The Telegraph 2024-02-13 06:00:30

Suella Braverman: stop making people feel guilty for being white

White people must not be made to feel guilty for being white, Suella Braverman has said amid a row over claims that the countryside is racist.

In an article for The Telegraph, the former home secretary says that suggesting the countryside is not welcoming to ethnic minorities because it is a “predominantly white environment” is wrong, dangerous and disempowering.

Her comments come after a group of wildlife charities, including the National Trust, RSPCA and World Wildlife Fund, said that the British countryside was a “racist and colonial” space where people of colour were often framed as “out of place”.

The Telegraph revealed that a report by Wildlife and Countryside Link, a charity umbrella group, said that a perception that green spaces were “dominated by white people can prevent people from ethnic minority backgrounds from using [them]”.

Mrs Braverman says: “This [view] is not just wrong but dangerous. We need to stop making white people feel guilty for being white.”

She adds: “It’s wholly disempowering for ethnic minorities to be judged by skin colour rather than by character.”

Wildlife and Countryside Link, which has 80 member organisations, made the claim last week in evidence provided to Parliament on racism and its influence on the natural world.

The report stated: “Cultural barriers reflect that in the UK, it is white British cultural values that have been embedded into the design and management of green spaces and into society’s expectations of how people should engage with them.

“Racist colonial legacies that frame nature as a ‘white space’ create further barriers, suggesting that people of colour are not legitimate users of green spaces.”

Mrs Braverman, 43, whose parents are of Indian origin and came to Britain in the 1960s, said that in 30 years of regular holidays camping in the British countryside, she had “not once” experienced hostility. On the rare occasions she had faced racism, it was in urban rather than rural settings.

Her comments echo her previous criticism of Left-wing politicians for being “ashamed” of Britain’s colonial past, saying that she was “proud” of the British Empire. Last year she said white people should not feel any sense of “collective guilt” over their historical role in slavery.

The report by Wildlife Link follows in the footsteps of many institutions that have sought to reassess their work to consider race and diversity issues. Museums have in recent years reviewed and relabelled their collections to reflect links to slavery and universities have been criticised for efforts to “decolonise” their curriculums.

Mrs Braverman branded the groups’ claims naive, based on a Beatrix Potter vision of the countryside, when in fact rural communities suffered poverty and deprivation as acute as urban areas.

She says: “To claim that the countryside is racist is one of the most ridiculous examples of Left-wing identity politics. It’s a symptom of a deeper problem within our society – the urge to constantly view everything through the lens of race or gender, plead victimhood and point the finger at an oppressor.

“Whether it’s the patriarchy, or colonial masters, this desperation to divide society is ripping through our institutions, creating a culture of fear and self-censorship. This is why it’s essential to challenge this ideology relentlessly, wherever we see it.”

Suella Braverman: Calling the countryside racist is ridiculous Left-wing militancy

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To demonstrate her love of the countryside, Mrs Braverman has shared family pictures of herself camping with her parents in the 1980s, from riding horses in the Brecon Beacons to hiking in the Lake District and battling blizzards in the Cairngorms.

As home secretary, she was outspoken about the threat to the UK from mass immigration and controversially claimed that multiculturalism had failed.

Her criticism of the Wildlife and Countryside Link was backed by Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, founder of the Black Farmer Food range, who said people researching alleged racism tended to be from “white liberal backgrounds” and were “always pushing the narrative that blacks are victims”.

Nihal Arthanayake, a presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live who has previously said he struggled with having too many white colleagues, said: “To brand the entirety of Britain as being racist and colonial does not help encourage people from ethnic minorities to go into the countryside.”

Labour withdraws support for Rochdale by-election candidate

Labour has withdrawn its support for its Rochdale by-election candidate and suspended him from the party after he was embroiled in an anti-Semitism row.

Sir Keir Starmer had stood by Azhar Ali despite growing protests from the Jewish community and within his party after Mr Ali claimed Israel deliberately let Hamas massacre its citizens on Oct 7 to pave the way for attacking Gaza.

The Labour leader was forced into a U-turn after “further comments” surfaced on Monday and Mr Ali is understood to have been suspended from the party pending an investigation. 

He will not be replaced as Labour’s candidate in the Feb 29 Rochdale by-election because it is not possible to amend the ballot now that nominations have closed. 

Although he will still technically remain as the Labour candidate, he is likely to have the whip removed immediately if he wins, making him an independent MP. 

It means Labour is effectively conceding the Greater Manchester seat, where it has a majority of roughly 9,000.

The party had previously vowed to keep campaigning for Mr Ali after his apology for accusing Israel of paving the way for the slaughter of its own people on Oct 7.

But on Monday night, a Labour spokesman said: “Following new information about further comments made by Azhar Ali coming to light today, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as our candidate in the Rochdale by-election.

“Keir Starmer has changed Labour so that it is unrecognisable from the party of 2019. We understand that these are highly unusual circumstances, but it is vital that any candidate put forward by Labour fully represents its aims and values.

“Given that nominations have now closed, Azhar Ali cannot be replaced as the candidate.”

Shortly before the statement was published, it emerged that the party had received a formal complaint over Mr Ali’s comments from the director of the Labour Against Anti-Semitism campaign group.

The organisation, which is not affiliated with Labour, told Sky News: “Sir Keir Starmer has made good progress fighting anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but this episode shows that more needs to be done or it risks becoming a bigger problem.”

On Monday night, the Daily Mail released an audio tape allegedly revealing further comments made by Mr Ali at the same time as his previously-reported remarks about the October 7 attack.

He is said to have claimed Israel was planning a “land grab” in Gaza, and blamed Jewish people in the media for fuelling criticism of Andy McDonald, the Labour MP suspended after using the slogan “between the river and the sea”.

The Jewish Labour Movement said it was “correct” that Mr Ali would no longer be able to become a Labour MP.

In a statement, it said: “When [Jewish Labour Movement] first heard of Ali’s comments, we immediately withdrew our support, cancelling our campaign days and resources.

“In light of new information and further comments from Ali, Labour is right to cease all campaigning for him. As he cannot be removed from the ballot, we believe it is correct that he will not sit as a Labour MP if elected.”

It came after it emerged that Mr Ali had called for Israel to be investigated for potential war crimes in Gaza.

In a letter to Sir Keir after the Hamas attacks, he joined around 40 Labour councillors in accusing Israel of a “blatant violation of international law” with “collective punishment” of Palestinians.

The signatories said it had been “deeply unsettling” to witness the “relentless bombardment” of Gaza, criticising the “historical injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land”.

The letter urged the United Nations and International Criminal Court to appoint independent arbitrators “to assess the validity of evidence of war crimes”, according to local reports, and also claimed there was “undeniable proof” of “Israeli military brutality” in the West Bank.

According to reports by LancsLive and the Lancashire Post, the councillors’ letter, sent later in October, said: “Our residents have experienced profound distress due to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“It has been deeply unsettling to witness the tragedy in Gaza and Israel. Amidst the relentless bombardment in Gaza, there is undeniable proof of Israeli military brutality in the West Bank. We firmly assert the importance of upholding international law. We vehemently condemn any actions that lead to the loss of innocent lives. 

“Israel’s blatant violation of international law through the denial of essential resources such as food, water and fuel must be unequivocally denounced. The collective punishment of 2.2 million Palestinians cannot be justified.”

The letter said a ceasefire “is imperative, hostages must be freed, and it is crucial to recognise that lasting peace can only be achieved by addressing the historical injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land”.

Labour had earlier said Mr Ali’s claims that Israel deliberately let Hamas massacre 1,200 citizens were “out of character”.

Pregnant teenager and boyfriend died in crash after road sign was turned the wrong way

A pregnant teenager and her boyfriend died in a crash after a give way sign had been turned the wrong way, an inquest heard.

Jessica Poole, an 18-year-old lifeguard, and Josh Alexander, 21, a personal trainer, died from their injuries at the scene of the crash in June last year.

The couple’s car collided with a skip lorry at the crossroad junction of Plurenden Road and Bethersden Road in Woodchurch, near Ashford.

Pc Simon Masterson, a forensic collision investigator at Kent Police, told the inquest: “There were no warning signs at Plurenden Road of the crossroads ahead. This could have caused confusion to the driver approaching.

“The worn lines and the rotated sign could have been a contributing factor.”

The give way sign on Plurenden Road was rotated 61 degrees and road markings were faded in several places, the court heard.

The couple had been on their way to work at a Chinese takeaway in Tenterden, to earn extra money before the arrival of their baby son.

Coroner Katrina Hepburn wrote to Kent county council to see what changes have been made to the junction since the accident before considering whether she will write a “prevention of future deaths” report.

The inquests in Maidstone heard that Mr Alexander was believed to have been using a sat nav app on his phone before accidentally driving his Vauxhall Corsa across the junction and into the path of the skip lorry.

Since the accident, the lines have now been repainted on the road and the give way sign has been put back to the correct position.

The skip lorry dash camera footage suggested that Mr Alexander was briefly distracted by his phone before he approached the junction.

Pc Masterson described him as looking “calm” and “in control of the vehicle” and footage showed there was “no deceleration” by the Corsa, which approached the crossroad at a “constant speed.”

He said: “His actions suggest he was not aware of the junction ahead.”

Based on the footage it was found the personal trainer was driving at a speed of between 50mph and 56mph, within the 60mph limit for Plurenden Road.

Pc Masterson said there was “nothing the lorry driver was physically able to do to avoid the collision”. No drugs or alcohol were found in the couple’s system.

Ms Hepburn said: “There was nothing to suggest they were travelling at excessive speed.

“Whilst we speculate about whether or not he saw the sign, or if the mobile phone was in use, I don’t make any findings in relation to this.”

A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the inquests and we await the letter from the coroner.

“Whenever there is a serious or fatal crash on one of our roads we work with Kent Police, expert engineers and coroners to investigate any causation factors that are identified.

“Once these are known we carry out any work deemed to be needed to help mitigate a similar incident from happening again.

“One death on our roads is one too many and we will continue to make sure we keep our roads safe.”

Mr Alexander’s father, Ben Sissens, said he wants to put pressure on the council to improve the safety of Plurenden Road.

Mr Sissens said: “What has happened is horrific. It has ripped the families apart and I want to make sure other babies can go home to their families.

“I’ve spoken to the other driver and I have told him we don’t blame him. It was a catastrophic set of events and I don’t want this to change his life. I don’t want him to carry the guilt.”

Ms Poole’s mother, Aimee Poole, said: “Jessica was beautiful, caring, kind, considerate and funny.

“She was my best friend and I would choose her company over anyone. The huge gap left in my life is indescribable.

“We must have told each other we loved each other at least 20 times a day.”

I’m being bullied for exposing ‘gay mafia’ in Scottish Catholic Church, claims priest

A priest who said the Scottish Catholic Church was run by a “powerful gay mafia” has claimed he has been bullied because he is not allowed back to work until he apologises.

Father Matthew Despard, who made the incendiary allegations in a self-published book in 2013, was cleared for a possible return to duties by the Vatican in 2016. However, he says he remains banned from carrying out his work because the Church in Scotland is demanding an apology which he refuses to make, claiming he was “telling the truth”.

Father Despard was suspended from his parish at St John Ogilvie’s in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, over his book Priesthood in Crisis. He took his case to the Roman Rota in Italy in 2016, an internal Catholic court system.

It paved the way for his return to work if he withdrew the book, which he has done. However, the Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal, said he must say sorry for the “hurt and offence” he had caused.

But Father Despard insisted his claims had been vindicated by revelations about the Scottish church.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, at one time the Catholic Church’s most senior cleric in Britain, resigned in 2013 amid claims of sexual misconduct against several priests dating back to the 1980s.

“I have privately asked Bishop Toal again and again to return to a parish but have been ignored,” Father Despard told the BBC.

“It’s unjust, I’m still waiting here. I have no avenues left but to speak out publicly. I feel I have been systematically bullied and silenced by the church.

“Bishop Toal now wants me to publicly apologise but I don’t see the reason to say sorry. I’m not sorry for telling the truth.

“I feel vindicated by some of the things that have come to light about historic practices within the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

The Church disputed his account, saying it had asked for a “personal apology”. A spokesman declined to clarify who he was asked to apologise to.

Father Despard was evicted from his parish home following court action in 2014. He lives in a flat that is paid for by the Church.

He remains officially employed by the Church but his suspension means he is unable to carry out certain religious duties, such as saying Mass.

He added: “In my case, I fear the Catholic Church [is] waiting for me to die to end the stalemate.

“It’s cruel and a sign of the bullying they have been doing for years. I have done everything possible to make amends but won’t say sorry.”

‘He was fantastic for the parish’

He has some support within his local community, with a Facebook group backing him having over 350 members.

“He was fantastic for the parish,” Helen Duddy, a retired NHS clerical worker who is campaigning to have him reinstated, said.

“If I was doing a petition tomorrow for his return I would get between 500 and 1,000 signatures locally calling for him to be returned. It’s very sad.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Motherwell said: “Father Despard was asked to make a personal apology to those still living who were written about in his book and who remain hurt and offended by it.

“To date, these apologies have not been made. Any consideration on suitability for public ministry remains a matter for the bishop.”

Jews ‘hounded out’ of comedy show after refusing to stand for Palestinian flag

A Jewish audience member has said he felt ‘hounded out’ of a West End comedy show after a row over the Palestinian flag.

Soho Theatre is investigating an alleged incident during comedian Paul Currie’s stand-up gig at the London venue.

Mr Currie produced a Palestinian flag during the show, after which a row is said to have broken out.

Liahav Eitan said he left the venue as the theatre erupted in chants of “free Palestine”.

Soho Theatre said it was investigating, stating: “We are sorry and saddened by an incident that took place at our venue at the end of a performance of Paul Currie: Shtoom on Saturday 10 February which has caused upset and hurt to members of the audience attending and others.

“We take this very seriously and are looking into the detail of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can.

“It is important to us that Soho Theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”

‘What Jewish audience recounted is atrocious’

Mr Currie’s absurdist shows typically involve props produced from a box on stage, including a Ukrainian and Palestinian flag towards the end of the one-hour show, it was reported.

The comedian is said to have orchestrated his own standing ovation, however Mr Eitan and his friend did not stand.

Mr Eitan told the Daily Mail: “From the audience, we were mostly scared. We wanted to get out of the situation. It seemed like a bit of a mob mentality that could go sour any second.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it was in contact with several people who have complained to Soho Theatre about the incident.

A spokesman for the group said: “What the Jewish audience members have recounted is atrocious.”

Shtoom ran from Feb 8 to 10. It was described as “a unique, surrealist, dada punk-clown, non-verbal experience from the award-winning Belfast comedy artist Paul Currie”.

Mr Currie was contacted for comment.

A Met Police spokesperson a report had been submitted to police and enquiries were ongoing.

Fly-tippers trapped as locals block their vans and call police

Fly-tippers were caught red-handed dumping piles of rubbish on a country lane in Warwickshire when locals blocked their vans from leaving the area and called police.

Two men were detained and forced to load the rubbish back into their vans by officers, who said it was “some of the worst fly-tipping” they had seen.

Photographs show swathes of black bin bags and what appears to be industrial materials lying at the side of a country lane on the edge of the village of Meriden.

However, locals blocked two men from leaving the scene before police officers arrived to detain them.

A local farmer’s wife ensured the police officers were well fed while they watched the men clean up the mess – with a homemade cake and cups of tea.

No cake or tea was given to the fly-tippers, police said.

It is not the first time people from the village of Meriden have taken matters into their own hands.

Twelve years ago, residents – some of whom were in their eighties – barricaded an illegal traveller camp for more than 600 days.

It is understood last Wednesday’s fly-tipping blockade – just one mile from their previous protest – lasted less time and police arrived only minutes after receiving a 999 call.

Sharing photographs on its Operational Patrol Unit for Warwickshire Police Facebook Page, an officer wrote : “We attended the Packington Estate on Maxstone Lane near Meriden to a report of two vans fly-tipping.

“We attended in support of North Warwickshire Local Policing officers who had been called to the scene after local residents and workers on the estate had blocked the offenders in.

“On arrival we found some of the worst fly-tipping we had seen in a long time.

“We detained two males who were instructed to reload the two vans with all the rubbish dumped.

“We supervised them cleaning up their mess and enjoyed a great cup of tea and slice of home made cake courtesy of the farmer’s wife.

“No cake and tea for these two offenders.”

The reloaded vans were then seized under the Environmental Act.

A “fly-tipper” is someone who deliberately deposits rubbish in an unauthorised place. It is illegal under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and those who commit the crime can receive a maximum fine of £50,000 and up to five years in prison.

However, despite the threat of a prison sentence, it is still a commonly reported crime across the country.

The issue was raised in the House of Commons earlier this month, as MPs questioned Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ministers about the problem.

The debate prompted Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne to suggest an unusual punishment for perpetrators.

“The penalties are insufficient. If offenders were garrotted with their own intestines, there’d be fewer of them,” the New Forest West MP said.

The suggestion was met with laughter across the House.

Environment minister Robbie Moore had earlier told the Commons: “I know what a blight litter and fly-tipping can have on local communities, which is why we have provided nearly £1 million to help councils purchase new bins, and almost £1.2 million to combat fly-tipping and a further £1 million will be awarded in the spring.”

A Warwickshire Police spokesperson said: “Cleaning up the results of fly-tipping is the responsibility of the local council and members of the public who discover incidents of fly-tipping should report it to them directly.

“Officers from the Warwickshire Rural Crime Team also attended the scene and have now taken on the investigation and prosecution case.”

Guinness pour with a pause ‘nothing more than a marketing ploy’

When it comes to a pint of the black stuff, no bartender worth their salt would dare forego the sacred ritual of the “double pour”.

Most Guinness aficionados would feel well within their rights to hand back their drink and ask for another, demanding respect for the all-important resting time of 60 to 80 seconds.

Even Guinness itself says: “Good things come to those who wait.”

However, a bar owner has claimed there is no need for the Irish stout to be poured in two stages – to two-thirds of the glass and the final third after a minute of resting time – and that it doesn’t affect its quality or taste.

Nate Brown, an Irish bartender and the owner of Paloma Café, Soda & Friends and Nebula cocktail bars in London, says the rest is simply a marketing ploy by Guinness.

“This isn’t done for the beer’s sake; it was practice in the Guinness brewery to speed up serving the masses at home time — the brand has always had the savviest of marketing departments,” he wrote in the FT Magazine.

It is an assertion that appears to have ruffled feathers among publicans.

Oisin Rogers, the co-owner of the Devonshire in Soho, which boasts a “perfect” pint of Guinness, said the idea that the two-stage pour is unnecessary was “absolute horse—-”.

“It’s impossible to get a correctly presented pint of Guinness in one pour because the meniscus is negative. Therefore [it’s] a dimple rather than a dome,” he wrote in response on X, adding that it also impacts the texture and leads to a “far inferior drink”.

Diageo, the stout’s parent company, agrees, telling The Telegraph the two-stage pour is required to get the right consistency and height in the head, as well as the dome synonymous with any decent pint of Guinness.

It denies the double pour is a marketing ploy, and says it has no plans to encourage publicans to scrap the ritual to allow for quicker service.

And despite his controversial claims, Mr Brown still abides by the two-stage pour when serving Guinness in his own London bars.

“It’s what our guests want,” he said. “If we were to serve all the patrons that come through a single pour they’d raise an eyebrow at you.

“But if I was just pouring a pint for myself, I wouldn’t bother with the two steps.”

Like any London bar or pub owner, Mr Brown has reason to worry about serving his customers an inadequate pint of stout. Those deemed below par are at risk of ending up on the popular Instagram page Sh– London Guinness, with the venues named and shamed by its 250,000 predominantly Irish followers.

Guinness advertisements did not reference the double pour until the 1990s.

In previous adverts, the pouring of the pint was either not depicted or shown being done in one go, usually from a bottle.

The 1994 Anticipation advert was the first to show the wait for a Guinness to settle and then be topped up to the brim.

It ends with the strapline: “There’s no time like Guinness time.”

This continued under the “Good things come to those who wait” tagline which featured from the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s.

In more recent Guinness adverts, the double pour has not been depicted at all and there is no reference to the wait.

Guinness has soared in popularity over recent years, becoming the best-selling beer in pubs, bars and restaurants in 2022, according to hospitality data company CGA.

Sales of the drink are also rising among younger women, with a 24 per cent rise in the number of females drinking the stout, as the brand manages to shake off its “rugby lad” image.