Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lee Jasper, more spinned against than sinning?


It was bound to happen sooner or later. Now Jasper has had to throw in the towel following the publication of excrutiating emails he sent to Karen Chouchan of the 1990 Trust, an organisation, foes were quick to point out, received £100,000 of funding from City Hall. Cue plenty of self-satisfied crowing from predictable quarters. This aquatic creature won't be joining in with it.
Don't get me wrong, Jasper has a well-honed ability to infuriate and never more so than when he denounces his critics for racism, a charge he levels with dreary frequency and little justification (his list of "racists" including the meeja and er, anti-racist activists). He likes to throw his weight around without seeming to realise that the flip-side to such bossiness should be the willingness to take responsibility for one's misjudgements. And it must be emphasised that the Standard's steady stream of stories about cronyism are too serious, too well-founded and raise too many important questions to be dismissed.
But his very human weaknesses must be balanced by recognition of his redeeming strengths. Jasper's personal commitment to the cause of race-relations is undoubted and he seems to be endowed with the gift of loyalty to friends and allies. He grew up in 70s Oldham which can't have been the easiest place for a mixed-race male to spend his formative years and fathered his first child early on, going on to sire an impressive nine children. Good for him. But rather than losing himself in babyfathering and self-indulgence, Jasper is, I understand, a dedicated father. Even better for him.
Some have poured scorn on his rough-edged style of politics, for being old-fashioned and demagogic. To be sure he lacks the polish of younger, luckier Black Britons. But that, oddly, is part of his appeal. Jasper doesn't put on airs and graces but remains rooted in the working-class African Caribbean community from whence he hails. An unpretentious man, he harks back to an older, more ideological age, when politics was angrier and street-corner orators had fire in their bellies and demands for the world issuing insistently from their lips.

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