What can we learn from the Darren Grimes story?

I’ve never really been a big fan of Darren Grimes. As a Remainer and I guess you could say (London Liberal Metropolitan Elite Bubble Dweller), Darren’s vision of an independent Britain outside the European trading block seemed like nothing more than an unrealistic fantasy. But like many Remainers, I came to accept the verdict and focused on other pressing issues. 

Although you may think that Darren’s Brexit content and commentary is something I would’ve found annoying for the past few years, actually it’s quite the opposite. He may have been Vote Leave’s Grassroots poster boy, but I’ve found his digital content to be more inspiring and influential than anything else. 

I may not agree with Grimes’ views, however, I’m not so much influenced by his rhetoric but more so by his conduct, creativity and innovation as a political blogger and activist. In this game we call politics if you don’t have the much-needed passion for the cause you are campaigning on, then you’ll be found out very quickly. Likewise, if you don’t put any time and effort into your projects and they appear to be a tad slapdash, then again, you’ll be found out. 

Grimes doesn’t have that issue. Time and time again he has proved his worth as a political operator. His passion for the Brexit cause has been evident not only to his peers and allies but also his enemies and opposition. On top of which, what we’ve seen is a respectful individual who has always adhered to the polite conventions and norms of political discourse. He never seeks to dismantle his opponent by using aggressive, hateful rhetoric, instead he uses the Grimes bank of Brexity knowledge to dissect the arguments and then proceeds to confidently push forward his suggestions. 

Those are attributes I aspire to work towards. Not because I have a lust for the Brexiteer activist lifestyle. It’s so I can develop my own skills and become an all-rounded, highly skilled Politico. 

Like many of you, I did indeed watch Grimes’ interview with David Starkey in which Starkey made those cringeworthy and abhorrent remarks. It showed a complete lack of respect to the Black community and the tone it was delivered in appeared to be nothing more than underlyingly racist. Mr Starkey, having realised the error of his ways, apologised and faced up to the frustrated braying mob of political Twitter. 

Grimes should have questioned Starkey about his remarks and he should’ve had an editor at ReasonedUK look over the interview before it was published. But he didn’t. And as the sole Director and Editor of Reasoned, he had to face up to his responsibilities by dealing with the backlash. 

It can’t have been easy but it will have been an important learning curve for him as a content creator and interviewer. 

So to receive all this backlash and critique is fair enough, however for the Metropolitan Police to be investigating the interview on the grounds of ‘Darren Grimes’ being potential in breach of the Public Order Act of 1986 by supposedly “stirring up hate”, is absolutely preposterous. 

As Grimes rightly pointed out to GMB viewers last week: “The Public Order Act is intended to preserve public order, not to regulate speech and debate.” 

The sheer fact this was reported to the authorities as some kind of racial hate speech issue is laughable. 

Yes, it was a careless interview but Grimes had nothing to do with the reply that came out of Starkey’s mouth…

It’s a great shame that Grimes is having to endure a Police investigation over an error of judgement on his behalf. I feel as though the whole matter could easily be resolved through the means of a slap on the wrist. 

Grimes is not a racist. Neither is he responsible for stirring up hatred towards a particular race. He just made a human mistake. 

The lesson we can learn from this saga is although Darren Grimes is an established name within the world of political commentary, he’s still in his 20’s. And your 20’s is supposed to be about grounding your feet in a career and making mistakes. 

If it had been Piers Morgan or Jeremy Vine who’d failed to pressure Starkey on his comments then yes I’d be very disappointed in their interviewing skills, but with Darren, you have to understand that he is still getting to grips with the medium and in terms of journalism, he still has a great deal to learn.

Extinction Rebellion: Why do they Rebel?

Why do they Rebel? They say it’s because the current system of governance is corrupt, unfit for purpose and that it fails to address the issues currently facing our generation.

We’ve all seen the videos on social media. A group of in-experienced teenage activists take to the roundabout at Trafalgar Square and attempt to bring London to a standstill. They do so in the name of Climate Justice. But these groups; Extinction Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and now Beyond Politics, are they not just using a cause’ as a justifiable means to wreak havoc on the streets of London?

Before the world became obsessed with COVID and staying locked up indoors, Roger Hallam and Extinction Rebellion were encouraging people to go outside and “fight for our future”. They believe the Conservative Government isn’t doing enough to prepare for the tipping points in the climate system, biodiversity loss, as well as combatting against the risk of social and ecological collapse.

As a collective, they feel as though the most effective way to lobby is via the means of nonviolent civil disobedience. This has consisted of road blockades, but also activists chaining themselves to the gates of parliament, glueing their hands to the side of a London Underground train and covering the streets of Whitehall in ‘fake blood’.

In their eyes, all of these methods of activism are well justified and effective. Now I certainly agree with the latter. It’s incredibly effective, especially if their goal is to whip up a media frenzy about their latest escapade. But justified. Nope, sorry.

I’ve always believed there are two types of politics. On the one hand, you have the activists, lobbying groups and collectives who are campaigning and pushing their agenda. Meanwhile, on the other side, you have the administrators. The MP’s, Lords, Civil Servants. Their job is to assess all the issues currently facing our country and prioritise them as best as they can to reach a consensus in which the majority of the population is content with.

So, as Extinction Rebellion takes to the streets today, remember they do indeed have their place in our political debate. They have been a handy vehicle in lobbying the conversation of climate change. However, what that doesn’t mean is that they have the right to go around terrorising party HQ’s, blocking ambulance’s, police and fire engines from doing their job as well as preventing hard-working individuals from getting to work.

We all worry about the future of our planet. But instead of trying to become the modern-day ‘Suffragettes’, why can’t XR and Beyond Politics focus on arranging meetings with parliamentarians and members in the House of Lords? And on top of that, why don’t they consider putting forward candidates to stand in the next election?

Roger Hallam has created a movement, which has the potential to become a force for good and potentially change. However, I worry that he is quite happy with it being the vehicle of nuisance and disruption.

Is it time for Blow Out to Help Out?

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme may seem like a generous way to kick-start the economy, but is it a sensible economic rescue plan? It is an ingenious means of getting people to part with their cash and inject money into local businesses, but there doesn’t need to be a sole focus on the restaurant industry.

Mark Littlewood, the IEA Director-General, recently said: “You can completely understand why restaurateurs like the scheme … But I don’t see a compelling case for helping the restaurant sector more than any other particular sector, some of which have suffered worse.”

Speaking to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2, Littlewood discussed how, although we have this current scheme in place, there ends up being no excuse for the Government to ignore the idea of creating more initiatives for other failing sectors. Industries such as nightclubs, sporting events and even airlines. Littlewood notes that, sooner or later, we’d be in danger of creating an economy in which “absolutely everybody is then living at everybody else’s expense”.

It seems unlikely the Government will be rolling out any more cash for struggling sectors, but that hasn’t stopped prominent members from those industries calling for their own ‘Help Out’ initiatives.

Michael van Clarke, a renowned hairdresser with over 40 years in the industry, said: “After the success of Rishi’s Dishes, with Eat Out to Help Out, is it time to ask for Blow Out to Help Out with hairdressing? Although there was an initial flurry for us all to get our hair done, clients overall are still very cautious about returning to the salon as they did before.”

Van Clarke continued: “COVID and lockdown have been disorientating for most people. Rates of depression have doubled. The Hair and Beauty industry has been hit hard with a near 4-month lockdown.

“And now a bizarre decision to bring congestion charging to central London on Saturdays is damaging trade even further. Instead of issuing more prescriptions for antidepressants, a Blow Out to Help Out scheme would raise self-esteem and improve trading conditions.”

Wherever you turn, there will be a struggling industry with a compelling case as to why they need Rishi’s money, but indeed a better way to tackle the economic struggle would be to implement general policies like a reduction in VAT or income tax. That way, you’d be addressing the issue for everyone, rather than just implementing targeted schemes.

The only thing Eat Out to Help Out has shown is that Britain is a nation that loves a bargain more than it fears a pandemic.

O’Brien the shock jock goes too far

I used to spend many a bus journey on the way to college listening to the ‘Best of James O’Brien’ podcast. It’s an amalgamation of James O’Brien’s weekly shows, edited down into one juicy supplement.

As a Remainer who was never entirely convinced by the Brexit vision, I thoroughly enjoyed O’Brien’s rebuttals when angry Brexiteers phoned up to tell him that Britain didn’t need to worry about issues like the Northern Ireland backstop or trade. However, one thing O’Brien did that made me start to question his personality was the way he’d ‘put down’ his listeners and almost make them feel like they weren’t being listened to, but instead were there to be talked down to.

I soon came to realise the James O’Brien Show was nothing more than a political amphitheatre, in which inexperienced broadcast subjects would come onto the show only to then be set up for slaughtering by O’Brien. A man who, week after week of listening to, made me feel as though if I dared to differ from his viewpoint, I was nothing more than pond life.

When it comes to journalism, I’m a firm believer in punching up and not down. Countless times, I’ve seen media outlets record vox pops and treat the interviewer as though they were grilling a Cabinet Minister. At the end of the day, if there are passers-by who are willing enough to stop and be recorded, despite not having any expertise, this is not something you should then turn into a Paxman-esque interview.

Unfortunately, that was precisely how James O’Brien behaved this week. A willing individual volunteered to come onto his show, to have a conversation about whether or not children should be going back to school. Let’s not forget, this is an incredibly multifaceted issue that, for the last few months, politicians haven’t been able to deliver a concrete answer on. Yet, instead of listening and seeming to understand the caller’s point, O’Brien proceeded to play a ‘shock card’, suggesting that if the caller/parent were to send their child back to school, then they could potentially have a death on their hands.

This was a low moment for the broadcaster and for LBC, who eventually decided to apologise for the incident – but not before they shared it across their social platforms and reaped the benefits of the publicity. It was only after the backlash they received that they felt an apology was necessary.

Despite O’Brien’s LSE credentials, I hardly think the public should be paying much attention to his ‘child death’ soothsaying. It was only the other day that the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, made a statement informing people that the risk of children going back to school was tiny, and in fact, there was a greater risk if they didn’t end up returning.

It’s a difficult judgement for anyone to make in these unprecedented times. Maybe next time, James O’Brien will bear that in mind the next time a willing listener wants to help add to the debate.