Apart from Diane Abbott’s far left allies (yes, I mean you, Lee Jasper), most people think she made a big mistake with her apparently racist tweet on Wednesday night. I make no apology for admitting I was among the first to point out that if a white Tory MP had said the same about black people, there would have been hell to pay. All she had to do was issue a quick apology and say that she should have used the word ‘some’. But she didn’t do that until she was forced to by her less than pleased leader. So the lesson is – and it’s something I learned on Twitter the hard way – is that if you say something you know in your gut is wrong, just apologise quickly. It’s less painful that way.
Abbott is now under fire for another tweet in which she reckoned that it is difficult to get a black cab to stop for you if you’re black. The papers are in full cry this morning, as are London cabbies. Well, in this case, I have a little more sympathy for Diane Abbott. A few months ago we were discussing racism on my LBC show and a cabby came on and admitted he wouldn’t stop for a black youth. I was rather shocked by this, but then another cabby came on and said the same thing. They had both had bad experiences – one I think had had his passenger run off without paying and the other one had had a fare which had puked up. I pointed out that I was fairly sure they would have had the same issue with white youths too. Neither had an answer. Rather bizarrely a black lady then came on the phones and said that if she were a cabby she wouldn’t pick them up either.
What is perhaps more interesting is that Diane should automatically assume that cab with a yellow light on doesn’t pick her up because she is black. Let me let you into a little secret. I reckon on one in 10 occasions when I hail a black cab, the cab just sails on by and doesn’t stop. It could be my Loden coat which puts them off. It could be that they don’t like LBC presenters. Or more probably it’s because they don’t actually see me. I’ve lost count of the number of cabbies with tunnel vision, who don’t seem to notice anyone hailing them on the pavement. So think on Diane. It may look like racism to you. And in some cases it may well be. But it could be that the cabby is daydreaming and thinking of what he will do when he knocks off. Just a thought.