James Forsyth

No laughing matter | 18 June 2007

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I must admit that I disagree with Matt about Bernard Manning. The man was a deeply unpleasant bully and while others who ‘say the unsayable’—Borat, for instance—are actually ridiculing racism, Manning was endorsing it.

Consider his performance at an event in Manchester back in the 1990s that was secretly taped by World in Action. Manning turned to one of the very few black guests and asked, "Having a night out with nice white people? Isn't this better than swinging from the trees? Do you think it makes any difference what colour you are? You bet your bollocks it does" The same night, he also came out with this comment about non-white people who are born here: “They think they're English because they're born here. That means if a dog's born in a stable, it's a f***ing horse. I've never heard such f**ing nonsense.” As well as this riff on the police beating of Rodney King, "Them Los Angeles police kicking that n***er on the floor. I thought that's not on [pause] not enough police."

Manning defended himself by claiming that "It certainly wasn't in bad taste. People tell jokes about fat people and I don't get offended." But this argument is total tosh: no one has ever enslaved people because of their waist line, or stopped them renting a room or sitting down on a bus because of it.

If we’re going to have a harmonious society, we all do have to be able to laugh together. But that laughter can not come at the expense of one group or another.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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