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Race Issues:Blears Gets It Right… Hodge and Parr Do Not

Race and culture are minefields in the UK, and two Labour Ministers and a wanabee contestant on the lamentable gawpfest that is Big Brother have re ignited the debate in recent days and that can be no bad thing.

Industry Minister Margaret Hodge represents a Constituency which has seen tremendous demographic upheaval in the last twenty years.

Barking has traditionally been a blue collar area providing labour for the Ford motor plant and it’s subsidiaries in Dagenham, but recent developments have seen the numbers employed slashed and the local economy is now a low wage, low skill affair based on service industry.

Allied to this, the Borough has the cheapest private housing in London, thus attracting those at the bottom end of the socio economic scale who in this case are predominantly Bengali.

Therefore affordable housing, as in most parts of the UK is at a premium and because of the demographics this makes Barking fertile ground in the imagination of the BNP who have gained a foothold in the Council.

Hazel Blears has encountered similar problems in Salford, and whilst acknowledging the fears of her local community, she has quite rightly pointed the finger at those Rackmanite Landlords that illegally pack people into substandard accommodation that would be recognisable in The Road to Wigan Pier.

In addition Blears attacks unscrupulous employers who, whilst paying the minimum wage “On the Book”, exploit their workforce by making them work extremely long hours, often in additional employment which is hidden, building, catering and farm work being the main areas.

So although it appears that everything is above board regarding hours worked on one job, the unfortunate immigrant is often pressed into service “Off the Book” which drives down wages for the indigenous population.

This in undeniable and I feel that Blears was right to grasp the nettle and chose the right targets; Rackmanisim and employer exploitation and any discussion on this within the Trade Union movement will reach similar conclusions.

Hodge, however did not and has been quite rightly condemned from the Front Bench with Alan Johnson accusing her of employing the sentiments of the Far Right for saying that indigenous British people should receive priority for Social Housing.

An admirable, and pragmatic idea it would seem?

Yes. But a few slight problems and Hodge should know this from her time as Council Leader in Hackney.

Firstly only 1%, yes that’s right 1%, of occupants of Social Housing are non British people, and secondly their ain’t much in the way of this type of accommodation available in the first place.

So it’s a non issue. She only said it to appear “tough” and stand up for her white constituents, thus giving the false premise that white people live in rubbish houses because of the influx of people from outside the Borough, which simply isn’t true.

As a Minister in the Labour Government her first priority should be to campaign for mass build new Social Housing to right the cause of this mess which was the flogging off of well maintained Council stock by the Thatcher Government, which was then sold on by the occupants (no blame attached. You’d have to have been one sandwich short of the proverbial picnic not to take advantage) for vast profit and is now in the private rented sector with all the problems that this causes with poor maintenance, overcrowding and resulting anti social behaviour.

Major reform of the tax breaks on land, second houses and the ownership of acreage by the Crown and the Church of England should be the way forward to address the issue, not the demonisation of one section of Society, and I bet if we weren’t in this weird interregnum period, Hodge would have lost her Front Bench job.

In the wake of Emily Parr’s eviction from the Big Brother House John Humphreys conducted a discussion on Radio 4’s Today Programme. Whilst lots of people throw their hands up in horror and proclaim loudly that they never watch it, you’d have to be like the Judge who had never heard of Gazza, especially if you are under 45. It’s there and (rightly or wrongly) part of modern Popular Culture.

What annoyed me was that Humphreys kept repeating THAT word. Not just once, but ad nauseum. If it had been the F or C word would he have done so?

The N word is just far, far beyond the pale, and everyone knows it. In 15 years as a teacher all the kids new that so there is really no excuse. I’m not stupid to believe it never went on, but people just instinctively know. All I can think is that Parr, a self confessed Tory, and her friends used it as routine amongst themselves.

As for the argument that black people call each other it…. I remember a fantastic Chris Rock routine on this and he pointed out that is always used insultingly, and never as a positive re enforcement of colour.

Black people love reading. But if you want to keep money safe, hide it in a book. Books are like kryptonite to +++++++!”

And as for the Gangsta Rap argument. The vast majority of these acts work for white owned labels aimed at a white audience who want to titillated by this incredibly narrow and un representative strand of Black Culture in order to appear cool and street.

The Indy analysed ticket and record sales for Snoop, Jay Zee and 50 Cent. The results show that 75% of the audience is white so proving that mainstream black youth aren’t that interested, and it sells as a form of cultural porn to a certain market.

Hopefully the good to come out of this sorry affair will to re enforce the taboo of this hideous throwback to the Slave Trade and all that went with this evil practice.

Now we need to address the issue of misogynistic language and it causes and affects. Would this be a cause for eviction? Of course not…


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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