Racism and Lewis Hamilton

It's hard to think of any racists who aren't pathetic physical and mental specimens, proving beyond

There has been some more furore about Spanish racism towards Lewis Hamilton. I hate racism and everyone in Spain is racist and so I hate them all. Which isn't racist, because the Spanish are not a race. What I am is xenophobic and generalising and wrong.

But not as stupid and wrong as ALL Spanish people. All right, let’s be fair – SOME Spanish people.

The recent Spanish stupidity has meant though that the papers have reprinted this unbelievable picture of some Spanish people cleverly mocking Hamilton with a sophisticated satire.

It not only confounds me that anyone could be allowed to do such a thing and not be stopped by the people around them, but it also demonstrates how stupid racists are. In fact it's hard to think of any racists who aren't pathetic physical and mental specimens, proving beyond doubt that the idea of white supremacy is bogus. They prove the opposite of what they believe just by their own existence.

I mean, look at that picture and consider what must have gone through these Spanish idiots' heads. "Hey, I hate Lewis Hamilton. How can we satirise him?"

"Hmmm, hang on, he is a black man. Why don't we dress up as black people, by painting our faces, but nothing else including our necks, black? That will show him!"

"But how will he know who we are meant to be?"

"Let's all wear T-shirts that say "Hamilton's Family" on them."

"Yeah, brilliant. But let's make sure that they look pathetically home made and that we spell family with two l's"

"Yes. But what will be saying exactly by doing this?"

"We'll be saying that Lewis Hamilton is black and so are his family. That will show him."

"Is that really enough? I mean surely he would know that he is black and in any case, isn't his mother white?"

"You're right, it's not enough. For the satire to work and to make him, not us, look stupid, we'll have to put some real effort into the costumes. All the money we have saved on T-shirts and an English dictionary we can spend on getting some authentic wigs to give us the appearance of black people. Now what kind of wigs should we get?"

"Let's get a load of grey wigs. That's the kind of hair that black people have. They all have grey hair."

"Yes, brilliant. That will show him. We will have successfully satirised him then. It will be like him looking in a mirror and seeing his family staring back at him."

"Oh wait and let's get some thick spectacles as well...."

"Why?"

"Because it will make Hamilton look stupid. Not us. Him."

What is truly incredible about this is not just that they thought this was a good idea, but not one single idiot amongst them was a clever enough idiot just to take one step up the ladder of idiocy and say, "For our brilliant joke to work,shouldn't we really at least get some big, black Afro wigs so we look like we're in the Jackson 5. Rather than these grey ones, which are a bit confusing to be honest. Are we just saying that all Hamilton's family are old?"

"Not just old. They have very bad eye sight too."

"Do they? I mean if we want to be racist and funny, surely we have to do a bit better. I mean, for example, we could wear monkey masks, implying that black people are monkeys, rather than just implying black people are black.... with grey hair.... and bad eyesight. Which I don't think I've ever heard anyone say."

"No, no. Just painting our faces black is a much better satire. Lewis Hamilton is going to look like a right prick now. Don't forget we've got "Hamilton's Familly" written on our T shirts. We're really showing the world who the worst fucking idiots in the world are."

"Hamilton and his "familly"?"

"Yes, exactly. I can't wait to see the photos of this. We are going to look brilliant."

The fact that I, a non-racist, can immediately think of "better" racist jokes to make, shows how ignorant and pathetic all racists are. They are a subclass of morons and I really think the world would be a better place if we could gather all the people who are stupid enough to think that their race is superior to any of the others and make them go and live on an island somewhere. Entertainingly there would be racists of every different colour on this new Eden and they'd have to fight things out between them. Whilst the rest of us, who don't think that just having a different coloured skin to someone else is worth remarking on can get on with trying to resolve more important issues.

My favourite racists though are the people who use religious justifications for their bigotry. They believe that God, despite creating all peoples, actually favours their race above the other ones. They essentially think that God is racist, which is quite an insult. That he created all the different people, but they are the ones that he actually likes and supports. Or maybe they believe that different gods created the different races, each preferring their own kind, all in competition with each other. Yet the gods all managed to put aside their differences for long enough to agree to design a basic template so that each separate race of human beings would be sexually compatible with the others and genetically almost entirely identical.

Anyone who thinks that any all powerful all-seeing God would be petty and pathetic enough to prefer one race or nation above all the others is a fucking idiot, as ridiculous as these fools in their misspelled T-shirts. Really it should be enough to make them realise that gods were created by different races and nations as talismans rather than the other way round.

Don't use an imaginary man in the sky to justify your own stupidity. And if you think that the colour of someone's skin, or their hair or their eyes or where they live is an indication that they are inferior to you, then alas it is you who is the inferior one. And so you should dress up as a poor satire of yourself, wearing a T-shirt saying "I am mee".

But then after Hamilton’s incredible and mesmerizing victory I saw that my anger was not justified. When Hamilton's family came out to congratulate him, it turned out they had ridiculous grey hair, comedy thick glasses and some kind of skin pigment condition where their faces and nothing else were black as boot polish. They were also wearing home-made, mis-spelt T-shirts saying "Hamilton's Familly" and waving their arms around in a stupid fashion.

Those people in the crowd in Spain hadn't been racists at all, merely impressionists and they had got the Hamilton familly off to a tee. How could I have judged them and their country so unfairly. There’s a lesson for us all there. Somewhere.

Richard Herring began writing and performing comedy when he was 14. His career since Oxford has included a successful partnership with Stewart Lee and his hit one-man show Talking Cock
Photo: Getty
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After Richmond Park, Labour MPs are haunted by a familiar ghost

Labour MPs in big cities fear the Liberal Democrats, while in the north, they fear Ukip. 

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond Park has Conservatives nervous, and rightly so. Not only did Sarah Olney take the votes of soft Conservatives who backed a Remain vote on 23 June, she also benefited from tactical voting from Labour voters.

Although Richmond Park is the fifth most pro-Remain constituency won by a Conservative at the 2015 election, the more significant number – for the Liberal Democrats at least – is 15: that’s the number of Tory-held seats they could win if they reduced the Labour vote by the same amount they managed in Richmond Park.

The Tories have two Brexit headaches, electorally speaking. The first is the direct loss of voters who backed David Cameron in 2015 and a Remain vote in 2016 to the Liberal Democrats. The second is that Brexit appears to have made Liberal Democrat candidates palatable to Labour voters who backed the party as the anti-Conservative option in seats where Labour is generally weak from 1992 to 2010, but stayed at home or voted Labour in 2015.

Although local council by-elections are not as dramatic as parliamentary ones, they offer clues as to how national elections may play out, and it’s worth noting that Richmond Park wasn’t the only place where the Liberal Democrats saw a dramatic surge in the party’s fortunes. They also made a dramatic gain in Chichester, which voted to leave.

(That’s the other factor to remember in the “Leave/Remain” divide. In Liberal-Conservative battlegrounds where the majority of voters opted to leave, the third-placed Labour and Green vote tends to be heavily pro-Remain.)

But it’s not just Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in second who have cause to be nervous.  Labour MPs outside of England's big cities have long been nervous that Ukip will do to them what the SNP did to their Scottish colleagues in 2015. That Ukip is now in second place in many seats that Labour once considered safe only adds to the sense of unease.

In a lot of seats, the closeness of Ukip is overstated. As one MP, who has the Conservatives in second place observed, “All that’s happened is you used to have five or six no-hopers, and all of that vote has gone to Ukip, so colleagues are nervous”. That’s true, to an extent. But it’s worth noting that the same thing could be said for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative seats in 1992. All they had done was to coagulate most of the “anyone but the Conservative” vote under their banner. In 1997, they took Conservative votes – and with it, picked up 28 formerly Tory seats.

Also nervous are the party’s London MPs, albeit for different reasons. They fear that Remain voters will desert them for the Liberal Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Catherine West, who sits for the most pro-Remain seat in the country, has already told constituents that she will vote against Article 50, as has David Lammy, another North London MP.)

A particular cause for alarm is that most of the party’s high command – Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, and Keir Starmer – all sit for seats that were heavily pro-Remain. Thornberry, in particular, has the particularly dangerous combination of a seat that voted Remain in June but has flirted with the Liberal Democrats in the past, with the shadow foreign secretary finishing just 484 votes ahead of Bridget Fox, the Liberal Democrat candidate, in 2005.

Are they right to be worried? That the referendum allowed the Liberal Democrats to reconfigure the politics of Richmond Park adds credence to a YouGov poll that showed a pro-Brexit Labour party finishing third behind a pro-second referendum Liberal Democrat party, should Labour go into the next election backing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats opt to oppose it.

The difficulty for Labour is the calculation for the Liberal Democrats is easy. They are an unabashedly pro-European party, from their activists to their MPs, and the 22 per cent of voters who back a referendum re-run are a significantly larger group than the eight per cent of the vote that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got in 2015.

The calculus is more fraught for Labour. In terms of the straight Conservative battle, their best hope is to put the referendum question to bed and focus on issues which don’t divide their coalition in two, as immigration does. But for separate reasons, neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats will be keen to let them.

At every point, the referendum question poses difficulties for Labour. Even when neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats take seats from them directly, they can hurt them badly, allowing the Conservatives to come through the middle.

The big problem is that the stance that makes sense in terms of maintaining party unity is to try to run on a ticket of moving past the referendum and focussing on the party’s core issues of social justice, better public services and redistribution.

But the trouble with that approach is that it’s alarmingly similar to the one favoured by Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour in 2016, who tried to make the election about public services, not the constitution. They came third, behind a Conservative party that ran on an explicitly pro-Union platform. The possibility of an English sequel should not be ruled out.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.