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Mail chauvinists… but are they racist too?

Pat-ScotlandBaroness Scotland became the second senior Black politician in the past week to be attacked in the Daily Mail. We now need to question whether this newspaper is motivated by racism

The Daily Mail’s front-page splash today reads “Cabinet Minister’s cleaner is an illegal migrant,” a headline that might lead the unsuspecting reader to conclude that the Attorney-General had knowingly employed an illegal immigrant.

In fact, Baroness Patricia Scotland hired Loloahi Tapui as her housekeeper after the Tongan national had been legally employed in another job. Tapui provided a National Insurance number, which was issued to her when she arrived in Britain on a student visa, and there is no suggestion that Baroness Scotland knew that her housekeeper was no longer able to work legally. And as soon as she knew, Tapui was fired.

With the Conservatives’ Home Affairs spokesman Chris Grayling seeking to make political capital out of the story, there now appears to be a political agenda at play. However, people calling for Baroness Scotland’s resignation need to read the official statement:

Baroness Scotland saw documents which led her to believe Ms Tapui was entitled to work in this country. Prior to being hired, Ms Tapui was in registered employment. She is registered for tax and insurance and at no point prior to the matter being raised today did Baroness Scotland believe there was any question over her entitlement to work. [Tapui] has now been dismissed with immediate effect.”

That could not be clearer. Yet, in a remarkable parallel with the controversy in the United States – after former President Jimmy Carter identified race as the principle driving factor in attacks on President Obama – it appears that the firestorm currently surrounding Baroness Scotland could have more to do with her identity than the facts of the case.

One fact that has received comparatively little attention in the Daily Mail is that Tapui married a British national. There must now be a question over whether her marriage led Tapui to mistakenly believe she was now entitled to work here legally. Such a scenario is very different to the tone of the Daily Mail today, including this line:

“The revelations are a grave personal embarrassment for Caribbean-born Lady Scotland – the first-ever female Attorney General – and could lead to calls for her to resign.”

There must also be question-marks about the Daily Mail’s agenda. Earlier in the week, it carried a gutter journalism story about Baroness Sayeeda Warsi’s marriage, as the paper feigned sympathy with the ex-wife of the man who has now married the Conservative frontbencher.

And just as the Mail’s piece on Lady Scotland is peppered with references to her Caribbean birth, so too was race and religion cynically used Lady Warsi.

According to the paper, Baroness Warsi (pictured below) was “heavily promoted as the multicultural face of the new Tory Party. A frequent guest on BBC1’s Question Time, she has been a high-profile champion of Muslim women’s rights.” The paper even quotes Warsi talking about community cohesion.

Sayeeda-Warsi

Sayeeda Warsi

In short, her identity as a Muslim and the race-related politics are cleverly interwoven with the personal circumstances, even though they are largely irrelevant.

Especially as the Mail has not explicitly accused Warsi of betraying her faith or contradicting her principles about community cohesion.

Baroness’s Scotland and Warsi are both highly successful Black women who have risen from humble backgrounds to scale the pinnacles of the political system. Is it this fact that has stirred the Mail to target both women in the way they have this week?

In May this year the Daily Mail has also featured paparazzi shots of equalities chief Trevor Phillips, walking hand-in-hand with his white girlfriend in a story that subtly hinted that there was something wrong with this relationship, even though the paper made a small reference to the fact that this relationship began months after Phillips left his wife. In other words, there was nothing controversial or newsworthy about it at all.

The same Fleet Street organ has previously accused David Lammy’s brother of being a drug dealer, in 2000, and three years later their sister-paper the Mail on Sunday was forced to apologise after printing highly offensive and completely untrue allegations about the wife of Tory MP for Windsor Adam Afriyie.

In light of this lamentable record, we should pause and consider whether the fact that the Daily Mail feels able to play so dirty has anything to do with the race and religion of their victims. Certainly what all the stories have in common is a nasty undercurrent.

In Baroness Scotland’s case it is hardly surprising that constant references to her Dominican birth have led bloggers to emulate the American “birthers” debate, with one Guido Fawkes reader commenting today: “Do we know Baroness Scotlands immigration status? Maybe the loophole is an illegal can employ a fellow illegal.”

The large picture of Tapui on the Daily Mail’s frontpage today also begs the question of whether the housekeepers’ identity as a black women is an additional motivating factor for the paper.

In light of this sad record, we should pause and consider whether the fact that these newspapers feel able to play so dirty with politicians has anything to do with their race. None of those stories are truly in the public interest, but what all the stories have in common is a nasty undercurrent.

Lester Holloway

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One Response

  1. The AG has shown herself ignorant of the law. To top it off she tells the public, who she serves, that the offence is the same as a parking ticket. Well why didn’t she make the punishment the same as she was the one who drafted the law?

    This is unacceptable behaviour from an Attorney General and she should resign.

    The only thing unusual from a race perspective – the fact that the Daily Mail is a racist paper is not unusual, is that the AG employed a Tongan housekeeper when the majority of people applying for the post would be Caucasian.

    You forget to mention that of all the photocopies the AG managed to lose, all are copies of the housekeeper’s documents. The AG should play the lottery. But wait there’s more…the only mitigating circumstance allowed is…you guessed it, losing the documents.

    Such in your face dishonesty from the AG is a slap in the face to us all, honesty and not race should prevail.

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