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Friday, March 28, 2008 

An unwelcome message and Labour's complicity.

You can't get much further from the message of the Sun's "mothers in arms" than the statement given yesterday by the mother of Sophie Lancaster, the gap-year student beaten to death simply for being a goth, or as her attackers referred to her, a "mosher".

"I stand outside this house of justice today, not as Sophie's mother, but as her voice," she said. "Her voice that was cruelly silenced in a single mindless act. I have lost an adorable and adoring daughter, but her death has also ruined the lives of those responsible, as well as the lives of their families. Today, more than ever, we need to show respect, compassion and tolerance for those whose appearance and culture differs from our own."

Her concern and sympathy for Sophie's murderers and their families, despite their own behaviour towards her, is something that not everybody will be able to understand. Her message however is one that ought to be universal.

All of this puts the Sun in a difficult position in how to report and comment on the murder. Naturally, it's being used as part of their campaign against "Broken Britain", but it completely jars against the demands of the "mothers in arms", which include the reintroduction of the death penalty, a compulsory DNA database, zero tolerance for minor crimes and the repeal of the human rights act, the very legislation which protects those who appearance and culture differs from those of the powerful.

The article itself is filled with the usual Sun hyperbole and harsh adjectives, but it's the Sun leader which is most of interest, mainly because it manages to go through the whole thing without referring to the fact that Sophie and her boyfriend were attacked purely because of what they were wearing, or indeed to any of Sylvia Lancaster's pleas for respect, compassion and tolerance, although it does wrangle this from somewhere:

Among the many eloquent remarks made by Sophie’s courageous mother Sylvia, a youth worker, was this:

“I have always been leftie liberal and now I come from the other side and just see it as ‘this is how it is’.”

That’s a message of which our soft judges and Government ministers must take heed.

Which looks to me as the Sun completely taking her remarks out of context. As a youth worker, she would already know "how it is". She's now looked at it from the other side, but it hasn't changed her views despite that, as her other comments make clear. It's therefore deeply predictable which the next line is:

Liberal attitudes on parenting, education and crime have led us here. There is only one way to turn back the tide.

So the mother that calls for liberal attitudes to continue is therefore completely ignored: she's irrelevant because her views don't fit with the Sun's, which has long made its mind up about what works and what doesn't. Despite 10 years of Labour getting ever tougher on all three of those issues, it can never be harsh enough to appease the demands of a press which cannot possibly be sated.

Last week at a meeting between the Labour pressure groups Progress and Compass, the former Blairite and the latter on the soft-left, Hazel Blears had the audacity to dismiss the arguments made by Compass as "pandering to the Guardian". Chance would be a fine thing. After 11 years of New Labour pandering purely to the Daily Mail and the Sun, pandering which will never ever secure their support over the very issues of immigration and crime which Blears and her Blairite clique are obsessed with being ever more reactionary on, it'd be nice if Labour decided to pander to the Guardian for a while, and see where that gets us. The time to do that however was in 1997; now Labour has not just lost the lumpen working-classes that it has abandoned and fails to understand, talk about and to, it's also lost the lower middle classes that it briefly wooed. The last remaining supporters of New Labour are the middle-class "intellectuals", and even they are finally getting fed up with a party that laughs in their face while taking their votes. 1997 had its Portillo moment; I yearn for 2009/2010 and hopefully its equivalents in Blears/Hutton/Flint and all the other Blairites getting dumped once and for all, even if it means Cameron and his ghastly acolytes replacing them. I really can't see how they can be any worse.

Related post:
Enemies of Reason - The Hatred of Otherness

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