“Utley has finally lost the plot, he’s gone stark staring bonkers.” That’s what you all, whether on the right or the left, said to yourselves when you read the headline. But bear with me. I may not yet be quite certifiable (especially now we favour care in the community).
Consider Mr Corbyn’s reaction to Sarah Champion’s assertion that we have a problem with some Muslim men of South Asian origin indulging in appalling sexual abuse of white children. Then consider Mr Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville riots. You will find distinct similarities.
1,400 white children in and around Miss Champion’s constituency have been raped and sexually or physically abused by gangs of Muslim men of southern Asian origin. The abuse was ignored by police and social workers for years because they were afraid of being accused of racism if they did anything about it. Finally, the horrifying facts were revealed in a series of criminal trials. Almost everyone agrees that those trials demonstrated beyond doubt that there is a major problem which must be addressed. Miss Champion, who was then the shadow minister for women and equality, wrote a sober and balanced article in the Sun saying just that. Mr Corbyn sacked her. He has now explained why. There is, apparently, no problem with Asian men grooming and assaulting white girls. Crimes, he tells us, are committed by white people as well. Miss Champion was wrong to draw attention to these particular cases when white men also commit crimes.
What about Charlottesville? Several hundred thoroughly thuggish looking white Americans took to the streets to proclaim their belief in something called “white supremacy”. They chanted anti-Jewish and anti-black slogans. They waved swastikas. For once, and this is very rare, the left’s allegation that people with right-wing views were Nazis was entirely accurate. Horrifically, in the course of the demonstration, one of the Nazis drove his car at a group of opposing demonstrators and killed one of them. Almost everyone agrees that there was nothing to be said for the Charlottesville Nazis. Yes, the modern fashion for tearing down statues of historical figures because they had opinions which do not reflect 21st century orthodoxy is thoroughly tiresome. But the Nazis were not making a point about the need to understand history. Indeed, it was rather the opposite. Their case was that slavery was a jolly good thing and that white people remain superior to everyone else.
Mr Trump spoke, or twittered. He said he blamed both sides, the white supremacists and those who opposed them. That didn’t go down very well. After a period of reflection he said he disapproved of what the Nazis had done. But then he thought again. He went back to his first pronouncement. Both sides were to blame.
My guess is that both Corbyn and Trump decided that their reactions to these appalling stories should be tempered by their perception that the villains, in each case, probably voted for them and should therefore not be criticised. That, of course, was very foolish of them. The vast majority of Asian men in England will have been just as horrified by the Rotherham rapes as the rest of us were. And almost everyone who voted for Mr Trump would be appalled at the suggestion that they were white supremacists. But neither Corbyn nor Trump could see beyond the fact (as they thought it) that the villains were their supporters.
Of course, it may all be more complicated than that. I don’t know about Mr Trump, but Mr Corbyn has considerable form for denying sex abuse of children. For a great many years he insisted, against all the evidence, that there was no child sex abuse in Islington (his constituency). But that was not because he thought child sex abuse a good thing. Of course he didn’t, but he knew that acknowledging it was widespread in Islington would be taken as disapproving of the Labour council’s refusal to do anything about it. That was not a risk he was prepared to take.
The really sad thing is that I know all you social media commenters will just side with Trump or Corbyn. You will insist that your heroes can do no wrong. And yet there was a time, a long while ago, when those of us who were not professional politicians were capable of disagreeing, occasionally, with those for whom we voted.