Friday, 1 April 2011

Stupid apartheid analogies

The more alert of you may have noticed the odd piece of right-wing commentary that was critical of Ed Miliband's speech to the march last weekend. A particular gripe was his decision to refer to previous campaigns, like for universal suffrage or against apartheid. As it happens I agree that this aspect of the speech was not good.

But what I find a bit hard to take is hearing criticisms of using the example of the anti-apartheid struggle to bolster your argument from people who... err... do exactly the same thing themselves. So I thought I would name and shame a bit.

The Telegraph
First up, and this is shooting fish in a barrel, is the Daily Telegraph. According to its leader:
Ed Miliband's attempts to compare the cause of the protesters to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa was a grotesque piece of hyperbole.

The Telegraph, it turns out, is rather fond of using the apartheid analogy when talking about the difference between public and private sector pensions. Just one example of many:
Pensions apartheid gap widens to £17,300
There are loads more. Just try Googling "telegraph pensions apartheid" or search the Telegraph site for "pensions apartheid".

Daily Mail
What about the Left's favourite, the Daily Mail? Here we go:
Pathetically, Mr Miliband even made the risible claim that the protest was ‘in the tradition’ of the suffragettes and the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements.
Again this is easy meat on the pensions front. Just one example:
DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Pensions apartheid and social cohesion

But the Mail knows the value of stirring up its readers sense of righteous indignation and has also used the term 'apartheid' to apply to public sector pay, eduation and... err... petrol prices (read the photo caption).

David Cameron
Finally, Dave had a bit of a pop at Ed at PMQs this week over the speech at the march. But let's not forget that Dave has used the apartheid lable himself a couple of times. Obviously, because it's a stock phrase on the Right, he's used it in reference to public sector pensions:
The Tory leader is convinced that the generous packages enjoyed by 5.2million state employees are turning into a financial timebomb.

He paved the way for a titanic struggle with trades union leaders by declaring: 'We have got to end the apartheid.
But he has also used it in reference to housing:
he said there was a need to end the "new housing apartheid in Britain".

He said there was a division "between those who already own their own homes and those young people who look at their salaries, then look at house prices and fear they will never achieve that dream".
This latter one is particularly interesting one as there's a not unreasonable argument made by some on the Right that politicians in the UK and US are in part to blame for the financial crisis by actively encouraging more risky lending to people trying to get on the housing ladder. Comparing not being on the housing ladder to apartheid might just be catergorised as adding to that pressure.

Finally I've said this before but the Right's use of the apartheid analogy is odd because their solution to unequal treatment is to drag everyone down to the lower level rather than raise up those losing out. These Tory Mandelas would be campaigning to take rights away from white South Africans, not to extend them to all.

No comments: