The Guardian newspaper is embroiled in controversy over a xenophobic article by the comedian Stewart Lee that targeted the Conservative MP, Tom Tugendhat, over his foreign-sounding name.
In the article, entitled “Now Boris Johnson is talking through his Tugendhat”, Mr Lee wrote: “Stay alert! Many names – Fisher, Cook, Smith – derive from ancient trades. But ‘Tugendhat’ is just different words put together, like Waspcupfinger, or Appendixhospitalwool, or Abortionmaqaquesymptom. This former intelligence officer is the nephew of a real man called Baron Tugendhat. Baron Tugendhat is not a character from a 19th-century German children’s book about a baron with a weird hat, the end of which gets tugged.” The article continued in the same vein, making further mocking references to the MP’s name.
Mr Tugendhat, who has Jewish ancestry, described the article as “the dog whistle – Jews as foreigner. Again.” It was also noted that Mr Lee introduced Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, into his rant. Mr Raab’s Jewish father escaped Nazi Germany just before the war.
The outrage focused in particular on how many Jews felt the need to Anglicise their names when they immigrated to Britain precisely to avoid the sort of racist opprobrium levelled by Mr Lee against Mr Tugendhat. One commentator described it as “playground-level racism”.
In another tweet, Mr Tugendhat elaborated, saying: “The idea of uppity foreigner coming over here and conspiring to take power is literally the archetypal antisemitic trope. It is so standard it’s dull but that doesn’t make it any less true. The search into my name shows he knows the origins. It’s not new.”
Mr Tugendhat further observed, following the publication of the article, that “antisemitism is now so mainstream this no longer surprises me.” Following the 2019 General Election, he revealed that he had witnessed antisemitic abuse during the campaign.
Once again, The Guardian has shown that it is much more sensitive to some types of racism while happily indulging in others.