Friday, March 09, 2007

Another day, another media "disaster"

Well, yet another Tory racist. What a beautiful gift to the Trots.

Patrick Mercer's downfall has been blogged about fairly endlessly. From the political point of view, it is clear this is on a par with a typical Donald Findlay karaoke moment and he had to go. The media would have just crucified Cameron. Hopefully, DC has had a quiet chat with Patrick and said something along the lines of "Look, we know what you said was honest and not intended as racist. You are going to have to go but the media have the attention span of a gnat on acid and you are an asset to the party. You will be an asset to the next, Tory, government. Mandy came back twice, and he was a crook!"

Let me look at the realities of the situation, however. The fact is that everybody in the military, at some point in their career, gets the piss taken out of them (more on Rachel's blog.) This is generally not the witty repartee of a polite dinner party - more the snap-back gratuitous vileness of the playground or, say, Terry. Now, the overt insult can be about many things - it can be about a fuck-up you have just made, about the hideous bird you pulled last night, or about something you can do nothing about.

"Effing short-arse git", or "speccy twat" is a lot easier to deal with than "You fucking moron, you do something that effing stupid again" ... I, and I am not the tallest person in town and I wear glasses, can do nothing about either of those - therefore I, at least, find that sort of mindless insult easier to take. Often it is about whatever makes you stand out from the rest: place of birth (especially, Geordie, Scouse, Welsh, Scots, or anything seen as "posh" amongst the troops), hair-colour, as Mr Mercer pointed out or, especially with their lack of representation, ethnic origin.

There is direct racism in the military, as there is in every large organisation - political parties (of whatever hue) not excepted. This needs to be actively discouraged and, where detected, punished. Drill sergeants or training staff yelling nearly-random insults is not direct racism.

Not promoting a soldier to Company Sergeant Major because of his ethnic origin would be direct racism - but this appears to have been something that Mr Mercer was clearly not guilty of.

On a slight tangent - the "British Commonwealth Soldiers' Union". I am sure that there is direct discrimination against servicemen of foreign origin - just look at the way our government treats the gurkhas. There will also be some direct racism - the KKK incident, if true, is despicable. I suspect, however, that most of the course selection and promotion issues would be the same for, say, a foreigner serving of European ethnicity (along the "not really one of us" lines) - needs to be stamped out, certainly - but not "just cause you is black." Also, I would have pointed them here, or here or here. I seem to remember there is a harassment and bullying help-line as well, there usually is, now-a-days.

Update: Actually, there seem to be at least 3 relevant helplines (a search on "helpline bully" on revealed) - Equal Opportunities Helpline (0800 731 4880), The Confidential Support Line (0800 731 4880) and the Army Welfare Information Service (01722 436569 or email).


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