By my reckoning, I’ve been the victim of dozens of hate crimes in recent days. I was all geared up to talk about this when I appeared on Question Time last month following reports of a 41 per cent rise in this hot new genre of criminal offence. Apparently, post-Brexit Britain is in the grip of an outbreak of malice towards foreigners, gays, the elderly, the disabled, etc., and I was looking forward to sharing my personal experience.
You see, like all political pundits, every time I open my mouth on TV or radio, I get a barrage of abuse — and there’s nothing quite like appearing on the BBC’s flagship political discussion show for an upsurge in hate mail. I would have been in the unique position of discussing a crime while the crime was being committed against me —and no doubt my discussion of it would have prompted even more people to commit it.
Even the anticipation of my appearance was enough to prompt an outburst of vitriol which (in the bizarre parallel universe occupied by hate-crime campaigners) could theoretically constitute a criminal offence.Normally, I’m perfectly prepared to roll with it. After all, if you put yourself and your opinions out there, you expect some blowback.
I’m aware that with each appearance on Question Time (last week was my fourth) I’ve become more forthright, and I expect some folk to dislike my views. Hell, I’m sure I’d find myself annoying if I wasn’t me.
But in the context of mounting hysteria among Remainers about hate crime, I feel it would be a dereliction of civic duty not to report a new wave of offences following my latest outing on David Dimbleby’s show.
Where to begin? Perhaps with the suggestion that I devoted my airtime to ‘representin’ evil’ or that I am so reprehensible that I fill people with ‘desperation for the human race’? Or the accusation from @ SKargotis that I am a ‘traitor to this nation’?
I’m not sure what could have prompted such a damning indictment. Perhaps it was a feisty exchange with our new shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry (yes, really) over Labour’s lack of immigration policy? According to one of my more complimentary Twitter correspondents, I ‘proper owned fatty Thornberry’ (though another Tweeter felt I ‘couldn’t bitch-slap anyone’ because I’m a ‘droid with no brain or emotions’.) Maybe I went too far accusing Thornberry of ‘talking nonsense’. Or was it my blunt description of Scotland as an ‘economic basket case’? I knew that would wind a few folk up. It was all just political knockabout, but as usual I was labelled ‘stuck-up’, ‘ignorant’, ‘stupid’ and ‘despicable’. For good measure, one woman told me I’d upset her young child.
The irony is, these people are potentially guilty of hate crime — not me. Under the laughably loose definition, it only takes someone to feel slighted to give rise to a hate-crime case. According to the police ‘operational guidance’: ‘For recording purposes, the perception of the victim, or any other person, is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident… The victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception. Evidence of hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incident.’
Throw in an element of misogyny, and if I wanted to boost hate-crime statistics I’d be home and dry. When some bloke called @ KeithRandall addressed me as ‘Ickle Issy’, my ‘perception’ was that he was being hatefully sexist (‘Ickle Alex Salmond’ doesn’t have quite the same ring). As for the man who decried me as a ‘vile, pretend shockjock’ whose sole claim to fame is ‘silicone [sic] and hair extensions’ — does it get much more hateful than that?
After the show, one @PgaMatt wondered ‘why do many hate you or have a vendetta? It’s unreal!’ Actually, I thought I escaped pretty lightly. I don’t know what a ‘hot puppet’ is but I ‘perceive’ the remark to be flattering. It was one of many positive comments. About 20 good folk took time to write me long, carefully considered letters about the issues debated on the show. Encouragingly, the number of emails and tweets praising my contribution far outweighed the number of attacks. At least nobody called me an ‘escaped gorilla’ (poor Thornberry).
Sadly, we didn’t discuss the ludicrous burgeoning hate-crime industry on the show. Had we done so, I’d have said that the majority of ‘victims’ should man up, and let the police concentrate on crimes involving sticks and stones. Which would probably just have spawned yet more offences.