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Watch: Owen Jones walks off Sky News debate on whether Orlando was a homophobic attack

“I just find this the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television.”

The left wing commentator and journalist Owen Jones walked out of a live paper review on Sky News, following a heated discussion of the Orlando club shooting.

Jones called the debate – with presenter Mark Longhurst and fellow guest Julia Hartley-Brewer – “bizarre” and “the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television”.

Longhurst and Hartley-Brewer were arguing that the attack on a gay night club did not constitute a specifically homophobic terrorist attack. Bizarre, indeed.

Jones, who is gay, became so frustrated with what he called their attempts to “deflect” from the LGBT angle of the crime that he pulled his mic off and walked out.


Owen Jones: “At the end of the day, this was a homophobic hate crime as well as terrorism, and it has to be called out… It is one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the western world for generations, and it has to be called out.”

Presenter: “Well, it’s something that’s carried out against human beings, isn’t it, no matter what their…”

Owen Jones: “No! No… This has to be called out for what it is; this was an intentional attack on LGBT people.”

Presenter: “On the freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves as Bataclan was.”

Owen Jones: “Excuse me! Can we just explain? You don’t understand this because you’re not gay, ok? So just listen…”

Presenter: “Whether I’m gay or not has no reflection on the fact this person killed…”

Julia Hartley-Brewer: “No, I don’t think that you have ownership of horror of this crime because you’re gay.”

Owen Jones: “Can I just say that I find this astonishing?”

Julia Hartley-Brewer: “I’m not Jewish, and I’m not gay, and I’m not French, but I’m still equally horrified by these crimes.”

Pointing at headline on the Telegraph (“Isil wages war on gays in West”)

Presenter: “Now, you share that view that this was deliberately targeted on one part of the community rather than the freedom to enjoy yourself, no matter what your sexual orientation is.”

Owen Jones: “What are you talking about? This is…I’m trying to understand the point you’re making. This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people in an LGBT venue. It was a homophobic terrorist attack. Do you not understand that? It’s not some abstract kind of, he picked a club out of nowhere – he picked a club because it was full of people he regarded as deviants. That’s why he attacked the club.”

Julia Hartley-Brewer: “I think part of the issue is, ok, this is a hate crime, this is an act of terrorism, all accepted, it was an attack on gay people, absolutely, it was horrific, however my guess is this man will probably be as horrified by me as a gobby woman as he would… genuinely, genuinely, this is the thing, we don’t know right now. We can speculate, but we don’t know how much of this is motivated by just his homophobia, whether that in any way is related to his religion…

Owen Jones: “We heard from his own father about his revulsion. Why are we trying to deflect?”

Presenter: “…I’m now going to quote from the Telegraph is saying: ‘Mateen’s father said his son, a US citizen of Afghan descent, may have targeted the gay community…’”

Owen Jones: “May have? He did! Why are you saying this?”

Julia Hartley-Brewer: “‘After seeing two men kissing in Miami some months ago. He may have been angered by many other things since then.”

Owen Jones: “I’m sorry, I just find this the most astonishing thing I’ve ever been involved in on television. If he’d walked into a synagogue and massacred dozens of Jewish people, you wouldn’t be saying what you’re saying now. You would be talking about it as an antisemitic attack. This was a deliberate attack on LGBT people, this was a deliberate attack on the LGBT community, this bizarre attempt to deflect…”

Presenter: “It’s not bizarre. We are trying to draw parallels in terrorist attacks on people who are being attacked whether they are enjoying rock music in Paris, whether they are gay people in Florida enjoying a night out.”

Owen Jones: “This was an attack on LGBT people. This was a homophobic attack.”

Owen Jones: “I’ve had enough of this, I’m not having it.” [Walks out].

I'm a mole, innit.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.