You can always tell how seriously people take a wrongdoing by how long it takes them to insist we should accept the apology and move on.
In the case of Diane Abbot’s frankly self-parodically stupid letter to the Observer yesterday, followed by her even more laughably absurd apology, that time-lapse was, ooh, about five minutes.
For those who wisely opted to go into a temporary coma at the weekend and so missed this furore, a quick recap: yesterday, the Observer published a letter from Abbott in which she insisted that Tomiwa Owolade was wrong to claim in an article the previous week that Irish, Jewish and traveller people suffer from racism.
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus,” Abbott wrote, sounding a lot more like an especially idiot race-sensitivity trainer in a small midwest US firm than a Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
Can a representative from the populous Jewish, Irish and Traveller communities in Hackney or Stoke Newington get Abbott a book on European history ASAP, so she can learn that racism didn’t begin and end with Rosa Parks?
After the ensuing outcry, Abbott issued a statement insisting the letter in no way reflected her true feelings, but rather “an initial draft” had mistakenly been sent to the newspaper. An interesting choice of explanations, but I felt she should have just gone for the more popular “I was hacked” excuse, because, let’s be honest, the idea this was just a draft raised more questions than it answered.
Why write a draft that says the literal opposite of what you claim you intended to say? Had she done a Boris Johnson, who allegedly wrote two columns – one pro-Brexit and one pro-Remain – and then decided at the last minute which to send? But why write a letter at all if she had no argument with Owolade’s original piece? And most of all, could she point us in the direction of a book that details the Holocaust for people with red hair? Because clearly, this is an area of history that should be more widely known.
Anyway, despite all the questions that anyone with a brain would have about Abbott’s hacked-out apology, there was a rush from some quarters to urge us all to forgive her, from Robert Peston – who stressed that Abbott “has suffered much racist abuse in her life” (which doesn’t strike me as wildly relevant to the current issue) – to John McTernan in the Spectator, who fretted that any resistance to forgiving Abbott would prove “it is now impossible to accept a sincere apology”.
Diane Abbot has suffered much racist abuse in her life. It is important to accept her apology in a spirit of kindness and understanding. All racism and discrimination, against whichever ethnicities, faiths and communities, is just wrong https://t.co/O2PhMdc0WY pic.twitter.com/UJ241xkV6n— Robert Peston (@Peston) April 23, 2023
Well, it’s hard when that sincere apology rather stretches the bounds of credulity, John.
Keir Starmer wisely thought otherwise and, showing he had learned well from the mistakes of Labour’s past, immediately suspended Abbott. Yet how soon until another ridiculous person decides to claim that Jews have never suffered from racism?
My guess is about three days, because it seems like only yesterday Whoopi Goldberg was saying the same, and Wiley before her, and on and on. Were these people all off the day their schools taught about the Holocaust and the Nazi’s racial purity laws?
It’s depressing to be reminded of how little people care about anti-Jew bigotry. But mainly, it’s illuminating to see in real-time how asinine so many people really are.