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Rowan Laxton, head of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's South Asia division, allegedly became incensed while pedalling away on an exercise bike and watching Israel's operation in Gaza on a nearby television. Eyewitnesses claim that he shouted "f**king Israelis, f**king Jews", before expressing a wish that Israeli soldiers "be wiped from the face of the Earth". Now where have we heard such an expression before?
The 47-year old was arrested under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act after a member of the public complained, and was later bailed. While the police investigate, Mr. Laxton continues with his FCO role.
Two thoughts on this. Firstly, should he have been arrested for his alleged comments, ridiculous as they were? He was exercising in a gym, he wasn't representing the FCO, and as mendacious as his opinions may be, arresting him seems a little excessive, and highlights the confusing nature of our religious hatred laws. Was the arrest due to the outburst itself, or only because somebody complained?
The far more disturbing issue, of course, is that a person who holds such views is able to work at a high level in the British government. If the allegations hold up, then it's to be hoped he loses his job immediately, as his continued employment would be to the enduring discredit of the FCO. Quite how a man who, if the story is true, seems unable to hold his temper ever got to be a member of the diplomatic corps is another matter entirely.