It wasn't the Frost Nixon interview, but Steve Wraith's chat with Yaxley Lennon caused a furore. Here's my take on it -:
Of course, this banning order was an ironic by-product of my long-held belief that fascists (including TERFs) should be vigorously deplatformed. You’ll notice that I’m not shouting and bawling about the suppression of free speech, which I’ve long regarded as a farcical canard, mainly on account of the fact that those who shout loudest on this subject regard Free Speech as the supposedly legal right to say what they want and listen to others who mimic their opinions, while calling for the muzzling of anyone who has a different opinion. In England’s repressive, quasi Police State, only those whose authoritarian populist, pro-militaristic, Islamophobic rhetoric strictly parallels the fascistic ideology of the ruling elite, are allowed the honour of Free Speech. Witness how long it took for the Met, home of murderer Wayne Couzens, took to investigate the neo-Nazi activities of Benjamin Hannam, who was banged up last week.
Witness also the kerfuffle concerning Batley Grammar School, where some unthinking oaf of an RE teacher used the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cartoons, in total defiance of the words of the Qur'an, which has caused outrage in the local Muslim community. The teacher has been suspended and will probably tender his resignation, which is a better result than if the lads from the local Mosque got hold of him, but the wider point remains that the teacher, not the followers of Islam gathering at the school gates, is the one who inflamed the situation, by the misuse of Free Speech.
Perhaps the biggest irony of Steve Wraith’s announcement was that it took place in the week that the appalling report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was published. This mendacious tissue of horseshit was allegedly an investigation into institutional racism in England; instead, it was a collection of lies and half-truths, attempting to portray a country, rent asunder by strife, as living in racial harmony. Ray Honeyford, Roger Scruton and probably Bernard Manning would have blushed in shame at the weasel words it contained.
With the 7 day ban in force, I spent little or no time on Twitter, so I had no idea of the magnitude of the rancour and bad bloodletting that was taking place among the NUFC Twitterati over Steve Wraith’s proposed interview. Suffice to say, the whole platform was divided into two distinct camps, with endless cyber finger pointing and gesturing disfiguring a debate that generated far more heat than light. When I returned to Twitter, I posted a tweet saying I’d be addressing this subject in my next blog. In a surprisingly touchy outburst, Steve Wraith expressed disappointment with this and anger at my expense. This took my breath away as, in all the time I’ve known him, Steve and I have never had cross words. Let’s put this in context, shall we? I’ve known Steve Wraith nigh on 30 years now, first meeting in 91, back when he used to edit The Mighty Quinn fanzine, which then became The Number 9 after our erstwhile Scouse goal getter was first injured and then sold.
Unlike The Mag, Steve’s publication had a different tone, including interviews with the likes of John McVicar and references to many London underworld figures. This apparent veneration of a criminal demi monde has been used as a stick to beat Steve with ever since, generally by unscrupulous bullshit artists with their own agenda, but has never bothered me; while I was reading The Mighty Quinn, I was also collecting all 150 issues of Murder Casebook, which I’ve still got in binders incidentally. I’m no longer as interested in serial killers as I once was, because people change their hobbies, don’t they? Considering other NUFC fanzine editors have lost everything and almost bankrupted their business partner because of a pervasive gambling problem or collected more Nazi memorabilia than the late Frank Wappatt, I don’t have a problem with Steve’s interests as a younger bloke. I don’t judge Steve for how he was aged 20 and I’ll always be grateful for how he intervened and helped protect me from the relentless cyber campaign Mental Mickey conducted against me back in 2015. He’s not the only ex fanzine editor I’d have a drink with either; Half Mag’s David Jameson is a blinding fella and Talk of the Tyne’s Derek Graham always cheers me up when we run into each other, but they’ve both long abandoned writing about Newcastle United. Sensible lads.
Politically, I’ve never had a problem with Steve either. Sure, he’s on the other side of the spectrum to me, but I fully understood his decision to stand as the Tory candidate for the Felling ward by-election for a seat on Gateshead Council. You see that by-election was caused by the death of my uncle: long-serving Labour Councillor John Hird (the dad, not the unhinged Leninist loony son of the same name). John’s death came at a time when the BNP, who had a history of activism in the Felling, Deckham, Leam and Shipcote areas going back to the 70s, were possibly at their strongest as an electoral force around that time. It’s not certain but if Steve, who was a resident of the ward at that time, hadn’t stood for the Tories, the BNP could have won, which would have been an absolute disgrace for one of the most impoverished areas of the entire region. Of course, we’re talking about, what were for the bits of my family left standing, emotive events that happened 15 years ago. It seemed possible at the time, but the actually voting figures completely disprove my memory, which is unreliable in this instance. Steve got 74, the BNP got 96 and Paul McNally succeeded John with 896 votes. Heck, there was even a Lib Dem candidate who got 206. Apologies for this; I didn’t do my research. Let me be clear about this; on that occasion Steve Wraith stood up against Fascism and I have absolutely no belief that he is a follower or fellow traveller with the organised ultra-right wing. You may disagree with his decision to give Yaxley Lennon publicity, but to depict him as a card-carrying, far right thug is way wide of the mark.
Now, looking at his decision to interview Yaxley Lennon, I have to say I was in opposition and would not, under any circumstances, have gone ahead with this interview if I’d been in his position. I look upon his grinning photo with Yaxley Lennon as an ill-judged publicity disaster. To be frank, I was worried that the final product would be potentially ruinous for Steve’s reputation and a crass own goal. However, while being aware of the righteous anger and utter condemnation of large numbers of decent, salt of the earth Newcastle fans who I’d like to think of as friends, as well as many hypocritical opportunists who climbed on the bandwagon to get publicity for their loathsome Twitter profiles, despite being Fascist sympathisers themselves, I promised not to comment until I’d sat through the entire 1 hour and 45 minutes of the encounter.
It was a tough listen, but not fawningly hagiographic. The headline conclusion is that Yaxley Lennon’s paranoid ranting will only appeal to the terminally hard of thinking underclass whose ignorance is matched only by their malleability. For some reason I’ve never really got on board with the podcast revolution, so I tend to find them either stilted or embarrassingly enthusiastic. In this case, it was a bit of both. Steve was true to his word and asked the questions he’d been sent, but perhaps because they weren’t his invention, he hadn’t anticipated the answers he would be given; thus, he wasn’t there with follow up questions to really nail his victim. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t soft-pedalling, but perhaps an indication that if Steve wishes to expand his horizons and explore what hard talk really means, he needs to sharpen up. My advice would be to secure an interview with former Benwell Labour Councillor Dipu Ahad, who would be diametrically opposed to Yaxley Lennon on any ideological continuum.
Yaxley Lennon, other than endlessly betraying his hatred of Islam, Marxism, Black Lives Matter and “student” politics, didn’t say anything particularly inflammatory, or interesting. Hence, the news he has a warrant out for his arrest after this, suggests talking shite is now an offence. Yaxley’s demeanour is that of a barely controlled, tightly wound fighting machine, ready to explode in the face of anyone who questions or doubts him. His rhetoric is endless banal, superficial populism. Any experienced political interviewer would absolutely wipe the floor with him. Yaxley Lennon is utterly unapologetic for his prior misconduct and refuses to accept that his criminal past is anything to be ashamed of. Rather like his pitiful grizzling over his ex-wife’s decision to cut all ties, he lacks any understanding of the result of his previous actions. The most piteous thing is how, when animated, Yaxley Lennon’s voice rises to a hysterical, camp falsetto that makes him sound pathetic. In short, anyone with any basic level of education can discount Yaxley Lennon and his squalid gang of low life followers; the bloke is as thick as pig shit and no threat to the ruling elite. I simply cannot envisage a situation where Yaxley Lennon, or indeed any other right wing demagogue, will succeed at the ballot box. However, whether it is in the company of the nefarious hoods behind the discredited and despicable Justice 4 Chelsey campaign, or mobilising his squad of street thugs the next time a Batley type local incident blows up, we know Yaxley Lennon has the power to make the lives of ordinary people, especially if they are Muslim, an utter misery. That is why we should oppose him by word, or deed if you prefer, at every opportunity.
Two final points; firstly, I’d like Steve to clarify if he had met Yaxley Lennon once or twice prior to this. It seems that Steve met Yaxley Lennon after his visit to Sunderland ended in a pub in Whickham and during his ill-fated trip supporting Luton in the FA Cup, when he was reputedly put on his arse by an Asian Antifa activist. Secondly, if Yaxley Lennon prides himself on his research, how come he didn’t know that legendary anti-Fascist campaigner, Councillor Nigel Todd, had died the weekend previously? Nigel was a good man, whose life was both well lived and considerably longer than the loathsome Piers Merchant.