The media has a responsibility to properly interrogate people who accuse others of racism and anti-Semitism
If you haven't heard John Humphrys' interview with Edward McMillan-Scott MEP from this morning's Today programme (and don't suffer from high blood pressure) you can listen to it again here.
ConHome broke the story yesterday afternoon that Mr McMillan-Scott had been expelled from the Conservative Party. William Hague had written to EMS and invited him to withdraw his smears against the Polish MEP Michael Kaminski (who became the leader of the MEP grouping that includes Conservative MEPs). EMS failed to do so and was correctly expelled.
John Humphrys - who normally can't stop interrupting - gave Mr McMillan-Scott the softest of interviews. It allowed Mr McMillan-Scott to misrepresent his expulsion as somehow an issue of European policy.
To attack someone as an anti-Semite (or racist, President Carter) is a very big deal. It is a very serious charge and should never be made lightly. Mr McMillan-Scott appeared to throw mud at Mr Kaminski for personal advancement. Mr Humphrys should have interrogated him on his claims. Responsible journalists should play a role in stopping our politics becoming poisoned by people who rush to smear an opponent as racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and so on. At the moment the charge is becoming a first resort for too many people in political debate.
Listeners to this morning's Today programme interview were not exposed to the central charge against Mr McMillan-Scott that his main motivation for smearing Mr Kaminski was his personal ambition to be Vice President of the European Parliament. Today failed to do its job. Mr Humphrys failed to ask Edward McMillan-Scott why he never voiced his concerns before the European Elections and he was safely elected on a Conservative ticket. Why he never raised his concerns with William Hague or the leader of the Tory MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope. Most dubiously, Mr McMillan-Scott never approached Mr Kaminiski with his concerns. He went directly to the media and his smears have since been rebutted (here and here).
I am copying this blog to Ceri Thomas, Editor of Today.
Tim MontgomeriePictured below is Michael Kaminski during a visit to Israel last week. He was visiting the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.