The unbearable paternalism of the middle-class left

Owen Jones lecturing Nimco Ali about bigotry is Corbynism summed up.


Topics Politics UK

To see the essence of Corbynism, of the new woke left, look no further than Guardian columnist Owen Jones’ run-in with anti-FGM campaigner Nimco Ali over Boris Johnson’s use of the phrase ‘bum boys’ 21 years ago.

Yes, Labour activists are still talking about that throwaway line in a Boris column from literally the last millennium because… well, because offence archaeology is an easier game to play than actually coming up with a positive vision for Britain.

On the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC Two, Jones and Ali were paired up for one of those political blind dates TV producers think are a good idea.

Ms Ali backs Boris, Mr Jones thinks Boris is basically Hitler in a blonde moptop, so naturally there was disagreement. Especially on ‘bum boys’. OJ said Boris’s use of that phrase proves he is bigoted; Ali said it didn’t. She said it wasn’t necessarily homophobic to use those words – it depends on the context.

Cue Jones screwing up his face in disbelief. Slowly, deliberately, he tried to explain to Ms Ali what bigotry and homophobia are. And this is where it became really uncomfortable viewing.

What we had here was a middle-class Oxbridge graduate and chief Guardianista lecturing an African immigrant (Ali was born in Somaliland) about the right way to think and speak. It was spectacularly condescending and patronising.

It cut to the heart of the middle-class left of which Mr Jones is a key part. These people are increasingly distant from everyday society. Of course they claim to care about working-class people and immigrants, but in truth they at best pity them and think they need constant state assistance, and at worst they secretly loathe them and wish they weren’t all so backward and beholden to tabloid newspapers like the Sun.

Jones’ snooty tone with a woman from a different background to his, and who has different views to his, captured perfectly the elitist nature of wokeness.

As it happens, Ali was right. Context matters. More importantly, intent matters. When Boris said ‘bum boys’, was his intent to demean all homosexuals? Of course it wasn’t.

He was mocking Peter Mandelson by suggesting that the only people who would be upset about his resignation (this was 21 years ago, don’t forget) would be ‘tank-topped bum boys’ in gay nightclubs. Boom boom. You don’t find it funny? That’s fine. It isn’t, particularly. But it was clearly driven by political spite, not anti-gay hatred.

Jones then tells Ali that he is continually referred to as a ‘bum boy’ thanks to Boris’s newspaper article. Does he honestly expect people to believe this? Literally no one in the country remembered Boris’s 1998 article until the likes of Jones dredged it up in a tragic effort to score points against the Tories! If anyone has reintroduced the phrase ‘bum boy’ into British public life, it is Owen Jones, not Boris Johnson.

But that’s another thing about the woke left – ‘I am a victim’, these middle-class activists say, as they clamber on to the moral high ground and look down their noses at any individual or community that has had the temerity to offend their PC sensibilities.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Neil McRobert

28th December 2019 at 7:59 am

Owen Jones sees Nazis everywhere he has” ein Gesicht das nach einer ohrfeige schreit”!

Ann Ceely

16th December 2019 at 3:33 pm

Indeed. The ‘woke’ nose-in-the-air virtue signallers spend all their time thinking about race or sex or … so that they can name-call as proof that they’re perfect – unlike normal people.

Why haven’t they realised? People prefer normal folk who make mistakes, get misunderstood, and more frequently than not fail to achieve what they try to do.

Gerard Barry

11th December 2019 at 3:27 pm

I’m gay and while I may dislike the term “bumboys”, it was something Johnson said 21 years ago. It’s amazing nowdays how words – even those used a couple of decades ago – can cause such uproar. Aren’t there more important things to worry about?

Frank Strong

11th December 2019 at 3:26 pm

Bum so-called sex is the the only way homos can do rumpy pumpy. And so referring to them as bum boys is technically accurate, at least in a casual sense. Thus I can’t see the problem here. I mean, is Own Jones saying homos aren’t bummers? If so then what are they what do they do?

Richard Parker

13th December 2019 at 9:50 pm

To be fair, Frank, as a homosexual, I can tell you that there are many other options available than ‘bum sex’ and many gay men don’t indulge in it at all. It’s an option, just as it is to heterosexuals. That said, I don’t think that a 21-year-old article aimed at a particular person is offensive to all gay men as a whole. It’s unfortunate and old-fashioned phraseology, but Johnson was a journalist, playing to a crowd. Not ideal, but not a big deal, either.

Francis Lonergan

11th December 2019 at 2:25 pm

” ‘tank-topped bum boys’ in gay nightclubs. Boom boom. You don’t find it funny? That’s fine. It isn’t, particularly.”

Not only funny, hilarious!

Jim Lawrie

11th December 2019 at 11:30 am

She has spent 33 of her 37 years in England, so why the immigrant prop? We don’t need to know her immigrant background, but the author needs to bring it up as his article depends on it. In his eagerness to have a go at Jones, the author has succumbed to the identity politics and seems only to have an issue with the pecking order.

A political activist who relies on identity went up against Owen Jones and he played identity and victim better than she did. What did she expect?
She has to learn her place in that hierarchy, or reject it entirely, and just rely on her brain rather than her sex or her skin if she is going to step out of line.

cliff resnick

11th December 2019 at 12:06 pm

I would say that Ali had a cause rather than a concern about identity, whereas will Owen it’s a career thing.

Jim Lawrie

11th December 2019 at 1:26 pm

I agree Cliff.
I’m just trying to say that if you you play the identity game, then it is a race to the bottom.

Owen Jones is very much “a place for everyone, and everyone in their place”. Identity is a useful extension to that which allows class prejudice to flourish openly under the guise of sticking up for minorities. It allows Jones to duck the issue of his class, of which he is conscious, and replace it with an assumed identity. The left have always tended to lose it and reveal their “how dare you” disposition when the lower orders challenge them.
The phrase “The Great Unwashed” lampoons that attitude among middle class lefties. They cannot see this because it simultaneously confirms their prejudices and allows them to look down on and laugh at working class people, thus putting them off guard.
The way to deal with Owen Jones is to confirm his prejudices and draw them out. He has not the guile to spot it and all the vanity needed to fall for it.

Anna Bolick

11th December 2019 at 9:13 am

“What we had here was a middle-class Oxbridge graduate and chief Guardianista lecturing an African immigrant (Ali was born in Somaliland) about the right way to think and speak. It was spectacularly condescending and patronising.”

Excellently put. This summarises Owen and his ilk perfectly.

Jim Lawrie

11th December 2019 at 11:40 am

Should he defer to her?

james lang

11th December 2019 at 7:39 am

One of the characteristics of Wokeism is that it’s deaf and blind to humour as well as any other opinion that dares to confront it. I found it hard to keep a straight face listening to a po-faced Owen Jones repeatedly saying bum boy. Of course context matters; if it didn’t many a rapper would of been mobbed by the thought police long ago.

Rrr Rrr

10th December 2019 at 11:29 pm

I too am a life long labour lag but will still vote labour to kick out the woke generation..


Jerry Owen

11th December 2019 at 8:07 am

The woke generation are the bulk of the labour party.
Your post has zero logic.

Jon Hubs

10th December 2019 at 9:10 pm

I for one will not tolerate his intolerance of intolerance!

H McLean

10th December 2019 at 6:31 pm

Owen Jones may be privileged and conceited but he certainly is not middle class. There is no doubt that given the opportunity he would make Stalin look like a bastion of dignity and moral certitude.

Danny Rees

10th December 2019 at 11:15 pm

Now now now you’re not obeying the Spiked rules. Anyone they disagree with or dislike is middle class. Get with the programme.

Brian Flannery

11th December 2019 at 11:58 am

Owen Jones is without doubt middle-class. His upbringing was classically middle-class and I know this because he lived for a time in the town I grew up in. The proffessions of his parents, their emplyers and the area where he lived render him (very) comfortably middle class. hes even admitted this when quizzed about it.

Also, to actual working class people such as myself, we can sniff out a ‘tourist’ a mile away. He isnt and never will be one of us.

Female Penis

10th December 2019 at 5:48 pm

Owen has a point, I read that article back in 98 and I’ve been calling my mum a big-boy ever since, she gets really annoyed with me.

Pragmatix Pragmatix

10th December 2019 at 5:10 pm

One major confusion (Of so many!), today, is the erroneous usage of the term “Middle class”.

Owen Jones is far from middle class: he is simply a gobby midget, with no dignity whatsoever.

Whatever the topic might be, he is determined to try and assert the cause is homophobia.

Even when clearly it is not.

Diane Abbot is identical: she invariably blames everything on racism.

Personally, I cannot abide either of these fools.

Ven Oods

11th December 2019 at 8:15 am

And yet, look at the entertainment with which they provide us.
I’d be appalled to see Abbott as an actual minister, but I’m quite partial to watching her struggle on TV. If she didn’t, I’d have to go back to pulling the legs off bluebottles…

Michael Lynch

11th December 2019 at 11:30 am

Couldn’t agree more. Her behavior is self regulatory and I’d rather have her than the likes of Thornberry, Soubry or Swinson any day of the week. I used to love watching her gaff up on This Week. The time she called Mao a ‘good bloke’ was priceless. Just imagine if Labour won and she was given a cabinet position; the responsibility would overwhelm her almost immediately.

Hugh Bryant

15th December 2019 at 6:53 pm

Owen Jones is absolutely middle class. His mother was a university lecturer ffs. You don’t get much more middle class than that.

Gerard Barry

16th December 2019 at 9:32 am

Would be interesting to know what she lectures in. It might help us understand the origin of his own political views!

If his mother is a lecturer, then that obviously makes him upper middle class for sure. This reminds me of the time someone on The Guardian comments pages contradicted me for saying that Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, was from a privileged background because she was the daughter of two doctors. I guess it’s always a question of point of view!

Jonnie Henly

10th December 2019 at 4:51 pm

“What we had here was a middle-class Oxbridge graduate and chief Guardianista lecturing an African immigrant (Ali was born in Somaliland) about the right way to think and speak. It was spectacularly condescending and patronising.”

I wonder if Spiked would’ve written this if Owen had been debating someone else. If anything’s patronising, it’s the tone of this article.

Neil McCaughan

10th December 2019 at 8:44 pm

In a tragic case of nominative determinism, Henly can do nothing but cluck his disapprobation of any article that doesn’t regurgitate Guardianista platitudes. Jonnie has a picture of Squealer Jones on the wall of his bedsit, and really doesn’t like his idol being called into question.

Danny Rees

11th December 2019 at 10:27 am

One day when Tommy is PM…

Iain Litenment

11th December 2019 at 7:14 am

Yes John, Spiked would have as long as it was a perfect example of the “The unbearable paternalism of the middle-class left”.

Jerry Owen

11th December 2019 at 10:09 am

Little Jonnie
Are you making a point or has mummy not winded you lately ?

Danny Rees

11th December 2019 at 10:28 am

The writer of this is berating Owen for disagreeing with Nimco because she is African and an immigrant.

You do not see how this is patronising?

Neil McCaughan

10th December 2019 at 4:46 pm

What was the upshot of the implausible Jussie Smollett tale that Squealer Jones told about his birthday night out? Does anyone believe anything he says? The Corbynites didn’t used to – to them he was just a useful idiot.

Major Bonkers

10th December 2019 at 4:44 pm

Shakespeare, of course, is clearly anti-semitic (The Merchant of Venice), racist (Othello, Henry V), an apologist for paedophiles (Romeo & Juliet), and supporter of dictators (Julius Caesar, Macbeth).

Ban this filth now.

T Zazoo

10th December 2019 at 5:56 pm

Not to mention transphobic (Twelth Night) and don’t get me started on Midsummer Night’s Dream !

Jim Lawrie

11th December 2019 at 12:54 am

Yes. That was a terrible speech he gave to Shylock, defending Jews as human beings. Tut, tut.

Ven Oods

11th December 2019 at 8:19 am

You forgot that Will was also an Islamophobe (Othello, or The Moor of Venice).
So, basically, he didn’t like anybody except Ann Hathaway (which, given her crap movies, is even less understandable).

Ven Oods

10th December 2019 at 3:23 pm

‘What do you think of Boris Johnson calling gay people ‘tank top bum boys’?”

Succinctly dismissive. But, why gay *people*? Surely he meant only gay men.

Jonathan Smith

11th December 2019 at 6:39 am

I’m the wrong kind of gay obviously. I love epithets like ‘shirt lifter’ and ‘bum-bandit’… however, I draw the line at the suggestion I would ever wear a tank. Bloody outrage. Rein it in Boris!

Robert Johnson

11th December 2019 at 7:19 am

Don’t forget ‘arse-bandit’ gleefully used by Stephen Fry back in the 90’s.

Tim Wheeler

10th December 2019 at 2:36 pm

Out-Of-Context Quote Archeology is utterly contemptible. It just tells us that those who practice it are unable to engage in any meaningful policy discussion, and are ONLY capable of ad-hominem attacks and character assassination of their opponents. I’m a lifelong Labour voter who is voting Tory. Why? Because of this sort of thing from Labour in place of any real attempt to engage my fears over loss of genuine citizen involved (IMO) in giving sovereignty to the E.U. Labour refuse to engage with my concerns so now I refuse to engage with them.

Tim Wheeler

10th December 2019 at 2:40 pm

I meant to ‘citizen democracy’

Equality of rich & poor, (powerful and powerless) at the polling booth is the ONLY way the ruling class can me made to listen to the concerns of the poor. New & Woke Labour are BLIND to this.

Lanky Lad

11th December 2019 at 11:21 am

Well said.

Owen Jones is a ridiculous, posturing “work” twerp embroiled in pointless and useless identity politics.

Jerry Owen

10th December 2019 at 2:13 pm

Whatever came of that attack on OJ by alleged right wing thugs several months ago?

Mike Ellwood

10th December 2019 at 11:12 pm

“No m’lud. I didn’t ‘it ‘im cos ‘e’s ‘omosexual – I ‘it ‘im cos ‘e’s got such a smackable face”.
“You have a point, young man. Case dismissed”.

Jerry Owen

11th December 2019 at 10:11 am

So no evidence to back up Owen’s accusation then.

Jonathan Smith

10th December 2019 at 1:48 pm

I’m obviously the wrong sort of gay because I quite enjoy the frisson that using epithets like ‘bum bandit’ and ‘shirt lifter’ bring. The outrage is disingenuous. I do however take offense at ‘tank topped’. Reign it in Boris.

Dominic Straiton

10th December 2019 at 2:21 pm

The Labour party is a middle class hate fest ( mainly of themselves and Jews) . The working class of all colours simply dont see themselves as victims. Try finding one on a building site. Cults are always full of graduates.

Danny Rees

10th December 2019 at 8:14 pm

Vote Tory eh?

Gareth Edward KING

10th December 2019 at 2:46 pm

Ouch! ‘Bum boy’ is positively hilarious! says this BB from the 1960s. As for ‘shirt-lifters’, I had the temerity to use this expression to describe those who were attending a meeting held by the Gay Bikers’ Group at their annual meeting (no less) at Exeter University this summer. One poor thing got ever so self-righteous and went into spasms about how ‘he’d had to put up with ‘homophobism’ (sic) all of his life’ which included such terms of reference (apparently). I don’t recall his wearing a tank top though. Well, being a self-identified ‘gay biker’ I’m not sure it’d go with the required image. Not ‘butch’ enough, says he (snigger).

steven brook

10th December 2019 at 3:00 pm

“the wrong sort of gay” I like it and I’m going to use it in conversation. “Now that Peter Tatchell, he’s definitely the right sort of gay, especially when he tried to arrest the vile murderer Mugabe. Whereas Matthew Parris is definitely the wrong sort of gay (sneering antidemocrat) and as for Owen Jones well he writes for the Guardian so what would you expect, consistency!

Danny Rees

10th December 2019 at 11:16 pm

Yeah Peter is not afraid to take on the black and foreign homophobes.

Unlike soy Owen who would bow down and let a Muslim call him all the names under the sun and he can’t say anything cos he fears being called racist.

K Tojo

10th December 2019 at 5:42 pm

Popular epithets can easily change their meaning and context. I have heard the term “shirt lifter” used to describe baked beans – for their alleged ability to generate shirt-lifting flatulance. Owen Jones and some other Guardianistas I could name subject us to a different sort of flatulance.

Joe S

10th December 2019 at 7:15 pm

“Bum boy” could be an insult but “Tank topped bum boy” is funny. And the only reason people call Owen a bum boy is to wind him up. Imagine being in a sauna with him and his non-stop talking.

Mike Ellwood

10th December 2019 at 11:15 pm

I’m just surprised that Johnson had even heard of a tank top, let alone knew what one was.

Ven Oods

11th December 2019 at 8:23 am

Are you kidding? BoJo’s a veritable cultural encyclopaedia. (Regarding Rome and Ancient Greece, anyway.)

Michael Lynch

10th December 2019 at 1:39 pm

Jones is off his face and always has been. He his the epitome of what passes for the educated left of today. This self righteous little pipsqueak sees Nazis everywhere except where they really are (in the modern Labour Party) and is started to become more and more shrill each day as he witnesses his protective bubble slowly begin to deflate. People are on to you and your nonsense now, Jones, so you’d better start to trim your sails accordingly or be prepared to go down with the ship. Patronizing prick.

Ven Oods

10th December 2019 at 3:24 pm

To be fair to Owen, he does flounce out of an interview with some aplomb.

Jerry Owen

10th December 2019 at 5:08 pm

JHB taught him a lesson there.

Danny Rees

10th December 2019 at 8:08 pm

Yeah too right.

When Tommy gets into 10 Downing Street soy sucking Owen will be the first to be thrown out of this country as a traitor.

If he complains about it we can always tell him to shut up for the sake of diversity!

Danny Rees

10th December 2019 at 1:33 pm

“But that’s another thing about the woke left – ‘I am a victim’, these middle-class activists say, as they clamber on to the moral high ground and look down their noses at any individual or community that has had the temerity to offend their PC sensibilities.”

Ha ha Spiked is literally portraying Nimco as a victim by suggesting her race and status as an immigrant means her viewpoints are off limits from criticism.

Ven Oods

11th December 2019 at 8:21 am

Must admit, Danny, that’s also how it struck me, and I’m no fan of Owen’s.

Danny Rees

10th December 2019 at 1:20 pm

“”What we had here was a middle-class Oxbridge graduate and chief Guardianista lecturing an African immigrant (Ali was born in Somaliland) about the right way to think and speak. It was spectacularly condescending and patronising.”

Sounds like Spiked is doing what is normally utterly opposed to.

Playing the race card.

Ed Turnbull

11th December 2019 at 1:53 pm

Actually Danny I don’t think Spiked *are* playing the race card, what they’re doing is highlighting the double standards / hypocrisy of the woke left. Consider this – in the woke playbook Nimco Ali ticks a number of victimhood boxes: woman – tick, black – tick, immigrant – tick. That’s quite an ‘oppressed score’ she’s accrued right there. But all of that is immediately negated because she supports Boris. In OJ’s mind she’s naught but a white, blue-rinsed, Thatcher clone from the shires. So while the woke crowd *claim* to be on the side of ‘the oppressed’ the simple reality is if you hold the ‘wrong’ ideas you’re an ‘oppressor’, no matter how many of their victimhood intersections you occupy. Expecting intellectual consistency from the likes of Owen Jones is expecting too much.

Oh, and OJ is *always* spectacularly condescending and patronising, regardless of whom he’s lecturing.

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