Julie Burchill

Did Jeremy Corbyn forget to unlock Diane Abbott’s talent?

Did Jeremy Corbyn forget to unlock Diane Abbott's talent?
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Reading Jeremy Corbyn’s latest election document on the perennially hot potato of race, it was hard to know whether to shudder or snigger. Hearing that only Corbyn ‘can be trusted to unlock the talent of black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people’, my dirty mind was irresistibly drawn to the story told in the recent biography of the Glorious Leader of how he ‘showed off’ a naked Diane Abbott to the rest of Chess Club - sorry, his comrades in the socialist struggle - way back in the street-fighting, free-loving 1970s. According to a helpful nark in Rosa Prince’s book Comrade Corbyn: 'One Sunday autumn morning...we were out leafleting. And for some reason he called four or five of us and said: 'Oh, we've got to go back to my flat and pick up some leaflets.’ It seemed a bit odd – 'Why the hell didn't you bring them with you, Jeremy?' So we all bowl along to his bedsit, follow Jeremy into the room; there on the mattress on the floor in the one room is Diane with the duvet up to her neck, saying: 'What the ****'s going on?’’'

Not a week goes by in which Miss Abbott does not serve up to a snickering public further proof that she has been promoted wildly beyond her capabilities by her erstwhile paramour and it would take a mind far cleaner than mine not to wonder whether their sweaty trysts under that Duvet of Destiny might not have had a little something to do with her rapid rise. (Miss Abbott once wrote me a note telling me how much she admired my mucky bestseller Ambition; perhaps I should have sent a quick line back advising her that it was a work of fiction rather than a self-help manual.) Whatever the ins and outs of this sordid episode, I can’t help but think that Corbyn’s racial awareness might owe more to Mandingo than Mandela, having as it does a slight whiff of parasexual fetishizing of The Other.

The way he presumes he can help the swarthily huddled masses - just waiting for the benediction of the Big White Leader! - is remarkably patronising in this day and age. Ethnic minorities are more than capable of helping themselves as the appropriately-named Conservative MP James Cleverly (mother from Sierra Leone) pointed out with his pleasing meme of his colleague Priti Patel:

Priti Patel, Secretary of State, Conservative politician, candidate in Witham. Waiting for Corbyn to unlock her potential. pic.twitter.com/epD4UgMmCz

— James Cleverly (@JamesCleverly) May 30, 2017

Sunder Katwala, director of the think-tank British Future, predicts that the Tories could actually have more ethnic minority MPs than Labour after this election if the parties were to win the constituencies where they start as favourites.

It’s nice to want to help. And it’s lovely to have ethnic minority friends - one of my mates once mocked a birthday dinner of mine as ‘looking like a Benetton ad.’ The problem comes when one starts seeing ethnic minorities as things rather than people - things to be moved about, ordered, corralled - rather than individuals with aspirations every bit as different and as commonplace as those of the white population. (I won’t use the word community as even this this has changed from being a cheery thing to do with halls and singing, into a miserable thing indicating a faceless horde whose grievances are being catered to by a smarmy politican after their block vote.) It’s weird how Corbyn pronounces ‘Ay-shuns’ and even weirder how, by keeping the definition of those left behind so broad, he drags our staggeringly successful Chinese and Indian communities - Chinese girls from working-class homes now perform better at school than any other group - into his heroic narrative of Whitey helping out the poor oppressed immigrants. As with the Rotherham paedophiles/rapists/traffickers - inevitably referred to as Asian - trying not to implicate and insult one group (Pakistani Muslims) can lead to implicating and insulting a whole continent.

Heroes of the Left often seem to mix up sex and Otherness these days in a way which, to me at least, has echoes of what buttoned-up imperialists were sometimes accused of. Who can forget George Galloway frothing: ‘Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will’? Julian Assange (in whose defence the silver-tongued Galloway said: ‘Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion’) once voiced a preference for wretched females who have suffered in war zones over spoilt white women in an online dating profile: ‘I like women from countries that have sustained political turmoil’. While the Glorious Leader himself graduated from a domestic starter wife to a pair of Latin American firecrackers as his lucky second and third wives.

I’ll put my hand up and admit that from my teens till my thirties, there was practically nothing I wouldn’t do for a nice Jewish boy - we all have our funny little preferences. As Rod Stewart once put it, with admirable exactingness: ‘You can keep your black and your red heads/You can keep your brunettes too/I want a girl that's semi intelligent/Gimme a blonde that's six feet two.’ Luckily, marriage to a Jewish man cured me of my minor ailment - whereas sexual contact with Diane Abbott seems, not unreasonably it must be admitted, to have further ingrained in Mr Corbyn the idea that people from ethnic minorities are half-wits in desperate need of a leg-up, to use the common parlance. But faced with the competence and self-possession of Priti Patel on one hand and the ceaseless car-crash of the Shadow Home Secretary on the other, if I had any potential left unlocked, I certainly wouldn’t trust Mr Corbyn with the key.