May 15, 2005

Oona King on the Today Programme

Quite a lot has been written about the easy time Oona King was given to denounce Respect and many of her former constituents on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. You can listen to the whole thing via the link in the headline above. Leaving aside the fact that it is almost inheard of for a losing candidate (even an incumbent) to be interviewed at length by any broadcaster, the most remarkable thing about the interview was the planning of it; it was a freestanding edited programme in its own right. Each of her comments came after cuts from other broadcasts like the start of George Galloway's speech, Galloway's denunciation of the Returning Officer and even Jeremy Paxman playing the race card against the gorgeous one. I should point out that Oona herself felt insulted by Paxman use of her blackness to undermine Galloway. Imagine how Galloway must have felt! Other notable features of the interview were the lack of any challenges to King. She said that she was calling for war on Iraq from 1999. Which other wars has she called for? No one asked her. She said the Bangladeshi press said that she wanted to ban halal meat. She wasn't asked to name a newspaper or writer. At one point she seemed to suggest that whilst she was accustomed to anti-Black racism, she found anti-semitism particularly disturbing. Why should that be? And who was she accusing? Again she wasn't asked.

This might be a good time to welcome Oona to the establishment but she's a light weight, she's got no chance except maybe in carefully edited broadcasting. Even full-blown establishment insiders face challenging questions on the Today Programme. John Humphrys is always throwing Jack Straw on to the ropes but he can take it. I don't think Oona King could take it. My abiding memory of her was when she stood up to speak when Parliament was recalled to honour the Queen mum on her death. This is from Hansard
Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): I speak in this debate to represent the people of the east end who, as the whole country knows, held the Queen Mother in great affection. I shall speak not about what the Queen Mother inherited or passed on, but what the Queen Mother merited. She merited respect, and nowhere is that respect greater than in my constituency—land of the pearly kings and queens who were inspired by the sparkling monarch who picked her way through the rubble.

As I drove to Parliament this morning, I passed the plaque at the bottom of my road that reads:
here fell the first flying bomb on London.
Sixty thousand British civilians died during the war, 30,000 of them in east London. Indeed, the first early-day motion I ever tabled was on a memorial for civilians who died during that war. Earlier, the Prime Minister quoted the Queen Mother saying of the east end carnage:
the destruction is so awful, and the people so wonderful, they deserve a better world.
The Queen Mother inspired the east end during the blitz. One eastender recalls that
There was still an air raid on when she walked through the rubble. I always thought the world of her. She doesn't sit back pompous-like. I remember her putting her arm around people covered in blood and grime, and consoling them. I feel she knows what our lives were like.
As my neighbour Mary Isaacs said:
She came down Bow road slowly, and oh what a lovely smile.
As another cockney woman put it
Ain't she lovely! Oh ain't she just bloody lovely![I remember Oona using her best Dick van Dyke accent for that quote]
The century the Queen Mother spanned has closed. She was the last Empress. Although the world in which she was born and in which she moved has vanished, the characteristics with which she is associated endure, and we in the east end give thanks for them.
Fair brung a tear to me eye.


Post a Comment