Calm down, calm down – talking like Harry Enfield to a Liverpudlian isn’t racism

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The famous 'calm down, calm down' catchphrase was made famous by Harry Enfield, the comedian - BBC
The famous 'calm down, calm down' catchphrase was made famous by Harry Enfield, the comedian - BBC

A Liverpudlian bus driver has claimed being told to “calm down, calm down” in the style of Harry Enfield was racist, a tribunal has heard.

Antony Ryan, who was born and grew up in the Merseyside city, felt “insulted” after the comments from his manager, Margaret Robertson.

As part of the impression, moustachioed, shell-suited and permed “Scousers” would nearly come to blows, before one eased the tension with the famous catchphrase: “Eh, alright, alright, calm down, calm down.”

Mr Ryan was so “offended” by what he believed was a reference to this stereotype, he missed two days work and was later sacked for unauthorised absence from his firm, based in Scotland.

He then brought the company before an employment tribunal.

But his race discrimination claim was dismissed, because while the comment may have been “unprofessional” and “uncalled for”, the panel ruled he was not being mocked for his English “national origin”.

Driver felt he was being ridiculed

Mr Ryan began working for R Robertson & Son, a coach hire service operating in Shetland, Scotland, in August 2020.

The panel heard that during a grievance meeting, Mrs Robertson “mocked” Mr Ryan's accent, telling him and a colleague, Lee Cox: "You boys need to go and calm down, calm down."

The tribunal, held remotely from Scotland, heard Mr Ryan was “extremely offended”, “insulted” and believed that he was “discriminated against and ridiculed”.

Mr Ryan was “so stressed”, he went home from work and sent a text saying: "I feel so insulted and disgusted at present and am in no frame of mind to work at present."

The tribunal heard he did not turn up the following day either.

He was fired in January this year for “inappropriate conduct” and “unauthorised absence”.

The panel concluded he was not discriminated against, as the comment only related to Mr Ryan being from Liverpool and not England.

James Young, the employment judge, said: “I agree that the alleged comment could mock Mr Ryan as a Liverpudlian but not as an English person.

"I do not consider that simply because that city is based in England that Mr Ryan was being mocked for being English and so mocked on account of his national origin.”

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