Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Labour MEP says people from white, rural backgrounds are racists

I came across a video today of a speech by UKIP MEP Louise Bours in the EU Parliament and the rather bad-tempered reaction to it from Labour's Julie Ward MEP.

Normally I would just chuckle to myself at the silly reaction of the Labour MEP but one thing that she said actually offended me. After listening to the video again I felt compelled to send her a message.
Dear Julie,

In the interests of full disclosure I will first tell you that I am a UKIP councillor in Shropshire but I hope you won't use this as a reason to avoid addressing my concerns about your comments in the EU Parliament about the artists co-operative you are involved with.
It works every summer with young people from across Europe using arts and culture as a means of bringing young people together so that they will understand why it's important that we are together, not apart and the young people who take part in these things have come from a white, rural monoculture you might think that they would be racist, that they would have opinions about their neighbours which are negative.
I grew up in Much Wenlock. You may have heard of it as the birthplace of the modern Olympics and it lent its name to one of the London 2012 mascots. Much Wenlock is a white, middle class rural town. There were two half caste girls who went to my school and for most of my childhood they were the sum total of my exposure to other cultures. When I was 14 or 15 a black family moved in to our street. They weren't there for long but we got on well with them while they lived there. This was the first black person I had ever spoken to. When I started working at the age of 17 whilst at college I had my first encounters with Asian people. This was my white, rural, monocultural upbringing.

When I was first able to vote I voted Labour like my parents. I helped Tony Blair sweep to power in 1997. I have never voted Conservative in my life and don't see myself ever doing so. I have some great black and Asian friends and have never felt a prejudice against anyone because of their colour, religion or ethnicity (not even the French). I resent the implication that because I had a white, rural, monocultural upbringing that I would be expected to be racist. I have encountered far more racism and prejudice since moving to an urban area with people who grew up with ethnic minorities in urban areas than I ever did in Much Wenlock. I find your comments offensive and I would like you to take back what you said.