‘Can you hear me Enoching?’ Goodwin goes full Powell as the press downplays Starmer’s homophobic church trip

Just another normal day on this totally normal island.

Had the previous Labour Party leader — I think he was called something like Jermbody Crobnyn — had visited a church led by a pastor who has condemned same-sex marriage and equality legislation, I suspect it would have been very big news. Front pages across the board, debates on talk radio, questions on the Today programme big.

But Keir Starmer’s visit to Jesus House, where the senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, has spoken out against same-sex marriage and legislation to protect LGBT+ people, has caused not so much a storm as a ripple in the newspapers. A few stories, a lot of tweets, and… silence from the talk radio stations.

The Guardian picked up on a PA report on the visit and the criticism it has received (“Labour sources have told PA Media that Starmer’s visit was focused on the vaccination centre…”) but the top story on its website as I write is an Observer piece headline Keir Starmer: I’ll take my mask off and show why I should be prime minister.

Aside from The Guardian report, the story has been covered in one form or another by Sky News, Pink News, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Northern Times (using PA copy) and The Spectator.

The Sky News, Independent and Daily Mail reports frame the story as one about criticism from within Labour, specifically from LGBT+ Labour. The Northern News and Pink News coverage looks at condemnation within and beyond the party.

Pink News’ article includes the most details about previous actions by the leadership at Jesus House and raises an accusation not covered in other reports:

In 2009, the Christian website Ekklesia alleged that Jesus House – which is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – had carried out “exorcisms” on people who are “sexually attracted to members of their own sex”. Jesus House denied the allegations.

The Spectator, which — as you might expect — is gleeful at any misstep by the Labour leader focuses on the (im)pure politics of the story:

Various online sites like Pink News and The Independent have previously made great hay out of Tory Prime Ministers associating with the church with Peter Tatchell claiming in 2017 that: 'Theresa May's decision to visit pastor Agu Irukwu and Jesus House is an insult to the whole LGBT community but especially to black LBGT people.' 

It seems curious that none of Starmer's team were able to forsee the difficulties that such a visit would cause. Maybe year two will see a more forensic leadership?

The Evening Standard only finds space for the row at the very bottom of a story headlined Starmer’s Easter message pays tribute to Christians in the pandemic. The Sunday Telegraph, perhaps calculating that its readers hardly find homophobia a big deal returns to the Labour antisemitism row with Labour accused of 'letting off anti-Semitism' after failing to expel members, which inevitably contains the dog wolf-whistling insights of Lord Austen. And after Sir Keir was so compliant in giving them an exclusive just the other day…

I’m picking over the bones of the coverage of this particular story not to deploy the ever-tedious cry “the mainstream media is ignoring this!” because it’s not. Instead, I wanted to highlight how it’s being covered.

Where criticism of the previous Labour leadership from within the party was elevated to the status of a top story at every turn, Keir Starmer stepping two-footed into a turd of titanic proportions is underplayed by a press seemingly desperate to maintain the argument that he might get better as an opposition leader… any minute now.

Whether Starmer’s attempts to navigate the culture war are clumsy, craven, or a toxic combination of both (my preferred analysis), the result is the same — he appears inauthentic to the flag-wavers and disgusting to the left. He’s like a weird old key you’ve found in the bottom of a drawer — you’re not sure what it’s for and if you did find the lock it fits you might not like what you found behind it.

On one of the biggest issues of the week — the government’s deliberately antagonistic race report — Starmer only managed to murmur that he was “disappointed” with it. His abject fear of upsetting the right-wing press precludes full-throated condemnations of… well… anything really.

Meanwhile, the country’s most contemptible commentators are making more hay than a hyperactive farmer. I’ve written three newsletters on this topic already but the intervention of book-eating bullshit spewer Professor Matthew Goodwin means that I’ve got to return to the rotten well once again.

Writing for The Daily Mail, which has often provided a home for his fact-free, racism-heavy rant, Goodwin argues:

Increasingly, our schools, universities and media are being infected with this destructive and divisive new orthodoxy imported from the United States, where the story of race is entirely different.

Many of these ideas were shaped by academic theories that first emerged in the 1960s.

This was the time of the so-called 'cultural turn', when many Left-wing thinkers lost interest in the white working-class because it showed little interest in their Marxist 'revolution'.

Instead, they turned to an alliance of ethnic minorities, immigrants and bohemian middle-class students, calling on them to 'deconstruct' the established 'power structures', languages, institutions and established ways of life of Western societies.

These ideas have since collided with other theories in the field of 'social justice' to present an utterly different and warped vision of British society from the one that used to be promoted by the sensible Left.

Who are the ‘sensible Left’? Do they iron their corduroy jackets? Or just ask for a little bit of nationalisation as a treat?

Goodwin pushes an argument that is so common among right-wing rentagobs in the British press that it’s like they pick phrases from a communally-owned big hat full of cliches. We’re meant to believe — in direct contravention of our experience — that UK schools are frothing hotbeds of Marxist revolution.

It’s because people like Goodwin need an enemy to define themselves against, particularly because the right was in control of the levers of political power for the majority of the last century and has continued to be during this one.

To admit that schools are, by and large, conservative with a small ‘c’ places and that teachers really don’t have much time to push Marxist dialectic would be too sensible for scenery chewers like Goodwin. Quick! Someone get that man another book to snack on.

Like that tedious Tory MP who sent time counting how many Union Flags there were in the last BBC annual report, Goodwin thinks he’s spotted something by having a context-free flick through a Labour Party rulebook:

An obsession with class has been replaced by an obsession with the 'trinity' of sexuality, gender and racial equality.

One recent Labour Party rulebook contained 139 mentions of women, 43 of ethnic, 41 of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), 26 of gender and 11 of race — but only two of class.

Goodwin’s adding up actually tells us nothing useful but he thinks it does and that’s all that matters. He is a man with a penchant for sweeping assertions backed by feeble or non-existent evidence.

For all his snide accusations of victimhood from others, Goodwin’s whole schtick is to paint himself as a victim. The following paragraph is particularly pathetic:

There are now only two groups in society — the virtuous 'good' groups like women, non-whites, immigrants and people who are LGBT+, and the 'bad' groups, like straight men and the white working class.

Imagine being an academic — a professor of politics no less — and thinking that statement is remotely defensible. But Goodwin doesn’t need to provide proof because he’s writing for The Daily Mail, which has trained its readers to enjoy consuming articles which, for legal reasons, must be referred to as “fact-flavoured”. He needn’t give evidence for his assertions because in the world of the right-wing press they are incontrovertible truths:

The end result is a sort of informal alliance between white elites, corporations and minorities against the white working class, presented as dangerous, threatening or stupid — as we saw during Brexit when they were derided as 'racists' and 'thickos'.

Of course, there were people, especially in the FBPE continuity wing of the remainers, who did pour scorn on the working class, but which class does Professor Matthew Goodwin think he’s fighting for when he pens pieces for The Daily Mail in defence of an Old Etonian-saturated government?

Actually, I don’t need an answer to that question. I can just look at who Goodwin is currently employed by — he’s Director of the Centre for UK Prosperity at the Legatum Institute think-tank. Salt of the earth that lot. Still, I expect it’s just a stop-gap before he’s hired as an advisor to Sir Keir…