James O'Brien's fascinating conversation with caller who resents being labelled "far-right"

12 June 2020, 15:25 | Updated: 12 June 2020, 15:26

By Fiona Jones

This is James O'Brien's full, fascinating call with Andy, who wants to protect London's statues from vandalism tomorrow and resents being considered "far-right".

Andy from Peacehaven said he was upset with Sadiq Khan describing any body who wanted to protect the London statues as "far-right" because they're not.

"The majority will be veterans who served this country like myself," said Andy, telling James he wasn't looking for a fight, just to protect the Cenotaph.

James clarified that Sadiq Khan said he wanted to prevent those "extreme far-right activists" who wanted to ferment violence from coming to London. James continued, "Three times I said to him you can't describe everyone who is concerned about statues as extreme far-right."

"You've been persuaded that he's described veterans as far-right extremists, I can only promise that he hasn't but I can imagine your social media is full of people insisting that he has," said James, "If you're coming to London with no intention whatsoever of hurting anybody else, or indeed damaging inanimate objects, there is no way anybody would describe anybody like that as an extremist."

As they are being boarded up, the Mayor's position is that there is no need for people to come to London to protect them, Jams explained.

James O'Brien and caller unpick whether society brands him "far-right" for protecting statues
James O'Brien and caller unpick whether society brands him "far-right" for protecting statues. Picture: LBC/PA

Andy said he and James had opposing views and those who want to attack statues would be the white middle class left-wing liberals who oppose the government.

James said only a small minority of people are extremists in any pool of thought and so Andy describing them as "left-wing anarchists" is just as ridiculous as describing anybody wishing to protect the Cenotaph as "extreme far-right."

"That's what's being done by the media...I find it very hard to understand that anybody who doesn't wish Winston Churchill or the Cenotaph to be damaged...can be described as a far-right thug," Andy said.

James pushed Andy to answer why he thought they had opposing views: "You've got me in this box called liberal and yet within two questions about what that word means you're describing yourself as a liberal."

Andy said, "I would deport every illegal immigrant. You wouldn't."

"Boris Johnson was in favour of giving them all an amnesty so I'm now on the same team as Boris Johnson, am I?" asked James.

Andy agreed: "If we don't have the same opinions, or borderline the same as people like you, then you're described as far-right person. I voted Labour for most of my life."

"I was going to go to the Cenotaph or Winston Churchill statue...and make sure nobody damaged it. All the nice middle class white kids...that are screaming in my face, when they want it they can have it," said Andy, telling James his liberal views "give support" to the protesters who wish to vandalise them.

James clarified, "If the statues hadn't been boarded up and people sought to deface or damage them, they should be prosecuted for criminal damage. We're clearly on the same side of that issue. We're disagreeing on whether it's worth getting banged up for punching a 'hoodlum'."

Andy insisted the two had their differences: "I think slavery was abhorrent but...this country is what it is now because of what it did in the past. Rightly or wrongly, it done terrible things in the past but it done good things as well."

James surmised, "Would I be right in thinking the fundamental division between us, even though you've just said this country has done terrible things in the past, you see yourself as someone who fights against criticism of anything this country has ever done?"

"Yes," said Andy, "it's done terrible things but it's made it what it is now." Andy conceded that the country is now a place of liberty where conversations about statue removal can happen - however he said it was wrong to specifically remove the Cenotaph and Churchill statue.

James suggested, "Let's part with a shared sense of gratitude that they've all been boarded up to prevent the kind of vandalism that we would both be very very unhappy to see."