Far from being edgy, Jason Manford’s anti-racist spiel just lashes out at the marginal

Jason Manford, Jan 2013, University of Salford Press Office

Every era has its own political boilerplate, statements that can be unthinkingly uttered to win you friends whilst gaining you few enemies that matter.

These are based on the taboos, prejudices and groupthink of the times. If you wish to play to the gallery, after all, you need to know what they like. And once you have that you can soak up the cheap applause:

Right now in our island’s history, it is a bad time to be a racist. Better, perhaps, than when New Labour felt confident enough to “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”, but much worse than the decades following the Second World War, and especially the old days of the Empire which rather shows up the institutional racism we now practice.

Fascism is in similar straits. The fringe left in Britain loudly proclaim their commitment to combating it, but the modesty of this was highlighted by the groups themselves when they confronted some chapter of the far right at Piccadilly Circus in a London demo earlier this year. As the lefties accurately observed at the time: “There are a lot more of us than you.”

Sniping at fringe righties, far from being brave and edgy, is thus the definition of the punching downward that comedians on the Left are supposed to disdain. After all, the front benches of the Commons are not stocked with “closest racists” (in prime minister Call Me Dave’s phrase) but with those that largely hold socially liberal views, especially as regards migration.

True enough, there are some establishment backers of the Kippers and their political kin. But as anybody with a brief acquaintance of these groups could tell you, they are largely made up of white, working-class, middle aged men – in other words those that the Islington intellectuals in Labour used to court, but now treat with disdain and mockery.

There’s no sorrow in the fact that racism is treated with scorn and hostility, nor that fascism or homophobia is given the same reception in most civilised quarters. But there’s no nobility in trashing the ignorant, inarticulate and inept, and nobody should pretend otherwise.

Header Image – Jason Manford, January 2013 by University of Salford Press Office