Why did a SKWAWKBOX email re anti-racism make 41 MPs and 3 Peers run to the HuffPost?

It’s amazing what a simple email can do sometimes. Just ask the Tories, whose connections to Cambridge Analytica and their behaviour in outing a gay Muslim man for political purposes threaten to bring their house of cards down.

Monday’s ‘Enough is enough’ protest outside Parliament expressed the legitimate concerns of some of the UK’s Jewish people, but as journalist Mehdi Hasan observed:

mehdi

There are many Jewish members of the Labour Party who wholeheartedly agree with him.

Comedian Francesca Martinez went further, saying:

A word on the latest Corbyn ‘mural’ outrage.

This is, as always, about politics. If anyone needs convincing, please read about other socialist leaders around the world. They are routinely called commies, anti-semitic, insane etc. It is an age-old tactic.

Corbyn can’t be touched on policy so they have to manufacture shit-storms.
He is a life-long anti-racist campaigner with a thirty year record of standing against racism in all its forms. He is one of only 8% of MPs to have signed the five UK parliamentary motions that condemned antisemitism.

No other MP has such a record of commitment to fighting racism and anti-semitism.
While we’re all debating whether Corbyn’s a spy or a Putin stooge, or an anti-semite, people are dying in NHS corridors, disabled people are starving to death, our public services are being cut, our assets are being privatised, our wages are being driven down, our environment is plundered and polluted, and wealth and power remain in the hands of the 1%.

Make no mistake, this is a war.
If Corbyn goes, we, the 99%, all lose.

We will never achieve a more equal, democratic, humane and peaceful society, if we allow the elites to destroy anyone who stands up against them.

There were Labour MPs at the demonstration who were attending their first-ever anti-racism rally – yet were criticising the ‘life-long anti-racist campaigner’ who leads the Labour Party.

Labour MPs record – or lack of it – in combating racism before they picked up an ‘Enough is enough’ placard is a legitimate subject of enquiry.

So we enquired.

The SKWAWKBOX wrote a polite email to five Labour MPs who were at, or expressed support for, Monday’s demonstration: Ian Austin, Wes Streeting, John Woodcock, Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy.

With very minor variations, we asked them:

We’ll be running a piece later today on MPs’ participation in last night’s demonstration and their overall activity in terms of combating racism.

Please advise any comment about your participation last night that you wish to have included and provide examples of the following:

1. you publicly denouncing Islamophobia
2. you publicly denouncing racism toward black people and other ethnic minorities
3. Examples of you participating in public demonstrations against Islamophobia and racism toward black and other ethnic groups

By 5pm please, to ensure it can be included at publication.

Ian Austin

The SKWAWKBOX and Ian Austin can hardly be described as friends and it’s exceedingly rare we’d have anything complimentary to say about each other. But Mr Austin engaged with the questions and provided a substantive response, for which we complimented him sincerely. His answer:I could send loads of examples, but here’s a couple just from the last few weeks.

Here’s a recent article from the Express and Star about the forthcoming anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech. It celebrates the diversity and unity of communities in the West Midlands and the contribution people from around the world have made to the region:

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/voices/opinions/2018/02/19/ian-austin-there-is-nothing-to-celebrate-in-powells-shameful-words/

Here’s my comments and a video of me denouncing the disgraceful “Punish a Muslim” day planned for next week and the work I’ll be doing to oppose it:

https://twitter.com/IanAustinMP/status/973254073058250752

I’ve attached a video of me speaking in Parliament about this which I am sure you will want to use.

Indeed. Here it is:

Mr Austin is clearly not afraid to stand on his record of resisting racism and bigotry – whether that be antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms.

Credit where it’s due.

His colleagues, however, seemed less willing to face the question. They took a different approach.

John Woodcock

Some time ago, when we asked Stella Creasy about the appropriateness of partying with a Tory MP when his party is causing so much damage and misery to vulnerable people, she decided to try to pre-empt the scrutiny by publishing the email herself. It didn’t end well.

Nonetheless, Mr Woodcock took the same tack and published the SKWAWKBOX’s email in a tweet:

woodcock.png

Mr Woodcock tagged a number of organisations in his tweet in what appeared to be an attempt to invite ‘dogpiling’ – yet apparently considers a polite enquiry to be ‘targeting’. Sure enough, the dogpiling ensued – but with a lot of others pointing out his hypocrisy, too.

The nuisance

Curiously, a short time after sending the enquiries, the email address used to send the emails was flooded by subscription confirmations from a large number of parliamentary information services:

nuisance sign-ups cropped.png

Of course, none of our parliamentary representatives would be so immature as to respond to a polite email by using the SKWAWKBOX’s email address to register nuisance sign-ups in an attempt to inconvenience the blog. But the timing is curious.

The Huffington Post

Four of the MPs, with the apparent exception of Mr Austin (bravo again) then reacted very curiously indeed to a polite email – by running to the Huffington Post with an ‘open letter’.

The letter – which selectively quoted the SKWAWKBOX email to miscast it as ‘demanding’ – had been rapidly signed by forty-one MPs and three Peers, to get the ‘Huff Post’ to write an article attacking the SKWAWKBOX for ‘bullying’ MPs:

hp bull

Interestingly, the article claimed – again in an echo of an article published after Ms Creasy went public with our earlier polite request – that we had ‘demanded they provide examples‘ of their anti-racism activities. A serious exaggeration, given the wording shown above.

It’s also worth noting that the SKWAWKBOX was attacked, in that earlier example, for ‘only’ giving Ms Creasy ninety minutes to respond – providing a publishing deadline with a press enquiry is perfectly normal.

Yet the HP’s request for comment to us was received at 19.52hrs on Tuesday evening, chased only ten minutes later – and the HP article was published only 39 minutes after the first enquiry.

Our enquiry on Tuesday asked for information more than 3.5 hours before the deadline.

So who was being ‘demanding’?

The article also – as can be seen in the screengrab above – quotes an MP saying ‘We will not be deterred by threats‘.

But no ‘threat’ was made. In accordance with usual practice, we outlined the article we were planning to publish and asked for a comment, if they wanted one to be included.

These rather obvious points seem not to have occurred to HP journalists Kate Forrester and Rachel Wearmouth in their presentation of a polite email request as something sinister.

Perhaps not their finest hour.

The article also quotes the ‘Community Security Trust’ condemning the polite email enquiry as ‘utterly pathetic and malicious’.

Yes, probably not its authors’ finest hour.

Stella Creasy

Ms Creasy’s defence of her anti-racism record in the article consists of telling the HP:

Whether it’s Ian Austin organising to visit lots of mosques in his constituency, Wes Streeting chairing the APPG on British Muslims or me working with Tell Mama, this attack is clearly without any foundation.

We’ve already applauded Mr Austin for his efforts against Islamophobia. Chairing an All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘on British Muslims’ might not be seen by British Muslims as particularly strenuous on their behalf on the part of Wes Streeting – especially as the group was only formed eight months ago.

But ‘Tell Mama’s comment in the article rather takes the wind out of Ms Creasy’s righteous sails:

tellmama this month.png

Ms Creasy’s contribution to the question about her anti-racist activities consisted of her involvement with an anti-Islamophobia charity that she only initiated a couple of weeks ago.

And before that?

Well, before that – as the SKWAWKBOX exclusively revealed – Ms Creasy caused great offence among her black parliamentary colleagues and constituents by sending a racist trope image to their shared WhatsApp group:

creasy kia-ora w

Ms Creasy was forced to apologise – claiming that she did not realise the cartoon was racist.

Which is very interesting indeed given her participation in a protest triggered by Jeremy Corbyn’s Facebook comment about a mural he hadn’t looked at closely enough.

Ms Creasy’s partner, Dan fox, was also forced to apologise after making a ‘racist and abusive’ tweet about a black, Jewish woman.

Jess Phillips

Birmingham Yardley MP responded to criticism of her motives in participating in Monday’s protest by tweeting:

DZPrSjfWkAYIIeB

We asked Ms Phillips to let us know when she had ‘[spoken] out against Islamophobia. She did not provide any response to the enquiry, but instead signed the HP’s ‘open letter’.

The accompanying HP article does not provide any detail of her pronouncements against Islamophobia.

Ms Phillips has however:

  • defended a friend against accusations that she labelled a sexually assaulted black woman as a liar
  • defended a fellow MP who resigned from Labour’s front bench for describing Pakistani men as rapists – in spite of praising Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who objects to abortion even in cases of rape, as a ‘real gent’
  • offended Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities by accusing them of ‘importing’ wives for their disabled sons
  • been criticised for her ‘white feminism’
  • infamously claimed to have told black Labour MP Diane Abbott to ‘fuck off’

Why and wherefore?

Why did forty-one MPs and three Peers hurriedly write an open letter to the Huffington Post after the SKWAWKBOX sent polite email enquiries to just five of them?

Why did only one of the MPs engage constructively with the enquiry and stand on his record?

The answers to the two questions may not be entirely unrelated.

The reaction may also have something to do with the list below of MPs who sponsored or signed an ‘EDM‘ (Early Day Motion) this month ‘unequivocally’ supporting Theresa May’s rush to blame Russia for the Salisbury poisoning.

The move was widely acknowledged to be an attempt to embarrass Jeremy Corbyn – whose more measured, cautious response looks entirely justified now that judicial evidence has emerged that the government has no certainty at all yet about the nature of the poison or where it was made.

After all, Theresa May was free to do what she had decided to do, whether or not a handful of Labour MPs voiced ‘unequivocal’ support.

Here are the Labour MPs who signed EDM 1071:

russia edm overlap.png

The names highlighted in yellow are the MPs who also signed the HP’s ‘open letter’. Four out of five MPs that the SKWAWKBOX contacted for comment about their anti-racism activities prior to Monday’s protest are included.

If Mehdi Hasan is correct about ‘walk[ing] and chew[ing] gum‘ – and Ms Martinez is correct that ‘outrage‘ expressed by some MPs about Corbyn’s reaction to a mural ‘is all about politics‘, then how does that tie in with the apparent over-reaction of forty-one MPs and three Peers to a simple, polite email?

An email that was handled without panic by one MP, who was happy to hold his anti-racism record up to scrutiny.

Given the rush to the press to attack ‘threats‘, ‘bullying‘ and ‘intimidation‘ that were simply not in the email – just who was guilty of threats, bullying and attempted intimidation?

And how should Labour members and supporters respond?

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87 responses to “Why did a SKWAWKBOX email re anti-racism make 41 MPs and 3 Peers run to the HuffPost?

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