Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Trevor Phillips snubs gypsies and travellers

The Commission for Racial Equality has junked its campaign with the Gypsy Council to make political parties and the media use capital G and capital T when writing about gypsies and travellers. Its chair Trevor Phillips is revealed as himself indifferent to breaching the CRE’s own guidelines when writing for the media or quoted in major interviews and refuses to even advise police services and the Labour Party when they ignore CRE guidelines.

The Gypsy Council states: “The Gypsy people are a recognised ethnic group and when writing about us, please show us the same respect as other ethnic and racial groups by spelling our name with a capital not a small g.”

The CRE’s website nominally backs this campaign. In its ‘guidance’ it hectors journalists with the ‘do as I say not do as I do’ admonition: Listen to the people you are writing about
and continues: “This is particularly important when it comes to the terms and language you use. … The terms Traveller(s), Gypsy or Irish Traveller should be used with initial capital letters.”

But in The Observer of 28 March Mr Phillips’ own article used a lower case to refer to travellers and in the course of an extensive interview with The Times on 12 April he was quoted using a lower case g and t.

The CRE refused to state whether the politically incorrect use in The Observer was originated by Mr Phillips or the result of an editorial decision by the newspaper but did insist they were too busy to get a correction published by its Reader’s Editor.

In his major Times interview of 12 April Mr Phillips refers to ‘gypsies’ and ‘travellers’ despite being put on alert by Liberty and Law about the correct use of language and the presence of his press officer Colleen Harris. The CRE confirmed that they would not be asking The Times to make any correction on this occasion either.

Trevor Phillips’ use of language unacceptable to the Gypsy Council mirrors the Labour Party’s election website that contains releases quoting Tony Blair, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett doing exactly the same. Informed by Liberty and Law of its offensiveness to the Gypsy Council and its flouting of CRE guidelines the Labour Party has nevertheless since 21 March stuck to its use of ‘gypsy’ and ‘traveller’ taking encouragement from the CRE chair’s own use of the language.

The CRE’s dismissal of the Gypsy Council’s concerns was illustrated by their point blank refusal to even telephone Cambridgeshire Police over this Authority’s use of the ‘institutionally racist’ lower case in its press release POLICE REACH OUT TO TRAVELLERS. The CRE claimed to lack the resources even for this simple task.

It was left to civil liberties group Liberty and Law to ensure that they conformed to the politically correct model by amending the press release and promising henceforth to use always the upper case G and T.

Liberty and Law director Gerald Hartup commented: “One can see why Trevor Phillips and the CRE can’t make time for a couple of phone calls. They have different priorities. They have just advertised for a new international public relations officer and a head of international communications to promote Mr Phillips on a global scale. Money is bound to be tight for domestic work. The best idea for gypsies and travellers might be to make a call from abroad or even lobby him in Brussels or Strasbourg. ”

Mr Hartup added: “Of course the campaign is misguided. Liberty and Law like Trevor Phillips, the Labour Party, most journalists and the police [before they are corrected] uses the lower case to describe gypsies and travellers. Liberty and Law does so however not out of ignorance or lack of respect. It demands the same rights for people adopting these lifestyles as for everyone else but rejects the use of coercive language designed to consolidate the creation of bogus racially privileged groups. Language is being used [sometimes] by the CRE to attempt to dictate the terms of political debate. Tony Blair, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett may have instinctively understood this and be challenging political correctness. It could of course be simple ignorance or bigotry on their part. There can now be no excuse for the media or politicians. It is not a question of reaching for the style guide. It is a question of conforming with the demands of the language police or taking them on. It would be helpful to know where the Labour Party and the other parties stand on this issue.”

Further information Gerald Hartup
Liberty and Law
Unit 384, 78 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 5APTel: 020 7928 7325 Fax: 020 7207 3425 gerald.hartup@btopenworld.com

Gypsy Council http://www.thegypsycouncil.org/ under the heading RespectCommission for Racial Equality Guidance for Journalists http://www.cre.gov.uk/media/guidetj.htmlTony Blair highlights the Tories' opportunistic campaign 21 March 2005
Beckett attacks "opportunistic Howard" 21 March 2005

Tony Blair is a man of judgment. Michael Howard is an opportunist http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php?id=news2005&ux_news%5Bid%5D=prescott35years&cHash=f607e5c456

It's bad - but real solutions can be found, Trevor Phillips, Observer Sunday March 27, 2005 http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,1446437,00.html
Parties warned against inflaming race tension, The Times 12 April, Tom Baldwin, Philip Webster and Sam Coates