COLUMN: October 6, 2016

2-theresa-may-epa
Theresa May – Andrea Leadsom without the giddy sense of fun

SO somebody asked me: “Where are you from?” And I said: “Well, I was born in Liverpool.”

And he looked me in the eye, and he said: “No, but where are you from? Where is your family from?” I blinked. “Er, Liverpool. That’s why I was born there. It was more convenient.”

He stared at me, his eyes boring into me. “No, you’re not getting it. Where is your family from? You’re not British, are you?”

“Oh!” I said. “Well, I’m not really sure about my dad’s side, though Bainbridge is a village in North Yorkshire, so I suppose they must have come from there at some point.

“But on my mum’s side… well, there’s some Irish in there. I mean, see how pale I am. I make milk look brown. I could hide out in a paper factory for months.

“But there’s also some Italian in me from a few generations back. Half my mum’s siblings looked Irish like me. The other half looked like Al Pacino.”

“Ah! I thought so,” he said, and made to wander off. “Hang on a sec,” I said to him, “are you a figment of my imagination?”

He nodded, and vanished in a puff of smoke, his point made.

I’m quite lucky in that I am white, and usually pass for a native. If I were brown or black, I would have been asked those questions so many times I would not have had to make up an anecdote.

But ask yourself: “Where am I from?” If you can go back more than four generations without finding a foreigner in your forebears, you are a very unusual and rare flower. Even the Queen is part German, and married to a Greek.

The fact is we are all immigrants, or the children of immigrants. So when the Government starts talking about cutting immigration, and about taking us out of the European Single Market just so that we can halt immigration, you should feel uneasy.

When the Government talks about cutting the number of foreign students who come to Britain, pay fees to learn here, and then go back home, you should feel uneasy.

And when the Government talks about forcing companies to publish lists of their foreign workers, you should feel worried. Because while this is bad enough, where will it end?

It is becoming clearer than ever that Brexit is going to hit this country hard. The pound is crashing already. And instead of surgically unpicking the legal and social veins which bind us to the EU, this gang of vandals is going to yank us out.

And as the blood spills and the damage mounts up, the Brexiteers in government who blundered and blustered and said we had nothing to fear from leaving the EU will not take the blame.

David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, has already said that if Brexit is a failure we are all to be held responsible. Well, not me, matey – I am not going to be accountable for this disaster. And neither will the half of the country who voted to remain in the EU.

So who do you think will be considered responsible? It will be the ones who always get the blame, the easy targets already being lined up – the unloved immigrants. It will be the people like your great-grandparents, the people who spoke foreign in shops and even so were allowed to stay and work and marry and eventually produce you.

They will be blamed for taking British jobs, as if there is a queue of Brits outside the hotels and fruit farms dying to do a hard day’s work for a pittance. They will be given the blame for why you are unemployed after the car manufacturers and call centres leave this post-EU country. And God help them.

We’ve seen all this before in this continent. It ended with a world war and millions dead. That’s why we had an EU, why we had to make it inconceivable that the countries of Europe would ever go to war with each other again.

But the question is, which side are you going to be on?

Are you going to be one of those cheering as people like your great-grandparents are hounded out of their homes and this country?

Or are you going to remember that you yourself are an immigrant, with foreign blood rushing through your body, and tell the Government “No?” Because that would be the British thing to do.
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8 thoughts on “COLUMN: October 6, 2016

  1. Hi, Gary!
    Sometimes a poem (using fewer words than prose) is easier … 🙂

    One Hundred Cocktails

    A heady mix, bubbling with energy, sure to slake your thirst
    The raw ingredients culled from every corner. Who came first?
    Welsh Druids settled on the Mersey’s banks, and with their songs
    They made their mark and lleft their llilting llanguage on our tongues
    Norse seamen chanced upon our shores and chose to settle down
    Adding names like Kirkdale and Formby, parts of the growing town
    Cæsar thought he could rule the world with his fearsome Roman legions
    To Britain he came, and yes, he saw – but he couldn’t quite conquer this region
    Their lasting gift to us was surely the hypocausts: public baths and improved plumbing
    A thousand years ago, who would have seen such ‘mod. con.’ luxuries a-coming?
    Certainly not the noisy lot, our troublesome neighbours in the North
    Whom Hadrian stalled with a half-built Wall to prevent them sallying forth
    “Aye” and “haud yer wheesht” cannae be so hard tae unnerstan’ ye’d think
    Still we’ll sing “Auld Lang Syne” and bid welcome the New Year with drink
    Their vowels and growls rotate, mutate, becoming one more aspect
    Of the local lingua franca, the proud and inimitable Scouse dialect
    Enhanced by the music and laughter of the Irish, forced into exile
    When Famine and Death laid waste their green and pleasant isle
    The language alters subtly, sometimes from day to day
    Marvel at the expresso speech of the Italians down Scottie Road way
    Contrast that with the slow, thoughtful reflections handed down
    By the Elders enjoying a game of Mah-Jongg in Chinatown
    The oldest community in Europe – perhaps the world?
    Sparkles anew every year, when banners are unfurled
    To mark Chinese New Year, as the Lion Dance
    Unleashes fire-breathing Dragons, and children dance
    A kaleidoscope of colour, creed and culture from so many different lands
    A hundred Cocktails? No! At very least, a Thousand!

    Paul McDermott

  2. As it happens, and to my complete surprise after recent enquiries, my ancestors go back to the conquest. So there you are. But as for me, I am a fan of corporate fascism so I voted to remain. Well I would have done if I believed in democracy.

    1. Some of your ancestors surely? You’re not saying every single one of your ancestors go back to the conquest. That would be quite the reproductive feat.

  3. As the offspring of a Brit and a German Jew given shelter from the Nazis I fear greatly what my country is becoming. My mum worked her socks off to help my dad build his business and then spent over 20 years running an old people’s club and meals on wheels for the WRVF. Both of them would be turning in their graves at the policies of this Brexit government.
    Of course the next stage in this saga is that foreign workers, students, nurses, doctors get to wear a coloured star so we’re all quite sure they are ‘other’ and not Brits. Do we then get concentration camps? Because this is a slippery slope and this awful government has already taken the first steps.
    I am seriously considering quitting the UK – oh wait – I’m about to lose my rights as an EU citizen.

  4. Can you show me a quote, or a link to somewhere Amber Rudd states employees were to list their foreign employees? Having read her speech (as I’m assuming you didn’t judging by your comments), then I see she was advocating educating, training and enabling those people who want to work. That she encourages the immigration of well trained, professional people to fill posts employers are unable to with local employees.

    She also discusses the need for educational establishments to be able to attract students, both foreign and domestic.

    Oh, and as I’m sure you’re only to quick to tell those who voted to leave; half the country didn’t vote to stay. 48% of those who turned out to vote did so to stay, that’s far from half the country.

    Write something accurate, or get lost in the mass hysteria of everyone else who has latched on to a false headline and is inciting fear across the land.

    1. 48.1% of those who turned out and were eligible to vote, actually, voted to remain compared with 51.9% who chose to leave. But I’m sure you understood what I meant, just as everybody else who read the column did.

      I did read Ms Rudd’s speech. Not all Government policy is announced in speeches to the main hall of the Conservative Party Conference, as I am sure you know. From the Financial Times on October 5:

      When asked about her most controversial proposal — that companies could be forced to publish the proportion of international staff on their books as a way to “name and shame” businesses that fail to take on British workers — she made clear that this would be subject to consultation. “This is one of the things we are going to look at in this review. It is not something we are definitely going to do,” she said. “It is one of the tools we are going to use in the review to see if we can use it as a way of nudging people to do better behaviour.”

      And it was the Prime Minister herself, not Ms Rudd, who told the Cabinet: “Work is under way to examine how to reduce the number of international students coming to the UK”.

      I am happy to clarify the points made in my column. I would hate to be considered inaccurate or one who incites fear.

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