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SOMETHING extraordinary happened at Holyrood this week, as anyone who picked up today’s Morning Star will be well aware.
I’m not talking about the Scottish Parliament rolling out the red carpet for the founder of a Ukrainian neonazi party, extraordinary as that may be. No, still more galling was that no-one batted an eyelid.
After a moment on my phone in the press gallery, I swiftly discovered Andriy Parubiy (pictured), who has moved on from his days of nazi imagery to become the Speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, has a history of defending the wartime ultra-nationalist leader and nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.
As First Minister’s Questions progressed from criminal tags to hummingbird beaks, I could barely focus.
Just that morning, a broad sweep of Scottish politicians and campaigners had come together to “send a message to the Tory government that we will not tolerate their pandering to Trump.”
Even the Tories in the Holyrood chamber would have struggled to oppose the sentiments of SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who had said: “If President Trump visits, we have an opportunity to show that we will never compromise our values and Trump will go back to America with a clear message that in Scotland we build bridges, not walls.”
Ruth Davidson, after all, has said that a visit by the US president would be a “bad idea” and protests would show the “absolute best of the UK.”
The seismic contrast between the reception of Trump and Parubiy is no surprise, but it should make us stop and think.
Our national media obsesses over US politics to a level beyond the scrutiny the country deserves as the most influential player on the world stage.
The rise of the Donald couldn’t have come at a better moment for much of Britain’s chatterati. As Blairite politics of managerialism and low-tax comfort made way for a radical Labour Party, a small but vocal band of privileged political hobbyists found themselves searching for a new mast.
Opposing Trump — and opposing Brexit for the sake of it — has provided this sorry rabble with a new purpose.
They find this far easier than they ever did, or could, getting angry over George W Bush or other US warmongers such as Bill and Hillary Clinton. Most modern rightwingers tactically disguise their social conservatism, whereas Trump sees his own disgusting prejudice as part of his personal brand.
Trump is scarily serious, but that doesn’t stop him having the characteristics of a cartoon villain. The shade of his face would embarrass any Orange Order flautist and his mane must leave even Michael Fabricant feeling at ease.
It’s a gift for liberals who will only get angry as long as they can avoid making structural criticisms, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving for the right.
As long as we object to Trump’s vulgarity rather than challenging the politics he represents, then inflammatory racism, violent misogyny and rampant economic exploitation will flourish in the US unabated.
Anti-racism cannot simply be a performance. Any serious movement must look beyond the personalities and towards the causes of the prejudice and despair that fuel them.
That means not overlooking racism elsewhere, including at the heart of “woke” governments. Nor pretending British race relations were a land of milk and honey prior to Brexit, as many of the #FBPE crowd would have us believe.
This is not so-called “whataboutery” — it’s rarely possible or fruitful to criticise all things equally.
But too many are totally incurious, as demonstrated by the welcome afforded to Ukraine’s Andriy Parubiy in Holyrood.
It was heartening to see so many MSPs applaud when Neil Findlay used a point of order on Thursday evening to criticise Ken Macintosh’s casual invitation to welcome the Ukrainian.
But why did the Scottish Parliament unthinkingly oblige when Presiding Officer Macintosh invited them to applaud Parubiy on Thursday morning? Why did no-one glance at Parubiy’s Wikipedia prior to his arrival or, if they did, why was procedure still blindly followed?
Why did the assembled statesmen and hacks of Westminster not ask who it was that John Whittingdale was welcoming to Britain at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday?
Vigilance is far more than a buzzword.
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