The company we keep can say a lot about us.
That’s why the majority of well-meaning folk on the pro-Palestine marches should be paying closer attention to those they walk beside.
There’s a reason politicians are careful who they’re photographed with.
Being snapped with nefarious characters can come back to haunt them in future – and those marching alongside folk calling for death to Jews and the destruction of Israel should exercise caution.
If you walk beside such people – whether they’re simply useful fools, ignorant of history or full of the banality of evil – then you leave yourself open to accusations of guilt by association.
Suella Braverman, sacked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as home secretary, was wrong to call the march for Palestine a hate march although there was clearly a fair amount of hate on display.
I believe firmly in democracy and the right to protest so I’m not in favour of banning marches.
I am in favour, however, of dealing very firmly with those who break the law while on them and there’s no doubt hate laws were well and truly transgressed by a substantial minority last Saturday.
You can be as disingenuous as you like but when you walk with those carrying placards and posters which clearly call for violence against others, in this case Jews and Israel, or when you’re sharing spaces with those folk who are shouting obscenities and threats about others, don’t be surprised if you’re classed as being in league with their views.
We’ve been very fortunate in this neck of the woods that Orange marches are a rarity; in fact in Dundee I think I may have seen only two in my lifetime.
However, those of a Catholic persuasion in the west coast where they’re a regular occurrence are left in no doubt that such marches are a display of triumphalism over them.
A reminder that they’re seen by the marchers as second class citizens.
Similarly when those of the Jewish faith watch hundreds of thousands in a march which contains a voluble and significant number of protestors shouting slogans and waving placards which threaten them, then given their tragic history it’s understandable a deep primeval fear is awakened.
Braverman – who tapped into the fears, genuine or otherwise, of some people on a number of issues – proved incapable of framing her messages in a way which garnered widespread sympathy or understanding.
So lumping together everyone who had just cause to be horrified at the deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza as hate marchers was brash and thoughtless.
Incapable of nuance
As a senior politician she and others have a duty to be mindful of language which can give those with easily vexed minds a reason to rabble rouse.
Similarly the jibe that actually got her sacked, that homelessness could be a lifestyle choice, was also a rash and thoughtless phrase.
Those who work with homeless folk may have surmised she meant that some among them struggle to settle into regular accommodation given their chaotic lifestyles, but to phrase it in the hard-hearted manner she did was a grim and Dickensian way to communicate her thoughts.
Similarly her opinion that the Met police were guilty of two-tier policing found some supporters but was poorly communicated.
Her view that certain groups have been treated more favourably than others by the police was always going to result in agreement or discord dependant on tribal loyalties.
But her inability to express it without any nuance marked her out as a politician incapable of understanding life’s very varied complexities.