and a thick skin are to be valued far beyond cronyism. Any would-be Home Secretary whose weapon of choice is the race card rather than Trident, is decidedly unfit for office.
In the wake of allegations of racism, it is terrifying to see both Bruce and the BBC cave to such whining. In Bruce’s case it is more understandable, seeing as she has only just assumed the chair. As for the BBC, this is unforgiveable cowardice. There is much more at stake here than mere ratings. Setting a precedent that guests who complain are not to be subjected to rigorous debate, is a dangerous one; one that the left is keen to promote.
It is the left that storms off tv sets when not permitted to dictate the narrative. The left that no-platforms speakers it disagrees with. The left which cannot be friends with those of opposing views. And it’s the left, thanks to whom Bruce has been advised to stay off social media.
Diane, yet again has managed to get a free pass – her victimhood masking her obvious incompetence. Let’s hope Fiona Bruce is not replaced by Moira Stewart – which victim card would Abbott deploy then?