Among the many things that have been puzzling me since Priti Patel’s resignation last week, one stands out. So far as I can see there doesn’t seem to be a single person on the Conservative – or conservative – side who has claimed that the campaign against Ms Patel (for campaign it most certainly was, within and without) was motivated by racism. This is curious.
In recent years we have become used to men and women on the political left making errors both big and small. And whenever that person happens to be of a minority ethnic background a chorus of defenders in the Labour party and on the broader left always cry ‘racist’ against any and all critics of that person. Diane Abbott’s defenders are one example. Thus whenever Abbott engages in her own curious form of economics and people point out that her sums do not add up, people shout ‘racist’ at them. Take Paul Mason, who cannot apparently let any criticism of Abbott occur without claiming that it is motivated by racism.
The absence of such cries in the case of Patel interests me. For my own part I admire Patel in a way in which I cannot admire Abbott. Neither has anything to do with their ethnic origin or accidents of skin pigmentation. But it seems to me that only three explanations are possible for the gaping difference in treatment. Either all criticisms of Abbott are racist whilst no criticism of Patel are. Or Patel cannot be racially mistreated because she is a Conservative and racism can only be an outgoing, rather an incoming, offence for such people.
Or perhaps people on the political right do not think it is useful to frivolously throw around accusations of racism when they know such claims are not true. This seems to me to be the most likely explanation. But I wonder what would happen to our political discourse if the right dropped its adherence to truth in this regard and chose to engage in similar tactics to the left in defeating their political opponents and grabbing any available tool to defend their political allies? It might be worth trying it out some day, just to see.