By Guy Birchall, British journalist covering current affairs, politics and free speech issues. Recently published in the Sun and Spiked Online.
The weekly ‘clap for carers’ displays across Britain had been a unifying force amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but identity politics fanatics have hijacked the movement to hector the public in the opposite of a message of unity.
A video has been doing the rounds on Twitter. Rarely is this a good thing, normally it means someone has been filmed doing something they shouldn’t, or, as is the case in this instance, there is some sanctimonious, lefty political point-scoring going on. #YouClapForMeNow trended all day on Wednesday in Britain and, at the time of writing, has been tweeted and retweeted more than 73,000 times. The hashtag accompanies a video which features people of a variety of races and creeds reading out a poem by a chap called Darren James Smith. Over the course of two excruciating minutes and 12 interminable seconds, the verse is delivered somberly by key workers staring down the barrel of the camera. Their message? “Thank me, bigot!”
It begins: “So, it’s finally happened. That thing you were afraid of. Something has come from overseas. And taken your jobs. Made it unsafe to walk the streets.”
The opening line, with all the subtlety of a drunk elephant, addresses an imagined white, English, probably poorly educated, working-class racist with a series of statements that the fictional bigot has previously applied to immigrants. But the clever bit is, they aren’t talking about immigrants, they’re talking about coronavirus. After the listener has recovered from the bait and switch that it was possible to see coming from two counties away, it then goes on to list all the jobs which are apparently done by anyone other than white, British, Tory-voting lowlifes like you, imaginary racist. These professions include, among others, “delivery driver,” “teacher,” and “lifesaver.”
There are many irksome things about this tedious poem, from the title, “You Clap For Me Now” sounding like an instruction given at a North Korean rally, to everyone you expect, Jess Phillips, Gary Lineker, Sayeeda Warsi et al, thinking it is in some way profound. But most annoying of all is the implication that “you” are a racist. The poem and video are dripping in righteous indignation and a direct accusation against you, the bigoted, ignorant reader or listener. The poem may have been praised as “powerful” and “poignant” by “right-thinking” people who claim to like it, but in its tone and its verse it is, more than anything, divisive.
Britain is not a racist country. Of course, it has some racists, but they are not legion, they are a vanishingly small section of society who, if they do rear their ugly heads, do so almost exclusively in anonymous dark corners of the internet. The country at large is, and has been for years, one of the most welcoming societies on the face of the planet. People of all colors and creeds have flourished in Britain and will continue to do so. Which is why it is baffling that the very people who claim to value tolerance most highly are the ones sowing seeds of division.
Would a xenophobic country have three of the four great offices of state occupied by the children of immigrants? Would a racist country throw its support behind national sports teams including BAME players? Would an intolerant country make millionaires out of music and film stars from all manner of backgrounds? No, it wouldn’t.
Nobody was questioning how hard key workers were working during the depressing situation we find ourselves in. The weekly clapping displays, while a little mawkish for my tastes, were done in a spirit of inclusivity. There were no caveats that the carers for whom people were clapping were black or white, gay or straight or even British or otherwise. The two nurses singled out for special praise by Boris Johnson after his time in intensive care were from foreign countries. Would the elected leader of a racist country do such a thing?
Fortunately, most people outside the identity-politics-obsessed, metropolitan left see #YouClapForMeNow for the attention-seeking, divisive, hectoring drivel it is. Normal Brits have reacted to the insinuation that they are all secret racists in the same way most men reacted to last year’s Gillette ad that implied they were all toxically masculine misogynists – a mixture of surprise and annoyance. But that won’t stop the BBC, the Guardian and the woke left on Twitter lauding for shining a light on what a rotten and racist place post-Brexit Britain is. However, mercifully, Twitter is not Britain, and long may it stay that way.