LET US be frank, so far the life and times of Conservative MP Craig Whittaker have not disturbed the tranquillity of the Morning Star editorial offices or agitated the professional concerns of those who labour there.
Even though he has three times secured his parliamentary seat in the Calder Valley and is presently, it appears, Her Majesty’s Lord Commissioner to the Treasury — essentially an enforcer for the Whip’s Office — he has appeared indistinguishable from the host of parliamentary nonentities who make up the government’s majority.
Now, however, he has emerged from obscurity with his perfect distillation of Conservative values embodied in his notion that the “vast majority” of people breaking lockdown rules are from Muslim and black and ethnic minority communities.
This is a conscious bid to mobilise the racist assumptions that lie unchallenged in the circles in which he mixes.
The purpose is to distract attention from the growing crisis of Covid-19 infections which has inevitably arisen from the confused messaging and contradictory policies followed by the government.
Ever since the government realised that Boris Johnson’s idea that the way to deal with the coronavirus was to “take it on the chin” and infect as many people as possible in order to manufacture a “herd immunity” would create a public health disaster, much of government messaging has been about managing public opinion rather than reinforcing rational courses of action.
If the government paid as much attention to suppressing the coronavirus as it does to managing its public relations, the infection rates as a whole but particularly for England might be diminishing at a rate which inspires confidence that life can return to something like normal.
Forget that for a while.
In Whittaker’s evidence-free train of thought, any passing idea can be pressed into service to divert attention from the manifest failures of government policy. And this one serves a double purpose.
First, to let the government off the hook just as a spike in infection is compelling a hasty retreat from the sunshine stories ministers have been peddling for several weeks now.
And second, to allow attention to be shifted from a scientific analysis of how, why and where infections are on the rise by blaming a group of people who, by virtue of the position they occupy in Britain’s sclerotic and class-divided society, are disproportionally the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is impossible to prove, or even disprove, Whittaker’s allegations. That is the point.
It is a highly political intervention by a government flunkey designed to poison the discussion and deflect it from a rational scrutiny of government policy.
100 red years
TODAY is the centenary of the formation of the Communist Party in Britain.
Although it was profoundly influenced by the Russian Revolution, this was no foreign import but the logical and natural outcome of a long process of debate and dispute which saw Britain’s various existing socialist groups and parties — some in origin constituent founding parts of the federal Labour Party, others the direct representatives of militant working-class communities like the Clydeside shop stewards or the south Wales miners — struggle to find unity around a project for working-class power and socialism.
We should recall that such was the enthusiasm for revolutionary change in these years that the TUC organised a national movement of Councils of Action in every working-class area to challenge British government policy and defend the power won by Russia’s workers and peasants.
The time is fast approaching when the working-class movement and Britain’s socialist forces must find again the kind of unity which frightens our ruling class into retreat.
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