'David Cameron has behaved precipitously. It's grossly unfair to take one remark out of context.'
Ken Clarke clearly hasn't read the interview
'There's nothing that Patrick said actually that was remotely offensive'
Cameron was exactly right to sack him and Mercer was offensive in some of the attitude he showed. Not for telling us that the canteen culture in the military doesn't like 'different,' but for sheer naivete and base ignorance. As Desmond Swayne put it
'What he did was create the impression that racism is somehow acceptable. It is always and everywhere a poison.'As a leading example of the ignorance:
a chap with red hair, for example, would also get a hard time - a far harder time than a black man, in fact.Yes, because I'm sure my friends can recall the 'No Blacks, No Dogs, No Gingers' signs in the boarding house windows in London and Birmingham. We're coming up to the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, but I've yet to see much in the way of redheads enslaved. Apartheid wasn't all that much to do with hair colour, as I recall. That's before we even get on to the known attitudes towards black soldiers. The statement runs entirely counter to reality and demonstrates just how far out of touch some Tories are with society and ordinary people.
I came across a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless, but who used racism as cover for their misdemeanoursWhen later questioned in a BBC Radio interview, Mercer could only raise two examples of this.
Nirpal Dhaliwal writes about his own father's experience as a soldier in the early 70s and the destructive effect of such casual bullying
He will never forget his commanding officer calling him a 'black bastard' in front of the entire platoon. My dad had mistakenly stepped on a trailer while trying to climb into the back of a lorry. 'I was gutted,' he told me. 'I expected to hear that sort of thing from the regular soldiers, but not from an officer.' The officer had grossly insulted him and legitimised such insults among the men my father had to serve with.Sunny over at Pickled Politics adds
My brother was an officer in the British Army until recently. He once told me the trick when marching, doing exercises or simply following orders was to be ‘the grey man’, i.e. blending into the background in the hope no one noticed your mistakes. Except if you were brown or black you stood out like a sore thumb and every mistake was remembered the next time. My brother also has a full beard and turban so blending in wasn’t so easy.
From his experience as an officer, Mercer should have understood the importance of leadership and rather than believing that men like Pvt Johnson Beharry VC should just accept being called a black bastard as one of life's trials, he should be demanding change and standing up for what is right. That's why Patrick Mercer deserved his sacking and, whisper it quietly, I think Cameron was right.
Juvenal applies his wit to the subject.
I never came across a piece of nastiness inside the Conservative Party that wasn’t based exclusively on Conservatism.