Why must I know Lord Levy’s middle name?

Catching up on some of the media coverage from whilst I was away, I’ve been reading the claims that some of the cash for peerages accusations being thrown at Labour’s fundraiser Lord Levy have been tinged by anti-Semitism.

Now – there’s a whole heap of evidence that there is something very rotten at the heart of Labour over money and peerages, so I approached this story with a fair degree of scepticism.

But there is one point that has struck me as valid – why do we keep on being told Lord Levy’s middle name? It’s Abraham – and so telling us his middle name in a news report emphasises, deliberately or not, that he’s Jewish.

By comparison, we don’t get told Ruth Turner’s middle name. Actually – strictly speaking this isn’t true, we do – because Ruth is her middle name. But her first name is Caitriona and – just as Abraham = likely to be Jewish, so Caitriona = likely to be Irish.

But whilst “Michael Abraham Levy” is a commonly used phrase, “Caitriona Ruth Turner” is only rarely used. (Try doing a Google search on the two – I just did and whilst “Michael Abraham Levy” gets 884 hits, “Caitriona Ruth Turner” gets just 5. Levy gets more coverage in general, so that explains some of the difference – but not the 884 to 5 margin).

The BBC website is a good example of this lopsided behaviour. Ruth Turner’s profile doesn’t tell us anything about her family background and doesn’t use Caitriona, whilst Lord Levy’s profile uses “Abraham” and “Jewish”. So – why does being Jewish matter to the BBC whilst being Irish doesn’t?

And it’s not just the BBC – Michael White in the Guardian uses Abraham too but Ruth Turner is just Ruth Turner.

All a bit rum. I’m very loathe to leap to the assumption that people in the BBC and elsewhere in the media are being deliberately anti-Semitic, and I’d like to think that even a charge of inadvertent anti-Semitism can be explained away, but I’m stumped for a decent explanation for the repeated use of “Abraham”.

To be fair to both Michael and the BBC, they’re by no means the only people I could have highlighted, but they’re the ones with examples most easy to find when sat at a computer with an internet connection. Perils of having big popular websites!

But anyway, I’ll email a copy of this blog posting off to Michael White and Mark Thompson at the BBC and let’s see what they say.

Guardian Public Services Awards

Have to miss the launch of Britain after Blair as am judging the Guardian Public Service Awards. Started three years ago – these are awards for a whole range of public services. I was sent the judging long list some weeks ago and given criteria. Today it is the judging lunch where the scores we sent in from our first round of judging are haggled over between those on my panel.

We meet for drinks in the bar before moving onto the restaurant. I’m told it is THE bar, the ‘in’ bar and that if I want to hobnob with celebs like Posh – this is where to come. Hmmmmm. It’s in the Metropolitan Hotel in Old Park Lane which meant I staggered around a variety of badly signed exits at Hyde Park Corner for a while before finding he right one. Such a hostile traffic junction for human beings.

Anyway – to the point. At the lunch, each table comprised the six or so judges, a scribe and someone from the Guardian to guide us through the judging. As I am forbidden to reveal anything about the judging – I will simply relate the tittle tattle.

I was sitting next to Michael White of the Guardian on one side and Charlotte (the scribe – actually event manager from the Guardian) on the other. Michael gave me a piece of advice just after I was elected and met him at some do or other – that the less he wrote about me the better I was doing. What I took that to mean was that my priority was local activity and local papers. We had all done our judging seriously – and you could tell – as each member of the panel talked pretty fluently about what they did or did not think. Michael too – which I thought was impressive. It is a serious business.

Judging and lunch finished. Really interesting process – and very enjoyable.