Kelvin MacKenzie’s baffling compulsion to pick at Liverpool has brought him up a cropper again, with the Sun pulling his latest polemic on Everton FC player Ross Barkley. MacKenzie has compared the footballer, recently victim of an assault in a nightclub, to ‘a gorilla at the zoo’ and added that, in Liverpool, ‘the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty’.
Liverpool is outraged. Fair enough. Everton has mimicked Anfield in banning the Sun. Why blameless footie hacks should be punished is beyond me, but that’s up to the club. In a fairly extraordinary step, however, the Sun has suspended its columnist and denounced his copy as ‘wrong’, ‘unfunny’, and ‘not the view of the paper’. (Since MacKenzie apparently broke into the office, brained the night editor, and snuck his column into the paper with no editorial oversight, suspension is quite a mild rebuke.) Should a columnist be suspended over copy that was seen and (presumably) approved by at least three other people at a newspaper? It doesn’t sound right to me, but that’s a matter for the Sun and its owners.
It has also become a matter for the police, or the Old Bill as the MacKenzie-era Sun would have called them. Ross Barkley’s grandfather was born in Nigeria and, given the gorilla metaphor, MacKenzie’s column has been reported to the Rozzers as a potential criminal offence. Merseyside Police says a member of the public has complained about a ‘racial hate crime’ and officers are now working ‘to establish the full circumstances of the incident’.
The incident. As the gruff Glasgow polis DCI Jim Taggart thankfully never said: ‘There’s been a column’.
MacKenzie has his fans but I’m not one of them.