Issue 208 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published May 1997 Copyright Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Pat Stack

There was never much doubt in my mind what the argument about 'political correctness' was really all about. Of course people could point to absurdities adopted by some, although many of the most famous examples 'Baa Baa Black Sheep', black bin liners and so on were actually inventions by the Sun. No, the real campaign, indeed obsession with 'political correctness' has been an attempt by the right wing to turn back the clock on much of the anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-jingoist advances that have been made in the past 20 years and more.

Those who champion the cause of crusading against 'political correctness' have become supporters of everything from Loaded magazine to the rehabilitation of Benny Hill, from articles in the Guardian in praise of Bernard Manning to Fitz the bloody bulldog barking out Labour's patriotic credentials.

Recent examples press home the point. A huge row erupted in the world of football over the question of racism. Firstly incidents involving Manchester United's Danish keeper, Peter Schmeichel, and two black players have raised the question of racism on the pitch.

Then came an incident involving Welsh manager Bobby Gould and one of his players, Nathan Blake, who is black. The player complained that Gould had made soft racists quips to him and had used foul racist language about an opposing black player.

I watched this issue being debated on one of those sport chat shows that suddenly have proliferated on our television screens. Should Gould be sacked for his racism or not? The majority of the panel agreed that although what Gould had said was regrettable he should not be sacked. Many of the panel knew dear old Bobby and, while he may be guilty of the odd slip of the tongue, he's no racist. Why, some of his best players were...

On the panel was the boxing commentator Reg Gutteride. Gutteridge wanted to make it clear that he was not a racist. No, he abhorred racism and was glad that it is dying out of sport (well, it is according to Reg). He had one major problem though. Why did Blake go public with all this, as it only makes things worse?

Now, of course, it is easy to see why Reg thinks sport is largely racism free. After all, if people don't talk about it, it will at worst go away or at best not exist altogether. But there's this damn 'politically correct' black footballer not willing to put up with the jokes, not prepared to turn a deaf ear to foul racist abuse, which, of course, only slipped out in the heat of the moment.

Ah well, you say, so what? It's just football. But it's just a small step from complaining that someone speaks out to begin to dismiss what they say altogether. And far more important people than the odd moronic boxing commentator can deliver far more crucial judgements.

How about, for example, crown court judge Christopher Hardy. Hardy was hearing a case in which a young black woman was being prosecuted for attacking a retired army general in a taxi queue after he rebuked her for jumping the queue. The woman's defence was that she had responded to a torrent of racial abuse.

Now, you and I weren't there and can't know the full facts. The judge, however, was in no doubt, nor was his lack of doubt confined to this one black woman:

'What has happened in your defence is the sort of thing, unfortunately, happening increasingly in the experience of the courts when a defendant appears from an ethnic minority. You quite cynically and dishonestly decided to play the race card, seeking to get politically correct sympathy with the jury...'

Now this is, to say the least, interesting. Let's just suppose you were a young black who had responded to a torrent of racial abuse. How should you mitigate in front of Judge Hardy, since clearly he wouldn't believe you had been racially abused? I suppose you could try a politically incorrect defence. Maybe the judge would prefer, 'He was staring at my bird so I had him,' or, 'He looked like a poof so I kicked his head in,' or even, 'He reminded me of that Tony Benn and I can't stand left wing scum.'

In case you think this is being a bit hard on Hardy, it is worth pointing out that this is the judge who only gave a three month sentence to BNP leader Richard Edmonds after a vicious racist assault on a black man who had the 'politically correct' nerve to have a white girlfriend, which enraged Edmonds and his fellow Nazis so much that they stuck a glass in the black man's face.

It appears that judges, who seem to be the most out of touch section of society, are up to date on the latest political fads. You have judges who've never heard of Gazza, who asked of George Best at the height of his fame whether he 'played Association Football or Rugby Football Union'.

There are judges who have been on record as never having heard of the Beatles, let alone Oasis. Yet there they are completely up to the mark on the evils of 'political correctness'. Strange isn't it?

I don't know about Fitz, but I do know that those who hound 'political correctness' have a bite a whole lot nastier than their bark.

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