Why Batley & Spen by-election candidate and Ollie Robinson deserve second chances – Bill Carmichael
THE Green Party picked a fascinating character as their candidate for the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election taking place on July 1.
Ross Peltier is a Yorkshire lad, born in Bradford, and lives with his young family slap bang in the middle of the constituency, in Cleckheaton.
He is a Rugby League professional, having turned out as a prop-forward for Yorkshire clubs including the Doncaster Dons and the Bradford Bulls, and has represented his country – Jamaica – at international level.
He is also black and working class, and although neither should matter a jot, it is clear that both demographics are woefully underrepresented on the green benches of the House of Commons.
He is as far from the boring, Oxbridge-to-think-tank, identikit political robot, parachuted into a northern constituency by London-based party managers, as can be imagined.
And regardless of your political affiliations he would undoubtedly be a welcome breath of fresh air in the stuffy atmosphere of the Westminster club.
Yet, even before campaigning had got properly under way, the Greens dropped him like a hot brick and the party now says it won’t even put forward a candidate in the vote next month.
The reason? Well, some malicious offence archaeologist unearthed some decade-old objectionable tweets written by Mr Peltier when he was a teenager.
Within hours the puritanical, sanctimonious, intolerant mob metaphorically turned up with their flaming torches and pitchforks and demanded he be “cancelled” permanently. And the Green Party, to their eternal shame, and out of sheer cowardice, capitulated.
In the same week much the same happened to England cricketer Ollie Robinson, who during his Test debut was found to have also sent offensive tweets – again a decade ago, and again when he was a teenager. He has been dropped from the next Test match and put under official investigation.
Now before we go any further I will not try to defend these tweets – I have read them and they are obnoxious and stupid, and these young men should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Perhaps I am being overgenerous, but I suspect that rather than evidence of deep-seated racism, homophobia and misogyny, they are the work of immature young men using ill-considered attempts at humour to impress their mates with the type of “banter” common in both professional and amateur sports.
Either way, not for a moment does this excuse what they wrote, and they should be held accountable. But both have apologised and have said those historical tweets do not represent the sort of people they are today, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.
And I ask, is there anyone on the entire planet who hasn’t done something stupid and offensive in their teenage years? Certainly not me, and I thank my lucky stars that Facebook and Twitter were not about to indelibly record my idiocy when I was a teenager, or I would have been “cancelled” years ago – and so, I suspect, would you.
What kind of society do we want to be? Are the ancient concepts of repentance and redemption to be simply junked? Is there no room for kindness or generosity of spirit? Can we no longer accept that individuals make mistakes, change, grow up and then become better people as a result of those experiences?
If we expect all our professional sportsmen and politicians to be 100 per cent pure, I think we are in for a lifetime of disappointment. We are a fallen people and every single one of us is a sinner – even those holier than thou woke warriors.
In John’s Gospel, the Pharisees seize a woman in the “very act of adultery” and demand that she be stoned to death, in accordance with the law.
First of all, Jesus quells the mob’s bloodlust by quietly drawing mysterious patterns with his finger in the dust on the ground, and then he makes a quite devastating challenge: “He that is without sin amongst you, let him cast the first stone.”
None of them do so. Instead, “convicted by their own conscience”, they meekly leave one by one until Jesus is alone with the woman.
He tells her: “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.”
It is an ancient lesson in compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and true justice that modern society needs to learn anew.
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