This storm-in-teacup anti-Semitism row

Has anyone seen the Labour Party’s new election poster, with its pictures of two flying pigs, with the faces of Michael Howard and his shadow chancellor (i.e. opposition economic spokesman) Oliver Letwin superimposed on them, and the slogan “The day the Tory sums add up”? Apparently the Tory candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, with its large Jewish community, thinks they are tasteless and offensive to Jews. This is actually not the first time people have been accused of anti-Semitism for insulting Jewish politicians. Last February a senior Labour politician compared Letwin to Fagin, a Jewish character in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist who employs children to carry out thefts for him. The problem is that most people have never read Oliver Twist, the book, but have seen the film in which the anti-Semitism is edited out. Dickens’ books are notoriously dense and hard reading.

Even the politician behind this affair admits that the people who designed the poster had not intended to offend Jews or the politicians’ Jewish sensitivities, but simply not thought it through. Still, it seems like an attempt by this Tory to appeal to his Jewish constituents by “playing the race card”. Calling someone a pig is in my experience a very mild insult; I can’t count the number of times my mother called me a little pig. To call a woman a “stupid cow” is much more severe!

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