Staring Over the Water

The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have been caught lying about the racist policies they’re now pretending to be ashamed of. This isn’t a great moment for British democracy argues Mike Small.

The Conservatives continue their strong and stable government with the loss of another Cabinet Minister as Amber Rudd, exposed as a racist liar was, (eventually) forced to quit showing at least that their modus operandi of ‘promise everything, deliver nothing and lie constantly’ has some vulnerability to it. That’s four ministers in six months. Rudd clung desperately to her post but was eventually engulfed by the absurdity of her position. Whilst this leaves her boss, who initiated the disastrous policy in a mood of relentless immigration zeal, beleaguered and isolated, she has been in that condition for over a year and sails blithely on, seemingly impervious to reputational damage. We know that the Prime Minister will not have the moral courage to stand down, so the question emerges of whether she is vulnerable enough to be attacked by her own colleagues to unseat her.

In all of this two things have become clearer. Whether we knew it before or not, its been revealed that the Conservative government is basically operating an immigration policy closer to that of John Tyndall and Nick Griffin than conventional Toryism. Forced repatriation was the policy of the BNP and the National Front from the 1970s and made them political pariah’s outwith the far-right. They called for an end to non-white migration into the UK with non-white Britons to be stripped of citizenship and removed from the country. Initially, it called for the compulsory expulsion of non-whites, though since then it has shifted to advocate voluntary removals with financial incentives. In one sense then the Tories are operating a policy beyond this.

This is the extreme-centre tinged with ethnic nationalism and blighted by a high degree of personal incompetence.

This is where we are in 2018, if we’ve spent the last twenty years looking across the channel tutting at extreme-right parties in continental Europe such as Jörg Haider‘s Austrian Freedom Party and Jean-Marie Le Pen‘s National Front we’ve been ignoring our own festering racist political culture. Tut-tut, well here we are. We should do well to realise that this is not about some rogue minister but a carefully nurtured set of policy decisions.

Who’s Afraid of Michelle Wolf?

The second thing that’s become clear is that if we’ve not been been looking disdainfully over at Europe with its terrible far-right extremism, we’ve been cranking our heads westward to poor scorn on the ridiculous Donald trump and his ridiculous America. But this weekend saw Michelle Wolf deliver a searing comedy routine to the White House Correspondents Dinner that has no British equivalent. Whilst insider journos like John Rentoul and Matthew d’Ancona were penning articles assuring us all was well, the Americans were engaged in some uncomfortable home truths. For while Wolf took aim at Trump’s venal regime and didn’t miss, she also took down liberal commentators and the hapless Democrats.

It was unrelenting: “And just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes. I have no agenda. I’m not trying to get anything accomplished. So everyone that’s here from Congress, you should feel right at home.”

“A lot of you might not know who I am. I’m 32 years old, which is an odd age: 10 years too young to host this event and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”

“Republicans are easy to make fun of. It’s like shooting fish in a Chris Christie. But I also want to make fun of Democrats. Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything.”

She went on.

“Now, there is a lot to cover tonight. There’s a lot to go over. I can’t get to everything. I know there’s a lot of people that want me to talk about Russia and Putin and collusion, but I’m not going to do that because there’s also a lot of liberal media here. And I’ve never really wanted to know what any of you look like when you orgasm.”

“It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan. It’s a direct flight; it’s so close.”

Many people have said that Rudd has been being used as body-cover for the Prime Minister and its true she has been a distraction for the true originator of the Windrush debacle, but so to is the Lobby journalists and commentariat. While we mock America there is no forum in this country that would allow the loyal insider journalists to be mocked and castigated / or called to attention in the way Wolf just did. And please don’t mention Have I Got News for You.

Rentoul called it wrong, defining Rudd’s incredible behaviour he wrote yesterday:

“She misled the select committee all right, but who can say she did so knowingly? “Should have known” is not the same thing. Her defence is incompetence, but philosophically it is watertight.”

Philosophically watertight. Sorry, who’s the human-shield here?

Worse he rallied gushing implausibly with the feel of someone who just all of this not to be happening:

“… if we need an alternative prime minister who would take us out of the EU but keep us in a customs union, Rudd is, surprisingly, still available.”

It’s not all bad (it kind of is).

You could agree that, improbably, Yvette Cooper comes out of this well. You could argue that the Ministerial Code, updated in January, and which now says: “Ministers who knowingly mislead parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the prime minister” actually worked. You could (and should) argue that the Guardian, and Amelia Gentleman in particular has done its job well in holding power to account [the pressure increased drastically on Rudd late on Sunday afternoon as the Guardian revealed that in a leaked 2017 letter to Theresa May, Rudd had told the prime minister of her intention to increase deportations by 10% – completely at odds with her recent denials that she was aware of deportation targets.]

But before we get too excited, actually read her letter. Its full of half-truths and self-deception. The Ministerial Code is such a low bar it’s not a great victory. The Guardian’s investigations have been good, but this is just what newspapers should do.

The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have been caught lying about the racist policies they’re now pretending to be ashamed of. This isn’t a great moment for British democracy.

It’s the policy of forced repatriation and deportation that we should be focusing on – not the personal implications for Rudd or Brexit.

The myth of liberal tolerant Britain is shattered by this. Change the policy not just the minister. So too is the myth of quirky rebellious upstart Britain with its outré unconventional comedy culture. Too often our press is craven and our comics are facile.

As Wolf praised Sarah Sanders so too can we praise Amber Rudd: “I think she’s very resourceful. Like, she burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s lies.”

Comments (20)

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  1. Redgauntlet says:

    The Windrush Scandal: brought to you by the people promising us “global Britain” as an alternative to the EU…

  2. Redgauntlet says:

    It’s not Amber Rudd who should reign, it’s the whole shambolic, duplicitous, utterly clueless Tory government who are leading Britain into oblivion…

    …as the hilarious Marina Hyde described it the other, a “government of all the talentless”….

    These guys are smarter than Michel Barnier, Angela Merkel and Macron? Are you kidding me?

    Enough of their lies. The Tories are psychopathic liars – Gove, Johnston, David Davies Theresa May, Liam Fox – a bunch of fanatical and zealous xenophobes with the scruples of the prairie wolf… they lie for a living.

    The Windrush scandal has exposed the people behind Brexit for what they are: a bunch of little Englander xenophobes, with no plan, no clue, no idea at all what they actually want to achieve, except putting the boot into foreigners, black people, the poor, the disabled… anybody who isn’t like them… a sliding-scale of contempt and abuse so to speak….the Scots and the Welsh and the Irish are on there too somewhere…

    If we lived in a Republic, the democratically elected President would probably be on the phone to N10 this morning telling Theresa it was getting awfully difficult to defend her truly disastrous running of the country….

    As it is, we live in an anachronistic feudal class-obsessed racist backwater, with a supine media and a population brutalized by the television to the point of the most galling and passive stupidity imaginable….

    What would it actually take for the people to rise up and march on Nº10?

    Windrush is just UNBELIEVABLE…

    The government should fall. British citizens deported because they are black. UNBELIEVABLE…

    1. Alan says:

      “government of all the talentless”

      Wasn’t really fair, should have been “government and opposition of all the talentless”. Westminster is one big shitshow. Independence now! Please.

  3. Interpolar says:

    With posh bools-in-yer-mouth: How patently unEnglish. Could we deport her?

    I can’t fathom why anything near a majority of Scots want in any way to be associated with this knuckle-dragging madhouse.

    1. Alan says:

      I think for older people in particular its hard to give up the delusions of what they thought Britain was. Their identity is wedded to a certain idea of Britishness. Many would rather go down with the good ship Brittania that give it up because it is so central to their identity.

  4. Alan says:

    This essay is well worth reading on the reconstruction of the idea of British citizenship since WWII and with the loss of Empire.

    Brexit, Class and British ‘National’ Identity.

    Since its very inception as a common political unit in 1707, Britain has not been an independent country, but part of broader political entities; most significantly empire, then the Commonwealth and, from 1973, the European Union. There has been no independent Britain, no ‘Island nation’. In contrast, for most of this period, there has been a racially stratified political formation that Britain created and led to its own advantage. It is the loss of this privileged position – based on white elites and a working class offered the opportunity to see themselves as better than the darker subjects of empire (hierarchies of class and caste if you will, embodied in the hierarchies of race) – that seems to drive much of the current discourse….What it is to be British cannot be understood separate from empire or the imperial modes of governance that remained dominant well into the twentieth century. While there is a much longer history that rests on the vicissitudes of empire and forms of imperial governance, here I am concerned with a shorter history: one that sets out the emergence of Britain, and what it is to be British, in the context of the decolonization of Empire. Debates on British citizenship only emerged in the metropole in the 1940s and it was not until 1981 that there was a legal statute specifying British citizenship as a category distinct from the earlier forms that had created a common citizenship status across the populations of the UK and its colonies.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    Yes, the idea that Theresa May needs a shield overlooks her position as unelected dictator on a five-year probation. What process could remove her, simply on the basis of vast unpopularity?

    Also yes to national shame of feeble UK political satire. I also think it is possible to deliver political satire with a U rating; not a criticism of Wolf in the context, but we can have forms which are more broadly accessible and child-friendly. Children should be able to pick up political criticism and ask searching questions of their parents/guardians/public servants.

    On embedded Establishment journalists, well, when the towers and servers of the intelligence services are cracked open in the revolution, will we find the levers of blackmail so easily collected by our information technology snoopocracy (amazing, that’s a word too)?

    1. SleepingDog says:

      In case anyone doubts that political satire and social commentary can be written for children, remember the quietly magnificent Clangers 1974 Election Special:
      https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-vote-for-froglet-1974-online

      Mr Benn challenged every status quo injustice he found, and after each victorious campaign the world changed for the better in some way:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr_Benn

      Of course, these dangerously subversive programmes belong to a past age. The modern Clangers are no political animals, and Mr Benn has undergone character assassination that rather misses the point of an empathetic device that lets him walk in other people’s shoes. I suspect that the classification system is similarly skewed to give impressionable children a more status-quo-friendly indoctrination.

  6. Alan says:

    “But this weekend saw Michelle Wolf deliver a searing comedy routine to the White House Correspondents Dinner that has no British equivalent.”

    Americans gave up on cap-doffing a while back. The downside is that their experience of the 18th C. British establishment led to a nasty love-affair with guns.

  7. Willie says:

    Adolf Hitler didn’t apologise for the holocaust.

    His Government did indeed implement a hostile environment. Exactly how hostile emerged later in 1946 when the results were clear to see.

    Amber Rudd and her Prime Minister are not apologising for Windrush. These blacks from a specific location were selected for treatment. It was no accident, it was exactly what was intended, it is what the totalitarian surveillance system is intended to facilitate.

    Kafflicks, the Bog Irish, the Poles, or even the seditious nationalists, who knows is next. Freed of EU restraint one can see how a post Brexit UK will play out.

    Nacht und nabel is with us. Striped pyjamas and a gold star is a reality. Windrush is the example of that. And yes, we al know that Rudd and May knew nothing about it.

    Neuremberg 2018.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Willie

      Your continual references to the Holocaust on Bella are in bad taste and are likely to offend Jewish people, and many other people too.

      By comparing the deportation of people such as the Windrush generation to the Nazis’ attempt to entirely annihilate the Jewish people belittles the latter rather than strengthens the point you are trying to make regarding the former.

      Please stop comparing the British government or the Spanish government to the Nazis. They are nothing like the Nazis. Not even Stalin was as bad as the Nazis, and he killed maybe 20 million people…

      1. W.T.Low says:

        Redgauntlet, although I have some sympathy for you view, perhaps the point Willie is making is that the Nazis started by encouraging hate and then found that the later obscene behaviour was accepted by the population. For evil to flourish it only takes good persons not to care, or to ignore the intolerable. The policies of May and Rudd have undoubtedly contributed to a rise in racism and racist attacks. The Guardian reporting and other sources give a clear indication of this. Remember that in the 1930’s there were those who did support Hitler and the policies of the German government. Even members of our own dearly beloved royal family were sympathetic.

        We need to be aware of the creeping tendency to complacency in society. People still reject parts of the McPherson Report, especially those concerning ‘institutional racism’ in organisations. There is a dangerous undertone created by the ‘hostile’ policy that we in Scotland need to counter if we are to build a better society

        Bill

        1. Redgauntlet says:

          Hi Bill

          I don’t disagree with you about Brexit, the racist British State and an all too obvious rising tide of xenophobia in the UK today. It’s really quite terrible and very concerning.

          However, I think it is glib and insensitive to draw comparisons with the Holocaust. The only crimes which should be compared to the Holocaust are crimes again of Genocide and crimes against Humanity…

          It’s about sensitivity too. If you had lost your entire family in Auschwitz, would you think Windrush sufficiently equivalent to draw comparisons? I know I wouldn’t…

          Slainte

          1. WTLow says:

            Hi Redgauntlet,

            I agree with your final point and generally that there is a tendency to overstate the case regarding comparisons with the Holocaust. However, where do you begin? The Nazis started by stimulating hate, did the Holocaust start there, or only after the infamous meeting which decided the ‘final solution’.

            I am concerned about the rise in intolerance, racism and general deterioration in mores that we have seen under this government. There is evidence that the policies have led to death in some cases and to me, one death is one too many. That is why I feel that we require vigilance and a robust response to the issues raised by the impact of policies on the ‘Windrush generation’ and others.

            Regards
            Bill

  8. Frank says:

    Ethnic Nationalism? Is there any other kind?

    1. Wul says:

      I don’t know that the urge to actually BE in a real nation makes one a nationalist. If that were the case then almost every citizen of every country is a nationalist.

      If Scotland does not (yet) have the full set of attributes defining a modern nation, can it’s YES movement actually be “nationalist”?

      My understanding of “nationalism”, in its pejorative sense, is to see your self, and others like you, as inherently superior, deserving of wealth and having the right to rule over “inferior”, external populations & races. I do not see that behaviour in those who advocate for Scottish independence.

  9. Wul says:

    I got a sense that May & Rudd were in some way genuinely surprised when confronted with the real-life hurt and anguish caused to real, live, normal, hard working people by their wizard “hostile environment”.

    “No, not you, nice, hard working black man needing cancer treatment, we didn’t mean you! Nice lady with 3 kids, You seem OK. We meant those OTHER, BAD foreign types…errr, the other ones…the whatchamacallthems”

    It’s as if they are unable to hold the concept of other people being real, live, worthwhile people, the same as them, until they see it on a news broadcast. Perhaps they have some kind of attachment disorder that makes their policies seem OK when knocking them up in an oak-panelled room because they can’t conceptualise someone different to them (and who doesn’t hold power over them) as being fully human?

    Perhaps the reptilian part of their brain just got too big?

    Maybe I’m being too kind.

  10. w.b.robertson says:

    I understood that the government`s campaign was aimed at removing the unknown number of “illegal” immigrants. And deporting them. That policy – whether we like it or not – had widespread support feeling in the UK. (which explains much of the EU referendum turn out). Somewhere along the line, the Windrush generation got caught up in the wrong filters. Since the civil servant bosses/contractors were on “bonuses”, the debacle became more explainable.

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