Dead Men Left

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Observer: clearly rattled

I wasn't going to bother blogging proceedings in this weekend's Liberal Bomber. The petty backbiting about Galloway and Respect, typical of which is this example in the TV review, was hardly unexpected; as was the amusing silence on the Bethnal Green result from Galloway's (slightly) more serious critics.

Euan Ferguson's absolutely dreadful piece, however, deserves dragging out into the cold light of the working day. The deceitful inversion that it was Respect, not Oona "Galloway is stirring things up, especially in the Bengali community" King that ran a "nasty" and divisive campaign is unfortunately typical. I can only assume assorted Blairite liberals are working on the familiar basis that repeating a lie often enough causes it to become an accepted truth. 45 minutes to destruction - that kind of thing. I was taken aback, however, by this quote:

Elsewhere in Bethnal Green, student Benjamin Virgo, 34, explained what had happened to him on Tuesday night. 'On the way out to the corner shop to buy milk and bread I passed a couple of young guys. After I'd crossed the road they threw a bottle at me. They became more aggressive, so I reached for my mobile and started to call the police. They followed me into the shop and announced to the other customers and staff that I was a racist. Then, fists in my face, they ordered me to stop my call, reminded me that they knew where I lived and threatened to burn my house down. The police never came. George Galloway is now my MP.'

I can see no connection whatsoever between the incident on Tuesday night and the fact of Galloway's election. Unless Virgo has been misquoted, it simply does not exist; except on the flagrantly racist (and therefore nonexistent) grounds that both are examples of Asians causing trouble. Why is a supposedly liberal columnist in a supposedly liberal paper presenting this story without question or comment?

The picture becomes still more murky, however, when this amusing tale is recalled (thanks, Bat):

Meet the Virgos from Bethnal Green. Ben, 34, used to work in the City, but he gave it up to become a drugs counsellor, and now he's studying classics at UCL. His wife Rachel teaches part time at a local primary school. They have three lovely children, Gilbert, five, Theo, three and Albany, one. They seem, by all outward appearances, a rather ordinary domestic collective, but last week the media dubbed them "Labour's rent-a-crowd" when they were pictured standing behind the prime minister and the chancellor at a poster launch. Elements of the so-called Virgo family, it transpired, had also appeared at a previous Labour launch.

I wonder if the Ben Virgo, student, 34, of Bethnal Green in Labour's rent-a-family is the same as the Benjamin Virgo, student, 34, of Bethnal Green quoted so innocently by Euan Ferguson?