Some bigotry is worse than others

Someone’s sitting around a table and saying, “Rape jokes?” “Yeah, great. We could sell that”, then, “I’ve got a thing about blacks too.” “Racism? Jesus, what sort of company do you think we are?”

Which clothing is the most offensive? Image: Getty

I’ve always thought the best thing about clothes is prejudice. In fact, I’d go as far to say the entire purpose of getting dressed in a morning is that it allows you to say something that in non-cloth circumstances, people would call you a bigot for. Say it with words? You’re an arsehole. Say it through your clothes? You’re a genius. Other people merely use clothes to prevent themselves getting cold or arrested. Not you. Whether it’s on it, or through it, you use clothes to be offensive. Or maybe ironically offensive. Or zany. (You haven’t decided yet.)

You know the sort of thing. Clothing that says someone with a mental health problem is going to kill you or that sometimes women deserve a slap. We’ve seen it many times before with ‘Nice new girlfriend: what breed is she?’ t-shirts in Topman and domestic violence apologist 'You provoked me' tops. We’ve seen it again this week with ‘I’m feeling rapey’ t-shirts on eBay and ‘Mental Patient’ and ‘Psycho Ward’ Halloween costumes from both Asda and Tesco. “Every one will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume,” Asda promised, optimistically. It was designed to look like a straitjacket, and included "a torn bloodstained shirt, bloodstained plastic meat cleaver and gory face mask” for subtlety.

I’m thinking of getting into the bigoted clothing business myself. Based on the fact that, despite consumer protest, these pieces of clothing keep being produced and sold, there’ll be plenty of companies willing to buy my idea. Not just the odd market stall, either. International brands like Amazon or eBay and huge supermarkets like Tesco or Asda. Except, I’m not sure they would. My clothing is going to be racist, you see. It might include a joke about Jews. Or maybe Muslims. I’m still at the ideas stage but right now but I’m thinking of a t-shirt with a really big nose on it, or a fancy dress outfit of a Bolton terrorist. If I’m feeling particularly ‘edgy’, I might just print a load of t-shirts with different ethnic slurs on it. They’ll even be available in a range of colours (geddit?) I can’t help but fear that retailers – up to this point quite happy to stock certain offensive clothes – might reject my ideas though. Times have changed. Jew jokes just don’t seem to have the zany appeal that mental health stigma does.

A person doesn’t need to spend their spare time on Twitter to be wary of anyone who ranks their level of persecution (or privilege). Bigotry isn’t comparative. It doesn’t comfort the woman being called a slag in the street to be told at least she’s not a black man being called a word I don’t want to type. “I’m considerably more oppressed than you” gets no one anywhere, and ignorance isn’t the sort of thing that can be scaled.

The fact that the ‘mental patient’ and ‘rapey’ clothing was ever on sale suggests judgements are being made about our bigotry all the time. Companies are ranking our prejudices. Whether it’s the suppliers or sellers, someone’s doing not only doing the equivalent of sitting around a table and saying, “Rape jokes?” “Yeah, great. We could sell that” but, “I’ve got a thing about blacks too.” “Racism? Jesus, what sort of company do you think we are?”(Unless of course, no one is even pitching racist t-shirts – which in itself, might tell us something.)

It shows the ethics of the consumer that, due to pressure on the companies, the items in question have now been removed. But I can’t help but think, if these clothes had been peddling hate and ignorance of anyone but women or the disabled, they wouldn’t have been sold in the first place.

What is it about women or people with mental health problems that says their oppression is funny? That they’re fair game and a target sellers can get away with? Supermarkets and global websites have just about reached the point where they understand racism is wrong. Sexism or disablism? Well, it’s not great. But they’ll give it a go. Some bigotry is just worse than others. The world of prejudice is prejudiced like that.

Which clothing is the most offensive? Image: Getty

Frances Ryan is a journalist and political researcher. She writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman, and others on disability, feminism, and most areas of equality you throw at her. She has a doctorate in inequality in education. Her website is here.

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.