I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Channel 4's broadcasting output at the best of times, largely because, for the most part, it seems to be little more than a national broadcaster that has chosen to dedicate itself to the transmission of some of the most puerile and questionable content ever devised, that undoubtedly appeals to those youngsters, progressives and minorities for which the station was principally designed. If there's a subject for these particular groups of viewers to get agitated about, to become outraged about, or to be offended by, then no doubt Channel 4 will do a program about it at some point in time. It is hardly a surprise therefore that Channel 4 never has been and probably never will be a major British broadcaster, simply because it's not trying to appeal to the mainstream public, but rather a very narrow minority clientele.
However, what has become highly noticeable in recent weeks and especially as we head towards a general election, possibly one of the closest in recent years, is just how fast and loose Channel 4 is prepared to play, not only with the letter of the law governing elections, but also with the spirit of the law relating to them. Not so long ago Channel 4 broadcast what has generally become known as a "mockumentary" called UKIP: The first hundred days, which speculated about how a future UKIP government might behave were it to gain the levers of executive power in the UK. Rather predictably perhaps, given its core audience, Channel 4 saw such an event as being entirely disastrous for the country, with rioting in the streets, forced repatriations of immigrants taking place; and the country going to hell in a handcart. But then, why wouldn't they paint such a catastrophic outcome? After all, the progressively lunatic left-wingers who make up the core of Channel 4's audience are hardly likely to worry about accuracy, impartiality or balance, when it comes to attacking UKIP and its supporters, so in a sense the program makers were already pushing against an open door in that particular respect!
Unfortunately for both the "mockumentary" makers and for Channel 4 themselves, the only tangible thing that did come out from the broadcast of UKIP: The first hundred days, was a widespread public realisation that the "mockumentary" itself was not only ill-conceived, badly made and just generally rubbish, but also that lots of non-aligned viewers saw it for what it actually was, an attempt at blatant anti-UKIP propaganda by Channel 4 and the program makers. Rather than hurting the UKIP brand, it was thought to have made more people question why a national broadcaster had even bothered to spend time and money in such a cack-handed attempt to try and discredit them, if they were as bad, or as malign as the national media would have us all believe?
Clearly though, even having tried and abysmally failed to damage the UKIP brand through the broadcasting of the program, Channel 4 seem to be as determined as ever to try and influence the forthcoming general election through the use of its broadcasting licence. Their most recent politically inspired transmission Britain's Racist Election, which was broadcast by Channel 4 on Sunday 15th March 2015, retold the story of the 1964 General Election campaign in Smethwick, a parliamentary contest that was known to be dominated by the issues of race relations, failing community relationships, economic stagnation and housing shortages. (Any of this sound familiar to you?)
In what one can only assume was an indirect and wholly misrepresentative dig at the UKIP brand for a second time prior to the general election in May 2015, the main thrust of the program appeared to be to remind viewers of the damaging effects of rampant racism, the implied benefits of the various Race Relations and Equality Acts that have been passed over the past fifty years; and the apparently indisputable truth on the part of the program makers, that racism is an entirely white phenomena against which even current generations must guard. As a point of interest, it can have hardly escaped any viewer's notice that the program began by highlighting the part of a speech given by the late Enoch Powell, purportedly warning his audience that proposed Race Relations legislation would almost inevitably hand the "whip hand to the Black man". Heady stuff indeed; and proof positive that racists exist in every sphere of society, even amongst the most educated and the most elevated! Unfortunately, what the clip didn't make clear, for obvious reasons no doubt, was that Enoch Powell was actually recalling a remark made to him by an unidentified constituent; and the statement was not in fact his own opinion, but that of the concerned third party, who just happened to be a white British voter.
However, back to the point at hand. The fact that a publicly elected representative, in this case, a Mr Peter Griffiths, who was standing under the Conservative banner, won 47.6% of the popular vote, ostensibly in response to a sudden and highly unpopular influx of immigrants from overseas, caused outrage amongst the progressive political classes of the day, to the extent that the new MP was subsequently described as a parliamentary "leper" by the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.
Wilson was thought to have accused Griffiths of being a parliamentary leper largely because of the sometimes intolerant and discriminatory tone of the election campaign in Smethwick, most of which was heavily influenced by mass migration from overseas, declining industries in the Midlands and extremely limited access to public housing stocks. According to some Labour sources at the time Peter Griffiths was thought to have been complicit in parts of the discriminatory campaign that saw electioneering slogans such as "Want a n*****r as a neighbour, then go ahead and vote for Labour". Although both Griffiths and the Conservative Party denied any direct involvement with the publication of such racial sentiments, even in his maiden speech in the House of Commons, Griffiths publicly reasserted his concerns over the plight of local industries, the obvious shortage of social housing and the added pressures that the sudden inundation of nearly 5000 migrants from overseas had had on the existing largely white community, in terms of jobs, wages, working practices and the availability of good quality social housing.
Using arguments that pretty much echo public concerns nowadays, regarding mass migration into the country and the disastrous effects it could have on already struggling communities, Griffiths sought to highlight the suppression of wages (the race to the bottom), the undermining of work practices and the increasing scarcity of suitable social housing as major factors in the public resentment that ultimately lead to his election to parliament. Indeed, it was also mentioned by one of the areas earliest migrant workers, when talking to the program makers, that at the time jobs were extremely tenuous and typically he and his fellow migrants were paid much less than their white counterparts and were prepared to work longer and harder in order to find and keep any meaningful employment. In other words, as much as they do today, some British employers of the time were wilfully and ruthlessly exploiting their new migrant labour force, at a direct cost to the existent and generally more expensive to employ white workforce. And whilst one would have expected the government of the day to prevent such obvious exploitation, both for black and white worker alike, they chose not to do so, yet claimed complete innocence when the almost inevitable conflict between the two opposing worker communities finally did arise in later years.
For the makers of the program the most damning indictment of Peter Griffiths, the white community of Smethwick and the country as a whole supposedly, was the sight of a few dozen drunken racists talking about establishing a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the town; and using some of the most archaic and pejorative language that one can imagine to describe the newly arrived overseas migrants. Whilst generally unpleasant to listen to, the fact that the producers then decided to feature the appearance of American Civil Rights leader Malcolm X on the streets of Smethwick, who was there at the invitation of the BBC, simply helped to illustrate that intolerance doesn't have a colour, but is endemic to all communities, whether they are white, black, red or brown.
The very idea that the hostile white community of Smethwick would or should take any lessons on racial tolerance from the highly inflammatory Malcolm X, who was heard to suggest that the local migrants shouldn't wait for the local white fascists to start building gas ovens, before they took action, probably tells you everything you need to know about both the underlying intentions of the program's producers and the radical views of the now long since dead Black Supremacy leader, who even during his own lifetime espoused the separation of the black and white races in America, and vehemently rejected the very concept of racial integration (or multiculturalism).
Just quite how frightened the migrant community of Smethwick would have been at the prospect of some drunken white louts masquerading around the streets of their town in nightshirts and dunces hats, whilst carrying burning torches is unclear. However, one does wonder just how much fear existed amongst the indigenous British working community, who were not only faced with the real prospect of their jobs and local housing stocks having to be shared with a newly arrived foreign community, but who also believed that they were being deliberately undercut by the new arrivals, who were often prepared to work cheaper and longer than those who had lived there for generations. In truth of course, neither the migrant community, nor the indigenous community were the chief architects of this socio-economic experiment, which we now commonly refer to as multiculturalism. That dubious credit is owed to both successive British governments, of all stripes; and to the generations of greedy, grasping British employers who not only exploited our own native workforce, but were then content to exploit the cheaper foreign workers that government so kindly provided them with. So, where in the early 2000's Tony Blair purposefully flooded Britain's cities and towns with hundreds of thousands of cheap Eastern European migrants to satisfy the needs of the UK's slave wage employers, he in his turn was only really copying an earlier model first introduced by the Labour government of Harold Wilson; and that the Conservative administration of David Cameron is continuing to pursue right through to the present day.
After all, it cannot be any sort of coincidence that the Smethwick general election campaign occurred in the immediate aftermath of an immigration surge that most Briton's weren't asked about, didn't ask for, or weren't even warned about. They were simply presented with it, whether they liked it or not, much the same as is happening today. The unpleasant and misinformed pejoratives aside, what was so wrong with the people of Smethwick being fearful and angry about the sudden arrival of 5000 complete strangers in their midst, strangers who were prepared to undercut them, outwork them and who would want to take their own fair share of the limited public resources that their community had to offer? The use of racist language to describe the newcomers may have appeared unpleasant by today's "liberal" standards, but Britain in the 1960's was a very different country to the one we all live in today; and being offended by language that was probably fairly common some 50-60 years ago is a pretty pointless response to something that has long since been uttered.
As for the attempt to link this particular program to the UKIP brand? I mention it only by virtue of its timing (prior to May's general election), its content (elections and racism) and by linking Channel 4's previous output of anti-UKIP propaganda to this specific program. Ultimately of course, all 45 million of us have one vote to cast in May; and those who choose to believe that UKIP are an inherently racist party, are unlikely to believe anything to the contrary, but hey, that's the nature of democracy! As a UKIP supporter, I don't consider myself to be a racist (even though I would be bound to say that anyway, wouldn't I?), but then again I don't believe the horse-shit we're regularly fed about multiculturalism and the global village! I treat as I find, and I don't give a monkeys whether you're black, white, red or brown, if you treat me with civility then I'll treat you with the same sort of respect.
As for Channel 4's Britain's Racist Election? In my opinion, if anyone involved in that making of that program actually believes that racists like those shown in the program don't exist any more, then they probably need to get out more. The language might have changed, as various laws have been introduced to forcibly modify people's public behaviour, but all that has ensured is that such deeply held racist attitudes become much more subtle and far more secretive and just how do the authorities go about changing them then?