Issue 251: 2020 10 15: Me? Really?

15 October 2020

View from the Cotswolds

Who do They think I am?:  Indignant of Chipping Norton

By Paul Branch

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel must think they know me pretty well.  They have referred to me in recent interviews and pronouncements, not by name but by association, in a manner I find highly objectionable if a little flattering.  Indignation doesn’t even come close.

According to Boris, I (along with everybody else) have been complacent about the virus as the infection rate starts to soar again.  Quite how I’ve managed this is not revealed, but I’ve not been in a pub, a restaurant, a students’ hall of residence, on summer holiday or even to a late night rave since last February.  Everywhere I have been outside my home has been with a mask and the occasional gloves.  It’s been different, relaxing, stimulating in some ways, invigorating to listen to birdsong without the noise of traffic and aircraft, refreshing and happy to have the time to get to know my wife so much better, playing bridge and sharing aperitifs on-line with old friends, admittedly it’s been a pity about not seeing so much of the grandchildren… But complacent?  Do me a favour Boris, please.

Priti Patel has the cheek to link me with people traffickers, lefty lawyers, do-gooders, even the Labour Party (presumably that version of Labour and its then leader many chose to dislike).  In that context I stand accused of defending the indefensible: the broken asylum system over which she presides and which was designed and instigated by her own party, and operated with as little compassion as possible by her precious Home Office (described by a previous Home Secretary as unfit for purpose).

That’s not all by way of insult from Priti (she really doesn’t like me) — I am also described as a thug and hooligan for condoning the activities of Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter sympathisers in neighbourhood vandalism, statue defacement and newspaper delivery delays.  Goodness me, I must have been a busy boy.  But at least she hasn’t taken issue with me over my Brexit preference, although we do apparently share a weakness for dropping our “g”s (in my case “h”s and “t”s too, plus a few others).

But let’s return to Boris for just a moment.  There are stirrings and mutterings aplenty in the halls of Westminster and amongst his own acolytes.  People there lament the disappearance of the “old Boris”, his lack of mojo, his new authoritarian approach to anything from local lockdown measures best left to those who know something of the individual situations, to Brexit law-breaking and almost colonial sabre rattling (one starts to wonder at what point the gunboat will set sail for Brussels).  They start to consider whether he’s actually up to the job, but then cast about despairingly for an alternative.  Maybe they forget that he’s really not been a well boy after catching the virus, and that it takes time to get over it especially as he seemed to have caught such a nasty dose.  Perhaps the apparent severity of the infection has made him think about what’s really important in life.

But I’m clearly clutching at straws as he’s still able to deliver ill-considered comments about covid complacency.  I also recall his failure to do anything about the sheer stupidity and recklessness of his mentor and exemplar Dangerous Dom, his continued support for Priti in the face of bullying allegations yet to be investigated thoroughly, and the appointment of Baroness Dido to the still misfiring Test and Trace shambles.  As for Jenrick, Hancock and Williamson, let’s not go anywhere near there.  And now, in the face of any rational planning for climate change rather than off-the-cuff sound bites, it seems a coal mine in Cumbria is set to be reopened after thirty years’ closure.  Sadly Boris is acting like complacency personified.

Back to Priti.  I know it’s difficult to look beyond some of the apparent mindlessness associated with XR and BLM, and to at least have a go at addressing the underlying issues, but not to do so is to take the easy path of appeasement and acceptance of the status quo, and effectively to admit the job’s too hard.  The reason that demonstrations and unrest still abound is that there is no sign of anyone in government seriously trying to find solutions to climate change or to our inherent racist attitudes.  Maybe the penny has finally dropped that without such extreme activities it’s cast iron guaranteed that no one will ever do anything.

The current reports of strange ideas to try to fix the broken asylum system seem to focus on how to stop asylum seekers setting foot on our precious shores in the first place and actually applying to stay here.  Priti’s pronouncements give the impression that every bedraggled soul who does attempt the journey should be repelled by the Royal Navy with or without the aid of fishing nets (or the French Navy, as it seems to be their responsibility, nothing to do with us).  Or if they do succeed in getting here then round them up and ship them off to somewhere remote and uncomfortable for processing, with every incentive to post them back from whence they came.

Priti has another barb:  pre-empting criticism of her asylum proposals, she expects to be lectured by those with grand theories about human rights.  I’m not sure what such theories might comprise:  maybe first of all some level of understanding as to why ordinary people risk everything to make perilous journeys to a country they have only heard about.  Why would anyone leave their home and familiar surroundings if not for the direst of reasons?  Maybe if they were finally convinced that the UK, whose history is rich in the contributions of asylum seekers over many centuries, really isn’t the Utopia they had hoped for, and far from it thanks to our newly discovered, UKIP-inspired small-mindedness, they wouldn’t bother trying to get here and instead come to rest in France, or Germany, or Italy, or Greece who have so far borne the brunt of the modern exodus.  That would make the problem go away, and we could relax in our island fortress, until one day we remember that we’re critically short of taxpaying labourers like nurses, care workers, doctors and the myriad other roles these asylum seekers could occupy.  They’re not all on the make, trying to get on the bandwagon of our benefits and health systems.  These are people in trouble and many of us believe we have a humane obligation to contribute to helping them make a future for themselves.

Maybe before criticising a huge chunk of the electorate she serves, Priti Patel should actually come up with some concrete proposals which underpin her commitment to welcoming people through safe and legal routes, which are firm but fair, but which above all are grounded in compassion and competence.  On this and the other matters referred to above, we are getting so tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you Mrs Patel.  So do please get on with it.

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