January 31, 2005


Fagin, Shylock and Blair (William Rees-Mogg, 1/31/05, Times of London)

THERE are two great anti-Semitic personas in English literature. Both were created by men of genius, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, in works of genius, The Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist. Both portray a stereotypical Jew as avaricious, ruthless and cunning. The names of both of these characters are so familiar that they have entered the language. They are Shylock and Fagin.

Yesterday, The Mail on Sunday rightly published two striking photographs side by side. Both are carefully staged, with a Fagin figure holding an old-fashioned pocket watch on a chain. The first is a picture of Barry Humphries actually playing Fagin. The second is a Labour Party poster of Michael Howard, carefully chosen to fit the Fagin image.

The second picture has, of course, been doctored by Labour. The watch and chain have been added. The relationship between the two poses is obviously intentional; there is even an unusual knot in the watch chain that appears in both. We are intended to associate Mr Howard with Fagin, that is with a sinister Jewish criminal as seen by anti-Semites.

This is part of the Labour pre-election campaign.

Well, Shakespeare and Dickens are good company anyway.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 31, 2005 8:39 PM

The article overstates the case. But, Blair and the Labourites are being just plain stupid here. Howard has done nothing, proposed nothing that should cause anyone to think he would be a better PM than Blair. There is no need to demonize an already unpopular figure. This is the dumbest political move since the Watergate burglary.

Anti-semitic appeals have always been a part of British politics. Ernest Bevin, Labour FM under Attlee, was famous for them. And we have seen Tam Dalyell, Father of the House, in the past year claim that Blair was in the thrall of a Jewish cabal.

This is nothing new and hypenated jackasses from Perfidious Albion should not flatter themselves.

Posted by: Bart at February 1, 2005 10:11 AM


The question isn't why exploit Britain's natural anti-Semitism, but why the Tories don't appeal to the racism and anti-European feeling.

Posted by: oj at February 1, 2005 11:14 AM