Britain First: Braverman’s X-Ray Plans

News from the Independent that Suella Braverman has plans to x-ray children to verify their age may seem to complete the week. Britain’s descent into a place where the Home Secretary appears to be a verifiable fascist seems sudden, a lurch, but it’s really not. We can chart the process over a thirty-eight year period.

Way back in 2016 Conservative MP David Davies called for child refugees arriving from Calais to have their teeth checked after questions were raised about their age. The Sun lapped it up. The same year Tracy Brabin was heckled by fascists while paying tribute to her late predecessor, Jo Cox, during her acceptance as MP for Batley and Spen.

The suggestion of medical intervention is used to dispel the unfortunate reality that many of the people in Manston are children, being ‘invaded’ by children doesn’t carry the same threat. Nor do pregnant women.

A year before Davies’ plan Katie Hopkins wrote in The Sun arguing for gunships in the English Chanel and calling migrants ‘cockroaches’.

The letter thrown over the perimeter fence is a terrible terrible indictment of the UK (Girl throws message in a bottle over fence of Manston migrant facility begging for help).

As Neil Mackay notes (‘Talk of concentration camps and fascism … how did Britain sink so low?‘):

“The SOAS Detainee Support organisation says explicitly: “Manston is a concentration camp. Interning people there illegally is a political decision taken by Suella Braverman and the Home Office. The children’s cries of ‘freedom’ and ‘we need your help’ are a haunting indictment of the barbaric British border regime.”

Now, under intense criticism Braverman has doubled-down but attempts at reducing the number of people at Manston have turned to farce. The Guardian reports that a group of eleven asylum seekers were just left at Victoria railway station without accommodation on Tuesday evening.

The descent of Britain to this place hasn’t been sudden. But Braverman is the manifestation of the far-right as the new normal.

The stench of fascism has been accommodated and explained for years in Britain. It was hinted at by Norman Tebbit in the 1980s and we’ve been on a slippery descent ever since, from militarised police to militarised schools to extraordinary rendition to pleading for our soldiers to be above the law. From the staggering surveillance revealed back in 2016 by MI5, MI6, and GCHQ to the endless degenerate representation of ordinary people as scum in the routine language of daily tabloids. We ended up with Nick Griffin on Question Time and Nigel Farage a permanent fixture on mainstream media.

There’s a symmetry between Thomas Mair (Jo Cox’s killer) and Andrew Leak (who attacked Manston) it’s worth remembering we are blithely ignoring the fact that right-wing white terrorism and violence is now a consistent element of the British political landscape.

The Guardian reported of Leak:

He pictured himself online wearing a union jack face mask, and frequently shared posts by (Tommy) Robinson and conspiracy theories by several far-right groups, including New World Order, the Traditional Britain Group and Turning Point UK … In a post in July, Leak claimed ‘all Muslims are guilty of grooming … they only rape non-Muslims’”. And yet more – a lot more.

Last year he wrote: ‘A message to the UK government: if you dare come for our children we will come for you. If I can not have freedom, then I will choose death’ … He also “liked” a number of far-right groups on Facebook, including Enoch Powell was Right; Close UK Borders; God Hates Islam; and Patriots party … He also posted conspiratorial and racist theories about China and Covid vaccines”.

The response to the attack on the detention camp at Manston has been shocking. The far-right media has had a field day, mostly supporting and defending the Home Secretary.

The Sun’s Harry Cole defended Braverman on LBC saying: “I think [Braverman] shored herself up last night. No one is going to come out fighting better for you than you if that makes sense. Yes, it was divisive. Yes, it was punchy. And yes, it was controversial. But she was saying what lots are people are thinking.”

That phrase harks back to an earlier harbinger of normalised racism. Back in 2005 the Tories pulled out a campaign poster under Michael Howard’s ill-fated reign in charge. It was certainly a step down in the descent of Britain to where were now.

If Howard’s billboards were a shift in permissible language so too was the Hostile Environment and Operation Vaken – the now abandoned plan to have vans carrying the message “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”. The vans were a pilot in 2013 in six London boroughs.

Operation Vaken was part of the government’s “hostile environment” strategy (first introduced as a phrase by Labour home secretary Alan Johnson, then heartily championed by Theresa May in her six years at the Home Office). May’s Hate Vans weren’t a serious attempt to repatriate people (I think a review claimed that six people had ‘voluntarily repatriated themselves), it was a dog whistle and a signal to UKIP supporters and bigots everywhere: “we’re with you” it said.

It’s probably impossible to chart precisely the drift rightwards to where we are now, but these are significant moments as the Conservative Party responded to the pressure from UKIP and the issue of immigration was weaponised and popularised. This happens in the context of decades of relentless racism by Britain’s tabloid press, though they could never quite decide whether all these terrible foreigners were coming here to ‘steal our jobs’ or ‘cheat our benefits system’.

It happens in the context of decades of ‘othering’ of people who become dehumanised and used as fodder in the Conservatives culture war. They become a human shield, a distraction from the failings of the Tories in office, and it never ends. Even after Brexit the issue of the ‘invading foreigner’ is weaponised again and again and again.

To reverse this trend requires not just to throw out the Tories from Westminster it means a different understanding of the nature of immigration, it means a newly democratised media and it means a radical shift in values.  Reclaiming decency is a longer-term project than just denouncing Braverman.

Nor is it just about the Tories. Labour have historically plodded along behind the Conservatives, scared to make the case for an ‘ethical foreign policy’ since Robin Cook’s time and in lockstep about immigration policy, even arguing against Rwanda not because it’s a moral obscenity but on the technical grounds that it’s not cost efficient.

The wider picture is of a society in fear, manipulated and distracted by a political elite who want to distract and project. England – and in this case it is largely about England – is a country deeply ill at ease with itself – riven by social division – deep in recession and oscillating between hubris and inferiorism.

Post-Brexit Anglo-Britain is confused and unable to accept the simple concept of vulnerable human beings seeking sanctuary in the UK. The idea of basic human decency, solidarity and even pride in welcoming people in distress has been abandoned. Hatred, bigotry and racism has just been normalised as perfectly acceptable. This is a society which feels under threat, constantly under attack from malign forces (Albanians are this week’s enemy of choice). It’s difficult to know what could possibly resolve this tension, with the toxic forces at play that benefit from cultivating this atmosphere. As Britain descends into recession and possibly depression the ‘lurch’ to the right is likely to get worse, unless a completely different narrative is created: one of love and solidarity and hope and generosity of spirit. But that would come from a people that feel confident about their place in the world.

Comments (27)

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  1. Mr E says:

    Strikingly, the author proposes no alternative. Bereft of imagination, he .

    The most striking thing to me is that pale-skined Europeans from Ukraine get to fly to the UK to inhabit people’s spare bedrooms, and more esoteric refugees get put in holding camps. I guess things in France must be truly awfull to have to escape by paddling a jollyboat across the sea for 30 miles.

  2. IreneCrichton says:

    Cruella Braverman is another Pretty Awful Patel . I am very old and dont remember any women like these two apart from from Maggie Thatcher hiding how much oil there was in the North Sea, in a secret file, to stop the Scottish people from wanting to be independent even then! There had been a referendum which they won already but it was dissallowed and here we are still being told Westminster wont allow it well over 100 years later!!! In the meantime they take 18%tax on every bottle of Scotch whisky , stollen 6,000 square miles of Scotlands North Sea, moving the Maritime border up to Arbroath, including 7 oil platforms, the night before the opening of th Scottish Parliament again hiding the paperwork in a secret file !!! Then Donald Dewer , who was involved with that theft becoming Scotlands First Minister while the theft was still in the secret file ,I wonder what else ?Do the High Court Judges know how badly they have treated Scotland ?

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Spot on Mike.

    Anyone who hasn’t seen it should watch ‘Who Lives In Scotland’ (Martin Geissler) on BBC iplayer. I felt that, overall, it was a good advert for us.

    1. 221104 says:

      I wouldn’t believe anything that comes out of the BBC. It’s state-run, don’t ya know? Producing fake news and information for the Tory government and its hidden paymasters. A crucial tool for social control in authoritarian Britain.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Indeed Colin, but they sometimes slip. Had it been an episode of Disclosure there would’ve been a different slant.

        1. 221106 says:

          Just as well we’ve been blessed with the ability to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, then, isn’t it, and to switch channels accordingly?

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            Not all have Colin.

          2. 221107 says:

            Yes we do, Tom; only, in its exercise, we don’t all come up with the same results.

  4. Robbie says:

    How far do we go back to Mike, No Irish No Blacks No Dogs . They’ve been at it a long time

  5. Me Bungo Pony says:

    Immigration and climate change are interconnected. As the world heats up, millions will be forced to abandon their homes or die. Ironically, the Tory antipathy towards fighting climate change is actually exacerbating the immigration “problem” for them.

    For Tories, it’s all about power and money, and how to maintain a grip on both for them and those they represent; the already powerful and wealthy. Nothing else has any value for them. Thus we suffer.

    England’s middle class/”frustrated millionaires” and “patriots” will continue to vote Tory in the hope/expectation they will benefit in some way from their right wing policies. They won’t. They are just expendable cannon fodder in the Tory struggle against the equality and democracy that threatens their pockets.

    Scotland can do better. Scotland can be the change England needs. But only with independence.

    1. John Learmonth says:

      I doubt the young military age Albanian men are fleeing their country because of ‘climate change’.
      Thankfully they’ll end up in England but if they all came to Scotland we might not be as compassionate towards their plight.
      Incidentally does Mike Small advocate open borders and that anybody who wants to come and live here should be free to do so?

      1. Me Bungo Pony says:

        Climate change is going to see literally millions, if not billions, have to flee their homes or die. If you think the solution is as easy as just throwing them back in the sea, or flying them (at huge expense) to the heart of Africa to die, you are in as much denial as the Right accuses the Left of being in. All that does is store up feelings of injustice and, ultimately, hatred. The future is bleak enough if climate change isn’t tackled without exacerbating the inevitable “difficulties” by becoming “the baddies” now.

        Florian below attempts to shock us by stating over 10% of people in England were born abroad. Interestingly, 15-20% of people in Scotland we’re not born here. But we’re not allowed to talk about that. As ever, the Right’s arguments are reversed when it comes to Scotland. Luckily, Scotland is more welcoming of economic migrants. Especially those fleeing the economic circumstances in SE England.

        1. florian albert says:

          ‘Florian below attempts to shock us by stating that over 10% of the people in England were born abroad’

          I use facts to inform, rather than to shock.

          ‘Interestingly, 15-20% of people in Scotland were not born here. But we’re not allowed to talk about that.’

          I have talked about this regularly for decades. Who has stopped you from talking about it ?

  6. florian albert says:

    Instead of writing another article denouncing the Tories, Mike Small might have done better to consider the reality of immigration. It is a political problem across Europe. In recent years, it has become a problem in countries – Spain, Germany and Sweden, for example – which considered themselves immune.
    Immigration has taken place on a massive scale. In England and Wales 10% of the population was born abroad. (Interestingly, immigrants have been vastly less keen to come to Scotland.) This scale of immigration has contributed to economic and social problems. It has been welcomed by big business since it keeps wages low.
    Most immigrants start out at the bottom of the social ladder – where ordinary people are already most disadvantaged. Immigrants, who, understandably, want to better themselves, can contribute to making life more difficult for those already struggling.
    The response of most of the left to this downside of immigration is to ignore it. When the left has – as in Scotland – opted out of electoral politics this increases their self-marginalization.
    All the evidence in that resistance to high levels of immigration is increasing; think of the success of Le Pen, now the de facto opposition leader in France; the success of AfD in becoming the Official Opposition in Germany; the success of the Swedish Democrats in Europe’s most successful social democracy.
    The left’s present policy of denunciation, denunciation and more denunciation is not working. It is time for the left to consider why it has alienated itself from so much of its traditional voting base.
    The idea that ordinary people – all across Europe and beyond – are ‘manipulated and distracted by a political elite’ just won’t wash.

  7. Mr E says:

    South of England: ‘Lets maybe inter refugees on a boat’ = You’re a nutcase Tory maverick.

    Scotland: We really do inter refugees on a boat = You’re a sensible Scottish government and we all agree with intering refugees on boats.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      [Speaking to the BBC Nikol Bilous, 19, from Kyiv said: “The conditions on the ship are better than we could have dreamed of and we are very grateful to the Scottish people for this accommodation.
      There is Ukrainian TV channels which we were very surprised about as you never find that when you go on holiday. All the signs are in Ukrainian on the ship and most of the staff are Ukrainian.
      And last night we had Borscht beetroot soup, our national dish, we couldn’t believe it. We were so happy to have this as it is our hearts.
      There is also Wi-Fi on board. It’s perfect. The rooms are quite small but they are perfect and we are very happy and grateful.”
      The Scottish Government says new Ukrainian arrivals to Scotland are met at a network of “welcome hubs”.]

      I don’t think that’s what the South of England had in mind.

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      From an article in the Record
      Speaking to the BBC Nikol Bilous, 19, from Kyiv said: “The conditions on the ship are better than we could have dreamed of and we are very grateful to the Scottish people for this accommodation.
      There is Ukrainian TV channels which we were very surprised about as you never find that when you go on holiday. All the signs are in Ukrainian on the ship and most of the staff are Ukrainian.
      And last night we had Borscht beetroot soup, our national dish, we couldn’t believe it. We were so happy to have this as it is our hearts.
      There is also Wi-Fi on board. It’s perfect. The rooms are quite small but they are perfect and we are very happy and grateful.”
      The Scottish Government says new Ukrainian arrivals to Scotland are met at a network of “welcome hubs”.

      Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the South of England had in mind.

      1. 221106 says:

        Mair cherry-picking, Tom?

    3. Me Bungo Pony says:

      What are you talking about? The Scottish Govt cannot and would not intern anyone. Immigration is reserved to Westminster. If you’re referring to Dungavel, that is a Home Office (Suella Braverman) facility. Nothing to do with the Scottish Govt.

      1. 221106 says:

        You’re right, Me Bungo. Mr E is alluding to The Scottish Government’s recent announcement that it’s chartered a cruise ship to temporarily house up to 1,700 Ukrainian refugees on the River Clyde.

        Mr E is being rather disingenuous when he characterises this housing as ‘internment’. The people on board the vessel will be free to come and go from the ship as they please, as with any other temporary accommodation. Unlike Dungavel, the M/S Ambition (and its sister ship, the M/S Victoria in Leith) isn’t a detention centre.

        (It’s a pity the Scottish government couldn’t likewise charter ferry vessels to supply the current transport deficiency between the islands.)

      2. Me Bungo Pony says:

        Ahhh, I see. It was an attempt to compare temporary accommodation set up by the Scottish Govt for victims of the Ukrainian war, where the residents are free to come and go as they please and treated as human beings, with the Home Office detention centres where, as we have been informed, after sunset the howling starts.

        It has become standard Right Wing practice to put a shamelessly distorted “truth” at the centre of an equally shameless lie in order to give it undeserved credence. Another example is D. Ross using the “truth” of new member states of the EU having to declare an “intention” to join the Eurozone to bolster the lie that Scotland would be forced to join it. The reality being that membership of the ERM is mandatory before you can adopt the Euro, but as that membership is voluntary, no country can be forced to adopt the Euro. Hence Sweden and Czechia’s ability to retain their own currency.

        However, the tactic only makes it more damning when the lie is exposed.

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          In the unlikely event of any gutter rag choosing to expose it.

          1. 221107 says:

            Which is why you need to be catholic in your consumption, Tom.

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            The list of names of gutter rags that will choose to expose it could be engraved on an ant’s balls.

          3. 221107 says:

            Indeed, which is why you need to cast your net wider than what you consider to be ‘the gutter rags’ to get the news and information that will confirm your prejudices.

            We all tend to gravitate towards the mediations we like and away from the mediations we don’t like, and attempts to regulate and police the market in news and information, to ensure that people are ‘protected’ from ‘harmful’ information and ‘fake’ news or any other mediations of which you disapprove, are futile following the explosion of social media and the corresponding advent of a post-truth knowledge-economy.

          4. Tom Ultuous says:

            Let it go Colin. It’s eating you up. Write to the owners of the publications and tell them that, in your opinion, they’re wasting their money and their lies are fooling no one.

          5. 221108 says:

            Well, they’re not wasting their money insofar as they’re investing it in the creation and maintenance of ‘brands’ around which communities of opinion can coalesce and be mobilised in certain ways. In that respect, news and information (‘content’) providers function a bit like political parties and cultural associations more generally.

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