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The Unacceptable Face Of Politics?

It does seem to have reached a new low this week. With MPs on their hols and government just quietly ticking over, the parties are talking about things rather than doing them. But the Tories’ Deputy Chairman has given vent, in place of dialogue, to a hate-ridden howl. The odd thing being, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, that he got away with it.

‘How do you solve a problem like Maria?’

That endearing, if to some palates rather sickly-sweet dilemma posed in The Sound of Music, now bears updating. Only, in place of Maria, read Lee Anderson.

This former member of the National Union of Mineworkers, who’s now risen to the giddy heights of the number two slot in Conservative ranks, likes to call a spade a spade.

That word does of course have another meaning. As a slangy and offensively racist term. And Anderson gave the impression last week he was up for that too.

It wasn’t so much his objection to some asylum seekers being allowed not to be quartered on the Bibby Stockholm boat, but the way he put it.

‘If they don’t like barges then they should f*ck off back to France.’

He was tapping into the resentment often felt by communities where the incomers are kept, while the Home Office decides whether or not they can stay.

Their presence can create pressures on local services, and the tab for their accommodation, wherever it is, does have to be picked up by British taxpayers.

But Anderson’s implication that these men, women and children – many of whom are fleeing torture or persecution – are, basically, scum, crosses a line.

Though the Tories are the party of free enterprise, when one particular company went too far in the 1970s, Conservative PM Ted Heath talked of ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

Three decades later, after Tony Blair’s landslide victory, the then Conservative Chairwoman Theresa May admitted their side was seen as ‘the nasty party’.

Certainly, there’ll be plenty on its liberal wing who’ll argue that Anderson’s attitude puts them once again in that category.

The more so as Saturday saw the tragedy of at least six migrants drowning off the coast of France, as they attempted the all-too-perilous Channel crossing to Britain.

It seems, however, giving Anderson free rein is part of Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s strategy, of hitting way below the belt.

She’s already accused the Labour party of being somehow in cahoots with lawyers who, she suggests, are using underhand means to represent migrants’ interests.

So far, however, the opposition has conspicuously avoided rising to the bait. Strangely, on the face of it, though maybe they’ve just decided the gutter’s not the place for them.

The nearest they’ve come to dishing out like for like came in the form of a tweet from left-winger Diane Abbott, who picked up on the deaths of forty-one souls in a shipwreck off Italy.

‘These migrants have indeed f*cked off. To the bottom of the sea,’ she wrote.

However, it’s worth noting two things. One, the message in question was swiftly deleted. And two, Ms Abbott is currently suspended from the Labour party.

It’s thought Keir Starmer will set out his own ideas for migrants in a major speech next month.

And the Home Office’s litany of failure to date is an easy target. Even Lee Loudmouth admits to that.

The latest wheeze, to ratchet up fines for businesses and landlords employing or housing illegal migrants might make a small dent in Channel crossings. But probably won’t.

And if the idea of sending them to Rwanda is, as is very possible, given the thumbs down by the courts, the alternative destination of Ascension Island is also fraught with difficulty.

Besides which, neither would scoop up more than a tiny fraction of the people awaiting a yay or nay on their right to live in UK.

Also worth noting that though the Bibby Stockholm’s been remodelled to hold twice as many folk as it’s designed for, it can only house one per cent of those now in hotels.

How long it’d contain anyone is also a valid question, given that it’s been branded by some experts a ‘potential death trap’, and a ‘floating Grenfell’.

Already it’s had to be emptied, thanks to Legionella bacteria found in its water system. And that’s just for starters.

Longer term, and more to the point, how come so many people are being cooped up anywhere, in limbo, for so long? Step forward, guilty as charged, the Home Office.

A Sky News investigation has found that if Sunak’s to meet his target of clearing all remaining applications this year, caseworkers will need to work more than three times as fast.

Why are they so slow? According to the official Immigration Inspector, they’re battling with outdated IT systems, low morale and lack of training.

For which reason, it seems, people are giving up on the job before they’ve even properly got the hang of it.

In short, it’s the age-old lament – can’t get the staff these days.

Imagine if the nation’s Chief Fire Officers announced it’d be nice to put out blazes in people’s homes and save their lives, but, you know, can’t get the staff these days.

Not sure that’d exactly cut it.

Which suggests Braverman’s opted for defence as the best form of attack. But, the hind of a rhinoceros? She seems to fancy herself as more armour-plated than an Abrams tank.

But, given that the latest YouGov polling suggests eight out of ten of us reckon Sunak’s on a hiding to nowhere on this front, you wonder if Starmer can do any better.

Though at least he doesn’t have a record to defend, just saying the Tories’ is a terrible one won’t be enough. No question, he’ll need an awful lot of awfully good ideas.

Not that there’s anything new in the notion of migration. And those who share Anderson’s attitudes might care to take a peek in the mirror.

Whatever their take on migrants to these shores, it’s pretty obvious these people are not planning genocide. Unlike what we Europeans did to the locals across The Pond.

White settlers in America managed to slash the native population of up to fifteen million to just a quarter of one million by the late nineteenth century.

President Biden’s decision last week to designate a sizeable chunk of land near the Grand Canyon as a national monument was nice, if a little late.

It was after all the indigenous tribes’ sacred ancestral grounds, until the whites nicked it off them.

But there are also some cheerier stories around, about people getting around.

The British Council’s currently on the lookout for three teachers to give Welsh lessons … in Patagonia.

Believe it or not, this place at the far end South America, more than seven-thousand miles away, boasts the second highest number of Welsh speakers anywhere in the world.

That’s because a few dozen people, mostly from Wales, boarded a boat from Liverpool in 1865, on a mission to go forth and multiply.

This they did, on a grand scale, as their descendants in Patagonia now number more than fifty thousand.

They wanted a better life, and it seems they found it. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss things, like the lingo.

Which is how come there’s so much call for Welsh teachers over there. Which is rather sweet, really.


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