The Daily Express wails at accountability for past military action – like the death rattle of a failed state now operating 95% on the ether of imperial nostalgia. In a surprise move the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed she was defying concerns expressed by army chiefs, and had decided not to make a “statute of limitations” an option in the four-month consultation on how best to uncover the truth of so-called “legacy” cases. Three former British soldiers already face prosecution over killings in the 1970s – Dennis Hutchings, seventy-seven, and two former Paratroopers, who are now in their sixties.
This process of has sent the likes of Lord Dannatt and Richard Kemp into howls of shock and anger. Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, is so angry that he is returning his precious officer’s Commission in protest.
The basis for this anger seems to be:
a) this happened a long time ago
b) some of these people are in their sixties now
c) or, as according to Retired Air Commodore Andrew Lambert: “The pursuit of old soldiers is going to make it more difficult to retain the loyalty of troops if they know that at some point many years later everything they have done will be gone through with a fine tooth comb.”
It seems to be a sort of blanket exceptionalism, a Get Out of Jail Free Card on hand at any time – past or future – on the grounds of being British. Never mind the rule of law or international standards of military conduct. This doesn’t seem to be a credible position to hold unless you are in the grip of something else, not just within the military but within the wider culture and public sphere.
The Times (with some nice photo placement) tells us that ‘Britain has become more racist after Brexit’. It’s a difficult truth from the UN’s special rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume, who said “anti-foreigner rhetoric” had become “normalised” in the UK since the EU referendum.
The paper says Ms Achiume also criticised the government’s immigration policies, which she said created a “hostile environment for all racial and ethnic communities.”
Tendayi Achiume, who is a law professor at the University of California and the UN’s special rapporteur on racism and xenophobia, said that hate crimes had risen starkly since the EU referendum in 2016 and that anti-migrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric had become “normalised” even among high-ranking civil servants.
It’s an unremarkable rather than an inconvenient truth, but it has predictably sent the tabloids into a self-delusional tailspin of faux-hurt and defensiveness: “What us racist!?”
That this bleakly obvious state of being was spelt out by a young black woman no doubt added to the apoplexy of a country now deeply mired in nationalist fantasy politics.
The Sun says Ms Achiume is “clueless” and accuses her of peddling “slurs” not backed up with evidence. The Daily Mail says her “insulting” remarks were received with “fury” by Number 10, which said the government had made “great progress” in making racial equality a reality.
Achiume said: “Stakeholders raised serious concerns about the failure of political leaders on the left and the right to consistently and unequivocally condemn antisemitism and Islamophobia perpetrated in the media, in public spaces and even by members of the UK parliament.”
“A Brexit-related trend that threatens racial equality in the UK has been the growth in the acceptability of explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance,” said E Tendayi Achiume.
The special rapporteur’s final report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June next year, will contain more detailed findings on the impact of Brexit on racial equality in the UK.
The Daily Mirror is basically an advanced warning of ERF (Extreme Royalist Fawning – incoming you have been warned, take cover). The Daily Mail is cashing in on the plastics nonsense, and The Telegraph has something about toothpaste. The Daily Record, to their credit, has this report on the Clara Ponsati case.
We shouldn’t think these two front-pages are unrelated.
The racism detailed by Tendayi Achiume is self-evident by anyone with one eye open. But the wave of Anglo-British nationalism behind much of this is the same that treats the Irish border, and the Irish people with complete contempt in Brexit negotiations. There is of course continuity with these attitudes and the idea that you can act with impunity in military action in the past, present and future. The idea that the Good Friday Agreement, and peace in Northern Ireland should be sacrificed on the altar of British exceptionalism and in the grip of the most bizarre manifestation of English nationalism, is indeed a Betrayal.