PCAA Foundation

Electoral Conduct Inquiry: Call For Papers

The chair of the APPG Against Antisemitism, John Mann MP has commissioned a Parliamentary Inquiry into Electoral Conduct. The purpose of the inquiry is to investigate and evaluate the effectives of existing lines of responsibility and accountability in managing elections and, specifically, charges of misconduct during elections with a particular focus on racism and discrimination. The Terms of reference are as follows:

1. To inquire into the culture, practices and malpractices exhibited during election campaigns by electoral candidates and others with a particular focus on discriminatory behaviour.

2. To review whether the current law, regulations, political party and agency measures relating to electoral conduct are appropriate, well-co-ordinated or require amendment and to make recommendations accordingly.

3. To uncover what models of good practice exist for assessing and addressing accusations of discriminatory behaviour during elections.

4. To make recommendations, rooted in best practice where possible, for cross-party frameworks to prevent and address accusations of discriminatory conduct.

Natascha Engel MP, chair of the Backbench Business Committee will chair the inquiry and is joined by 11 other Parliamentarians*.

Whilst it has been commissioned by the Chairman of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, the focus as outlined above, will be broader than antisemitism alone.

The Inquiry is seeking written submissions of no more than 2,000 words from interested parties, before taking oral evidence.  Organisations and individuals wishing to make written submissions are invited to do so by 29 March 2013.  Each submission should include the name and postal address of the individual or organisation and state whether it has been prepared specifically for the Inquiry.  Where submitted by an organisation rather than an individual, the submission should briefly explain the nature and membership of the organisation.  Oral evidence will be taken in Parliament, beginning in May 2013.  A report is expected to be published in the summer.

Submissions should be sent to the Clerk of the Inquiry on dstone@parliament.uk. If possible, please supply an electronic version in MS Word by email. The formal call for papers, which details other methods of submission is available by clicking here, guiding questions for submissions are available here and a press release here.

*The members of the inquiry are: Stuart Andrew MP, Lord John Alderdice, Lord Jeremy Beecham, Angie Bray MP (Vice-Chair), David Burrowes MP, Lilian Greenwood MP, Rt Hon David Lammy MP, Naomi Long MP, Seema Malhotra MP, Andrew Stunell OBE MP, Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP

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Abusive Football Chants: Zero Tolerance

The recent battle between the Society of Black Lawyers and Tottenham Hotspur underlines the case for action in tackling some of the most unsavoury elements of supporter culture.

For those that missed it, the Society of Black Lawyers Chairman, Peter Herbert, drew fire from Tottenham fans and others by calling for the police to prosecute those holding banners proclaiming loyalty to the ‘Yid Army’ or chanting the phrase during games. Tottenham attempted to differentiate between antisemitic abuse it labelled as “real” such as hissing to simulate the noise of gas chambers, and the chanting of ‘yid’, calling for a determined and concerted effort from all parties to deal with the problem. Meanwhile, they welcomed the police statement that there was ‘no deliberate intent to cause offence’. They, I presume, support the common supposition that the chant is a predominantly Jewish crowd reclaiming the word or perhaps self-parodying.

Sadly, such suppositions are almost certainly false. Given the Jewish population of the UK is about 250,000 it is likely that less than 5 percent of spurs fans are Jewish.  In which case, a majority of non-Jewish fans are likely chanting ‘Yid Army’; presumably unknowing of the provenance of the word or the anti-Semitic abuse it provokes from some opposing team supporters. One could argue the case that Jewish fans could sing the term if they so wished, but it would be impossible to demarcate who could and couldn’t chant ‘Yid Army’ as a self-defining term. Rather stewards should have a policy of zero tolerance and continue to look for and report all abuse – including the Y-Word.

The well known comedian and author David Baddiel together with his brother Ivor, produced a film called ‘the Y-Word’, which our group helped to launch in parliament. It depicts clearly the shocking repercussions of the adoptive Jewish chanting as a platform for outright antisemitism. In discussing the film, Baddiel has suggested that a predominantly white team in Brixton adopting the N-Word as their badge of honour and chanting ‘N***** Army’ would be banned without hesitation. Of course, he is right.  I fear his analysis may also be right, that any culture which has shunned other race-hate words but accepts the Y-word, perceives anti-Jewish racism to be somehow less offensive or significant. 

However, the Spurs chants are not the only ones of concern. David Jones, manager at Sheffield Wednesday, recently had to endure offensive chants from Leeds fans – something he says he has put up with for over a decade. Meanwhile Leeds fans were subjected to taunting chants about the death of two of their fans in Istanbul 12 years ago.

As our group has pointed out, clubs have the power to act. The chants tend to emanate from a hard core who are season ticket holders. The FA should be working with the clubs to construct a strategy for clamping down on the abusive singing.

So too do other football fans, myself included, have a responsibility to speak out. I don’t want to have to cover my children’s ears when I’m at a football match, nor do I want to see this ugly racist chanting being mirrored at Sunday league grass roots games. I want the passion and excitement that football inspires and the lessons about sportsmanship and teamwork to have as wide a reach as possible. Surely, a family friendly game is a game with endless potential.

Football has come a long way in the past 20-30 years. Whilst there has been a recent spate of racist incidents, they have been followed with serious inquiries which will hopefully lead to resultant action. The kind of crass racist abuse of black players that emanated from the terraces in the 1980s has been met with countervailing forces, all be it not totally eliminated. I believe we need a renewed effort to face down aggressive and abusive chanting of all kinds.

Spurs fans defiantly sang ‘we’ll sing whatever we want’ in response to the Society of Black Lawyers criticisms, surely it’s for the FA to stand up and sing back in full voice, ‘No!, you won’t’.

John Mann MP

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Mann: FA Must Get A Grip On Abusive Chants

In the week where Tottenham Hotspur sought to justify the chanting of the word “Yid” by their supporters, the chair of the APPG Against Antisemitism is calling for the FA to get a grip on the situation.

In recent weeks, the situation in football grounds around the country has spiralled out of control. David Jones had to endure offensive chants from Leeds fans throughout the derby with his club, Sheffield Wednesday – something he says he has put up with for over a decade. In turn, Leeds fans were subject to taunting chants about the death of two of their fans in Istanbul 12 years ago. Mann wrote to the FA a fortnight ago calling for action but is yet to receive a reply.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism has for some time been working on issues around racism and intolerance in football, helping to launch the film ‘the Y-Word’ which addressed the chanting of ‘yid’ by football fans.

Piara Power, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe defended the spurs fans chanting the ‘Y-word’ but Mann says Powers organisation should be fighting for zero tolerance too.

Spurs attempted to differentiate between ‘real’ antisemitic abuse such as hissing to simulate the noise of gas chambers and the chanting of ‘yid’, calling for a determined and concerted effort from all parties to deal with the problem. Mann’s view is that the responsibility lies with both Spurs and the FA:

“Clubs have the power to act. The chants come from a hard core who in the main are season ticket holders. Its time the FA got a grip and designed a strategy to address this problem including the removal of season tickets from abusive fans”.

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