Remember when Rachel Riley was just the lovely numbers lady on Countdown who only set social media alight when she spelt out something rude? (‘Longwinky, anyone? Classic telly).
Well, her Longwinky days are over. In recent weeks Rachel has been promoted from teatime times table expert to flag bearer in the bitter fight against ministates. Sorry, I jumbled my letters, I meant antisemites.
With a surname like Riley, Rachel really didn’t need to put her head above the parapet and risk her career and possibly safety.
Her ‘Jewreka!’ moment arrived after seeing last year’s unprecedented Westminster protest against Labour Jew hate and ‘Israel is a racist endeavour’ posters appear across London. “Knowing how decimating the Holocaust was in the years preceding Israel’s inception I found this description of Israel’s existence deeply offensive,” she says.
Like Neo popping the red pill, there was no going back. Rachel began wearing her religion on her sleeve, loudly identifying as Jewish and calling out Jeremy Corbyn’s indulgence of antisemitism.
Few high-profile Jews use their public platform to bravely speak about what really matters. Claudia Winkleman mostly tweets about yoga, food and shoes. But for Rachel, the newly-crowned Jewish Queen Boudica, there was no conundrum. “They picked the wrong woman,” she said last week. “Whatever they throw at me, I’ll throw right back.”
Nothing energises the infantile indignation of Jezza trolls like a celebrity pointing out Dear Leader’s obsessive, antisemitism enabling anti-Zionism. So out came the heavy artillery.
Rachel was a “hypocrite, a lying propagandist, fascist, right-wing extremist, Nazi sympathiser, a Twitter cancer, hate preacher, conspiracy theorist, thick Tory” and a “tits-teeth-and-arse clothes horse dolly bird”, which adds misogyny into the mix but wins points for originality from Dictionary Corner.
“It’s got to the point where I can’t look at my Twitter feed,” Rachel says. “It’s a constant stream.”
Welcome to the s*** show, Rach! Us mere Jewish mortals have been wading through this fetid swamp ever since Corbyn was elected.
Research shows trolls are at their most trollish between 2am and 3am. By happy chance, most don’t have to get up for work.
Rachel eloquently returned fire last week with a powerful and deeply personal speech for Sunday’s Holocaust Memorial Day, reflecting on her first visit to Auschwitz and how “you need to know nothing to propagate Jew-hate but everything to combat it”.
Her words will be read and reflected on by approximately zero Corbynistas.
She’s got her work cut out. Research this month by the Community Security Trust shows “Holocaust hoax” Google searches are 30 percent above average on Holocaust Memorial Day each year. And a survey this week by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found five percent of Brits fall into the ‘Holocaust denial’ category, while eight percent think the Nazi genocide has been exaggerated.
This politicised blurring of history is commonplace. When did you last hear someone deny the Battle of the Somme or England winning the World Cup? You don’t, because anyone spouting such baloney would be considered a cuckoo conspiracy theorist who also thinks Charles killed Diana and Paul McCartney died before the release of Abbey Road (although that one might be true – have you heard Mull of Kintyre?). Yet Rachel’s Twitter timeline has become a free-for-all for flat-earthers hell-bent on rewriting history.
Tellingly, there was a colossal 80 percent rise in this garbage last April, when Corbyn held talks with Jewish groups. This is the twilight zone into which Rachel has entered. She’s certainly up to the job. Her courage and strength must now inspire others to follow her lead.