Rod Liddle, the former BBC journalist turned magazine columnist, was at the centre of a race row last night after suggesting that London's African-Caribbean youth were responsible for the "overwhelming majority" of violent crime in the capital and had given only "rap music" and "goat curry" in return.
In a 91-word post on his blog for The Spectator, Liddle made reference to the case of two black teenagers jailed for plotting to murder a pregnant 15-year-old girl by throwing her into a canal.
Liddle describes the pair as "human filth" and continues: "It could be an anomaly, of course. But it isn't. The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. In return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks."
Liddle's comments prompted outrage. Simon Woolley, the director of the pressure group Operation Black Vote, claimed: "Rod Liddle abandoned rigour for bigotry a long time ago. In recent months he has become more emboldened about expressing his racism. That Rod Liddle is a racist is in no doubt. The real crime is that he is published by The Spectator."
Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North, said: "It is obviously statistically false to say that the 'overwhelming majority' of the crimes listed by Rod are committed by young black men... The interesting thing is why he chose to post something which, if you chose another set of hysterical racial stereotypes and substituted Jew for Afro-Caribbean, would not have been out of place in a speech by Oswald Mosley.
"We have all got so used to Rod Liddle's low-level racism that it has lost the power to shock."
Bonnie Greer, the playwright who recently appeared on Question Time to debate with the BNP leader Nick Griffin, said that Liddle's post was deliberately provocative and she could understand why it had been labelled racist. She added: "My response would be to say that the overwhelming majority of paedophiles, murderers, war-mongers and football hooligans are white males and all we got in return was beans on toast and Top Gear."
One of Liddle's astonished colleagues at The Spectator immediately wrote a column criticising him. Alex Massie, wrote that upon reading Liddle's column he considered resigning. "How delightfully refreshing to see someone trot out the kind of tired, stale prejudice you can find in thousands of boozers across the country," wrote Massie. "Or at any BNP meeting for that matter. This isn't a matter of being 'politically correct', it's just a matter of behaving in a decent fashion."
Speaking to The Independent, Liddle insisted that he was not a racist. "I cannot think of anything more vile than racism," he said. "I think it is disgusting. The issue here is not racism, it is one of multiculturalism. There is an important argument to be had about crime levels in London, Manchester and Birmingham which are down to culture. It is nothing to do with race.
"There are some people who have responded to it [the blog] who are racists and I do not like that. And there is a cabal of white liberals who responded with a knee-jerk, but I think there is a strong centre point which is where I would be."
Liddle said Ms Abbott was a hypocrite for criticising him when she had chosen to send her son to a private school, citing race as a factor in her decision: "I will be sending my daughter to a state school in London which is 75 per cent African-Caribbean and I do not have a problem with that. Like I said, this is not an issue about race."
It is not the first time a Rod Liddle article has caused controversy. In August he apologised for an article in which he pondered whether or not he would sleep with Harriet Harman, eventually deciding he would not. Last month he wrote about "Somali Muslim savages" who stoned to death a 20-year-old woman who had committed adultery. He ends the piece with a comment, widely interpreted as sarcastic, which read: "Incidentally, many Somalis have come to Britain as immigrants recently, where they are widely admired for their strong work ethic, respect for the law and keen, piercing, intelligence."
Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, said: "The Spectator stands up for the right to offend; our blogs often say things that people find offensive but that's part of our right of free expression. Rod is one of the greatest writers in Britain today. His column and blog are loved by readers. It's a significant part of my job as editor to defend people's right to be offensive."
Bigoted outburst? Rod Liddle's blog
Those benefits of a multi-cultural Britain in full... Let me introduce you all to this human filth. [Here he links to a Daily Mail article about two black rappers throwing a pregnant 15-year-old into a canal.] It could be an anomaly, of course. But it isn't. The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.