Politically Correct by Martin Mitchell

Blackpool Councillor 
Coun Martin Mitchell
Blackpool Councillor Coun Martin Mitchell
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We have to draw line 
on racism somewhere

The term ‘political correctness’ is often used to refer to an obsession with rules and, in some instances, a determination to be offended. When white English students at East Anglia University were upbraided for cultural appropriation after holding a ‘sombrero party’ with Mexican food and drink some thought this was appallingly prim and humourless.

Of course the students at East Anglia were having a laugh and the fact that Mexicans don’t usually wear sombreros shouldn’t be allowed to spoil their fun too much. But what about the 2003 fancy dress event at Windsor Castle on the theme of ‘Africa’ where some of Prince William’s Eton mates attended with lion skins, spears and all? Just a prank? Why should we be so forgiving? They weren’t “getting it wrong”, they were being racist buffoons.

I once saw a Noel Coward play where each of the working-class characters was stupid and the one black person comically infantile. Coward probably didn’t know many black or working-class people apart from servants and the ones he did know may have tended to “play dumb”. An excuse? Not a good one. If Coward was so limited that his viewpoint was supremely classist and racist then surely he must take some of the blame for this.

So-called misunderstandings and stupidity populate the racist world. Another example occurred when Spanish motor racing fans blacked up to watch a practice session where they knew mixed race Lewis Hamilton would be appearing. They held up banners with the words, ‘Hamilton family’ and considered the whole thing a scream. A cultural misunderstanding? Possibly. A case for pardoning the fans? Definitely not.

While there will always be those determined to take offence the attack on political correctness is more dangerous than political correctness itself since it involves a belief that others’ feelings don’t matter. “We can say what we want” often means “we can be bullies”. The fact that it can be difficult to know where to draw the line doesn’t mean that lines shouldn’t be drawn at all.

Most of us are only too human

When Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered last year non-politicians were so shocked that they stopped to look at the person she had been.

As accounts of her life emerged people saw her as a wife and mother and someone who encountered reality in the way that they did.

Some found themselves wishing all politicians were like that.

The good news is that nearly all MPs and councillors have some connection to the electorate and are only too human. Nearly all enter public service with a humanistic vision and have a genuine desire to help their communities.

Difficulties sometimes occur when circumstances alter. Since it’s necessary to have some ego to put oneself forward in the first place the concomitant of this is often a misplaced reaction when things go wrong.

The knowledge that others have their own agendas leads to an enthusiasm to get organised oneself. Many a political ingenue has become a conspirator in a very short space of time.

The group system in local government encourages a very high degree of conformity as parties strive to appear united in public.

As political actors submit to the will of their tribe, individualism is diminished and the conscience collective takes over.

Elected politicians following the Party line may become removed from their constituents.

In a worst case scenario no-one in a group expresses what the public is thinking.

Hopefully most political actors have at least some memory of the people we used to be and the determination not to become the worst in our line.

We must accept the Brexit result

An aspect of the post- Brexit referendum I haven’t enjoyed has been the relentless focus on the voting figures and the precise set of circumstances leading up to the result.

Some have argued the electorate didn’t understand the issues, others that when non-voters are considered only a minority wanted Britain to leave the EU.

It’s true there was a substantial amount of misinformation from both sides and the standard of debate was woefully weak.

Despite this, however, people voted in the knowledge that the result would be binding. Not to accept the result would be an insult to the electorate.

I campaigned daily for an ‘IN’ vote but I’m big enough to understand that I don’t know all the answers. The task of everybody now involved in politics should be to understand the reasons for the ‘OUT’ vote and to come to terms with it.

Sadly, there’s evidence that some are yet to start on this journey of understanding.