It’s safe to say that the last week of November hasn’t really shown Britain at its best. On the contrary, an almost daily barrage of bad news suggests a society that is gradually coming apart at the seams. Last Sunday it was reported that A & E wards across the country were running out of bed spaces – in part due to the rising numbers of elderly and disabled people being injured at home because councils were no longer looking after them.
In a not unrelated development, the leader of Newcastle City Council announced on Monday that the council was on the verge of financial collapse due to government cuts, and that its drastically-reduced budget was making its ability to fulfil its statutary obligations ‘untenable.’
That same day the Rowntree Trust published a report which claimed that two thirds of people who found jobs last year were earning less than a living wage. So much for those ‘hard-working people’ who the politicians love then. And then on Thursday the Gingerbread charity claimed that some single parents on jobseekers allowance were losing up to £290 a month because of government benefit cuts and cutting back on food and heating as a result.
All this was topped off by yesterday’s dystopian shopping frenzy, in which thousands of consumers shrieked at each other and sometimes fought each other physically to buy a tv, a tablet, or a vacuum cleaner in a bargain basement sale borrowed from old slave auctions. This was fetishism of the commodity run wild, in some places differing from the looting of 2011 only in so much that shoppers did actually pay for the goods they competed with each other so hungrily for.
Do they know it’s Christmas? asked the narcissist-celebrities of Band Aid about Africa, but they could ask the same question about yesterday’s mayhem, where peace and love were conspicuously absent from the desperation and commodity-lust on display. In one supermarket an old lady was cut on the arm. Someone else was hurt when a television fell on her.
Maybe cultural historians of the future will analyse the pathetic photograph of a woman lying spread-eagled across a giant plasma television set while other shoppers tried to pull it off her. Nobody told her that there were 57 channels and nothing on, or perhaps she just didn’t care. Maybe, like the woman who bought a dyson vacuum cleaner and told a report that she didn’t want a vacuum cleaner or a dyson, she just had to have something.
Against this background Lord Snooty of Bullingdon delivered his much-awaited speech on the most burning issue of the times: immigration. Yes folks, because your grandmother might fall over and hit herself on the head in her own home because she no longer has a care worker. You might be working a zero hours contract for a wage that can’t even cover your weekly expenses. You might not be able to afford to buy or even rent a house or buy a vacuum cleaner. Your council might be about to go bankrupt and looking to hand over its services to Serco or G4S.
But hey, let’s talk about those bloody foreigners eh? Because they are the ones who are causing these problems, at least according to His Lordship, who pointed out yesterday that
‘There are secondary schools where the turnover of pupils can be as high as one third of the entire school in a year. There are primary schools where dozens of languages are spoken with only a small minority speaking English as their first language. There are hospitals where maternity units are under great pressure because birth rates have increased dramatically. There are Accident and Emergency departments under serious pressure. And there is pressure on social housing that cannot be met.’
So they come over here and they won’t speak English, and they have too many kids and fill up the maternity words and they get sick and injured and fill up the A & E beds that your grandmother would otherwise get and they take all the social housing that you would otherwise be able to live in. And they take the well-paid secure jobs that you would otherwise have.
And now His Lordship is going to do something about it by taking away tax credits from unskilled and low-paid migrant workers for four years! And if they can’t find a job in six months they’ll be deported!
Isn’t that marvellous? Doesn’t it give you hope? As usual His Lordship presaged these dismal propositions with a great deal of waffle about what an open and tolerant country we are and always have been. He told us how we welcomed the ‘Jewish communities who came to Britain before World War One.’ Well the British Brothers League didn’t welcome them, and nor did the British government, which passed the 1905 Aliens Act to stop ‘ destitute foreigners’ (Jews)
And he also referenced our warm welcome to the ‘the West Indians who docked at Tilbury on the Windrush and helped to rebuild our country after World War Two.’ Remember ‘ Rooms to Let: No dogs, no coloureds’ anyone?
His Lordship doesn’t, and he doesn’t want you to remember either, because today people with very similar attitudes are driving the great ‘debate’ about what a problem immigration is. And if we all weren’t so busy thinking about immigration, our thoughts might turn to the kind of country that Britain has become under the ruthless gang of philistine millionaires who have administered the poisonous and destructive medicine of ‘austerity’ for the last four years.
This is a society where the word ‘migrant’ has now become a pejorative insult that comes only just below ‘terrorist’ in the public imagination; where xenophobia and racism course rampantly through the body politic beneath the pseudo-discussion now orchestrated by the cunning buffoon with the pint in his hand; where the three main political parties are now competing with each other to find new ways of persecuting men and women whose crimes is wanting to come here to find work or a place of refuge.
And all the politicians who are now listening to your ‘concerns’ about immigration will tell you that they really, really care about you, and that they are listening.
But the events of the last week make it clear that they really, really don’t care at all, and that they are only listening to the messages that suit them.