I can see why British Spin is worried about the tone of the coverage of the gypsy/traveller controversy. I have my own reasons for feeling nervous too: my father is Jamaican, my wife is Indian and my sons are unlikely to be mistaken for members of the Royal Family. But, but, but…. That happens to make me more aware of the fact that trying to suppress debate only makes things worse. Kudos to Jonathan Freedland for his Guardian column urging the Left to engage in the conversation. He still can’t quite get out of the habit of implying that all conservatives are closet racists - why else would he imply that the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? (which I loved) is part and parcel of the “progressive” cause? But it’s a good piece, all the same.

As I’m writing this, I’m trying to think of books on race issues in the UK which have managed to speak in an honest, open voice. The one that comes instantly to mind is Dervla Murphy’s "Tales From Two Cities", an account of her visits to Birmingham and pre-Rushdie affair Bradford. Being Irish, Murphy didn’t feel duty-bound to observe the usual metropolitan niceties. Sadly, the book seems to be out-of-print. I reviewed it for the Statesman (or possibly New Society - it was a long time ago) when it first came out. I really liked it, but I recall that my article didn’t go down well with at least one of the magazine’s editors. A clue, I guess, that we were going to fall out sooner or later.

I wonder if Murphy has written much on the travellers in Ireland? I'll have to check later. Laban Tall’s reminiscences on Peter Cuthbertson’s page have the ring of truth about them. Many of the convoys that pass through my area have managed to alienate the locals by laying waste to the landscape. Raising concerns over that kind of anti-social behaviour has nothing to do with "gas chambers".


When I see the hostile coverage of Tory leader, Michael Howard, my mind goes back to Rudy Giuliani’s campaign against David Dinkins. Jim Sleeper has a section on this in his excellent book, Liberal Racism. I lived in New York during the early part of Giuliani’s time in office. To read the NY Times then, you’d have thought that the burning smell in Washington Square came from bonfires of books rather than the usual collection of spliffs. My well-heeled liberal friends seemed to get a thrill out of thinking they were living in their very own American gulag.

There's one big difference between Howard and Giuliani. Rudy looked and sounded as if he really meant what he said. I do actually think Howard means what he says, but somehow he gives the impression it’s all a Cunning Plan.
|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/03/first-they-came-for-travellers-i-can.html|||3/25/2005 05:41:00 pm|||||||||