The Tories and Brexit – The middle of the wedge

I didn’t sleep last night. It wasn’t sickness or stress. It wasn’t that I wasn’t tired (I really was). It wasn’t that my bed was uncomfortable.

I was angry. Really bloody angry.

I get frustrated, fed up, a bit cheesed off or even snappy at times. Rarely, however, do I feel real anger about anything.

Last night, though, I did.

Foreign workers are to be registered. Foreign doctors are to be “allowed” to stay until they can be replaced. Limiting freedom of movement seems to be the only non-negotiable element in Brexit. 

The message is clear – If you aren’t British then you aren’t welcome here. That’s right, Jonny Foreigner. This isn’t your home. It’s simply a place you get your money from, and we need to make sure you are treated differently to those of us who are native of this land.

This is as hard right as I can remember from a UK government, and it’s seriously scary. We’ve been through the language of “swarms of immigrants” and “bogus asylum seekers”. As many of us said, that was simply the thin end of the wedge.

It’s fair to say, with language you would expect to read on Stormfront and policies to match, we are now firmly in the middle of that wedge, and moving further up as we go.

The Brexit vote has confirmed one thing alone to the Tories, many people fear immigration. Theresa May addressed this in her speech today, attacking the mythical “liberal elite” for finding fears about immigration distasteful.

No, most of us don’t feel quite that way. Fears about immigration are, to a certain extent, understandable. People coming into the country, our communities, with a different language and culture can feel unsettling if you aren’t used to it. Stories in the press about millions coming over, taking jobs, benefits, NHS places, houses etc. can lead to fears. Of course it can.

The issue comes with addressing those fears. I believe that addressing fears should involve allaying fears. Pointing out the many, many benefits of immigration: they pay more tax and claim fewer benefits per person, they are helping to fill major shortages of staff in health care and the hospitality industry, they help us to learn about cultures beyond this small island…

The Tories, however, see addressing fears in a different way. They see it as pandering to those fears. Stoking them with increasingly hateful rhetoric and policies, then using the EU Referendum result as a way to justify those fears. In the same way those on the far right are using the result to legitimise their own bigotry and racism.

The Government often speak of standing up for “British values” or “Christian values”, yet these values they speak so highly of are not the ones I recognise when I think of them. I think of fairness and equality of all people, regardless of gender, race, colour, nationality or creed. 

I think of standing up for the vulnerable, the victimised, the poor, the oppressed.

I think of respecting those who work in professions which serve the wider good: health care, education, law and order, rescue and protection.

I think of a culture made up of many cultures over many centuries. Changing and evolving as we grow as one giant melting pot, celebrating the progress we make as we go.

I think of love, the most powerful thing on this planet, sweeping away hatred and fear as it goes. Healing people, communities, cities and nations.

Please, if you truly fear the idea of people coming from other countries, whether for economic reasons or for their own safety, and making their home here I beg you to think again. We learn from each other when we let down the artificial barriers of nationhood we have built around us. We learn customs, languages, festivals, food, ways of creating a caring society we had never thought of before when we realise that there is no us and them. There are just people. Human beings. Ordinary men, women and children.

The language of the Tories, the language of Brexit right now, is a dangerous and frightening path to go down. It is the language, and the policy, of division, inequality, blame, mistrust and hatred.

We are better than that. British people… all people are better than that. Please, let’s be better than the people we are being taken for. Before it’s too late.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:35, 40‬ ‭

15 groups UKIP class as immigrants

After Nigel Farage called for the children of immigrants to be classed as immigrants themselves I have obtained an exclusive list of other groups that the UKIP leader, backed up by his chums at Migration Watch, also wants to reclassify:

– The grandchildren of immigrants. A logical extension as their parents are now immigrants, so they are now, technically, the children of immigrants themselves.

– People born on British soil overseas. It’s close enough, I mean, it’s abroad really. (Incidentally, this includes me. Which also makes my children immigrants)

– Anybody who has ever used the phrases “ciao”, “je ne sais qoi” or “schadenfreude”

– Anybody with a foreign name; e.g. Marco, Maria, Jean, Peter…

– People named after foreign places; e.g. Paris, Dakota, India, Sofia…

– People with narrow eyes. You know why!

– People who have recently been on holiday to a foreign country and came back with darker than normal skin.

– Lefties. They’re probably Russian or something.

– Paddington Bear (Peruvian)

– Doctor Who (Gallifreyan)

– Whoever decommissioned the Black & White Minstrel Show

– Scottish people who don’t have red hair (Something dodgy there)

– Caravanners (They’re essentially Gypsies)

– Anybody living in Rochester who doesn’t drive a white van

– Grey squirrels

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it goes a long way towards explaining why 126% of the UK population are immigrants and only UKIP can solve it.

Or something.

Nigel the wide-mouthed frog

Once upon a time there was a large field. In that field were lots and lots of ponds. One pond had frogs, one pond had eels, one pond had dragonflies, one pond had carp… Every pond had a different type of animal.

For years the ponds would argue and fight over silly things and even tried to take over other ponds. After a big fight, which involved all of the ponds, the animals decided something needed to be done. So, they decided to work together, helping each other out wherever possible and letting each animal move to whichever pond they liked.

Life wasn’t perfect, but the fights weren’t so bad either and the animals felt happier and safer.

Well, most of the animals…

In some of the ponds there were animals who didn’t like having to share their pond with other animals. They were worried that they would be eaten, or not have enough water or flies to eat. Some just hated other animals.

One of these was the wide-mouthed frog. His name was Nigel. Nigel the wide-mouthed frog started telling everyone that they didn’t need to work with the other ponds. They said that it was ok to have some dragonflies and goldfish living in the pond, but recently there had been snails and pondskippers and this was bad. He said that they were bad animals and that other frogs were scared that these snails and pondskippers might start living on the next lily pad.

He said that, if he was in charge of the pond, he would give the frogs their pond back.

Lots of frogs didn’t like this and thought that Nigel was just a silly wide-mouthed frog who had drunk too much stagnant pond water. Some frogs, though, loved Nigel. They thought that their froggy way of life was going to disappear. They were scared that they’d lose their lily pads. They were sacred that a nasty snail might try to take their tadpoles away.

Nigel grinned a wide, froggy grin.

Nigel started telling everyone more and more stories about snails wanting to kill them all and wanting frogs to live like them. He told stories of pondskippers stealing all the flies and eating swans.

Then something happened. Nigel became very popular. Other frogs joined him and told more and more silly stories, promising that this pond would be just for frogs.

So, Nigel the wide-mouthed frog had his way. He ruled the pond and he sent all the other animals away. The snails, dragonflies, eels, pondskippers, ladybirds, toads and all kinds of fish went off to other ponds. Nigel had given the frogs their pond back.

But, the other animals hated Nigel and all the other frogs now. They refused to share food. They refused to tell the frogs when the meat eating animals were around.

And the frogs had no fish to clear the weeds from the pond. They had no dragonflies or pondskippers to eat all the flies the frogs couldn’t manage. They had no snails to eat all of the excess leaves on the plants.

Soon, the pond was jammed full of weeds and plants, so that the frogs could barely move. There were so many flies that the frogs couldn’t see or breathe. Some ate so many flies that they exploded.

The frogs were sad. They were upset that they had believed Nigel when he said that they didn’t need the other animals. They were sorry that they had made him leader. So they kicked him out of the pond and went to speak to the other animals.

The frogs apologised and said that they had changed. They said that, although things weren’t perfect before, they wanted to work with the other animals to make the whole field of ponds better. For everyone.

And they all lived happy-ish ever after.

Except for Nigel.

The End.

(With apologies to George Orwell. And apologies for the lack of illustration – I really can’t draw!)

Don’t get fooled again.

Do you ever wonder why you even bother? Why you talk about the important stuff, try to get your point across, highlight the fear and prejudice being perpetrated around you, only to go unheard and ignored? Why you try to promote love, only for people to choose hate?

That’s pretty much how I feel right now. The European elections have seen gains for the fascist Golden Dawn in Greece, a win for the National Front in France and, closer to home, the populist UKIP in the UK. These parties have flourished on three big selling points; anti-EU sentiment, anti-establishment rhetoric and, strongest of all, anti-immigration policies.

Sorry… not anti-immigration. I mean anti-immigrant.

There is a huge difference. Anti-immigration, which forms part of their policy (singular), is the idea that letting too many people into the country causes an excessive strain on public spending and services, meaning that there is less to get around for those already in the country. It’s an understandable argument, although when immigrants pay more in tax than they take out of the economy and are statistically less likely to claim benefits, it’s also a poor argument.

Because it’s a poor argument, these parties rely on the latter tactic. Anti-immigrant. We should feel uncomfortable about having Romanian neighbours because they are mainly criminals. There are 25 million out of work Europeans who all want your job. Foreign immigrants are diluting our culture, identity and way of life. This isn’t an argument against immigration as a concept, but a tactic which uses fear of the unknown, in this case people from other countries, to bypass the logical arguments against them and automatically leave many people feeling that something as a “bad thing” because it is to be feared and worried about.

I have friends who genuinely are scared of “what is happening to our country” and the “erosion of the British identity”. However, I haven’t heard what actually us happening and how this erosion would be a negative thing.

There are as many UK citizens living in other EU countries as EU citizens in the UK. The main difference is the multicultural aspect which, to many of us, is actually a positive. The rich diversity of human life coexisting on one small set of islands, learning from and teaching each other about language, custom, food,  art, music, fashion and so much more is surely to be celebrated. This isn’t an erosion of identity, but an evolution of it.

Yet, many have chosen to swallow the line from these populist and far right politicians. The gains they have made have been dramatic (although not quite the “earthquake” the media keep stating) and the mainstream parties are talking about learning lessons from this. I pray thus means how to fight back, not how to bow down to them, but I’m not holding out any hope.

One of the lines used a lot recently is how the UK is a Christian country.
Great! Let’s act like one, then.

“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 GNBDC)

“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes” (Matthew 25:35 GNBDC)

“He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8 GNBDC)

“That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 CEB)

Is that clear enough? Love, hospitality, caring for strangers in a strange land. This doesn’t mean ignoring immigrants who are criminals or a threat to our security. Those issues must always be addressed. But we must also treat people as people as people. Human beings. God’s children. And we must fight against this increasing culture of hatred amongst our politicians, media and, yes, ourselves.

We have to fight back. We have to campaign,  speak out, argue, educate and vote against this politics of evil. We have to stand together, act in love, but in utter defiance against hatred. We have to make this the “Christian country” that people queue up to tell us that we are or aren’t.

This isn’t leftie ranting. I’m appealing to left and right wing people. Religious and atheist. Young and old. Man and woman. Gay and straight. English, Irish, Scottish Welsh and any of the many nationalities who inhabit our islands and the rest of Europe. Vote against the EU or for it. Vote against established parties or for them. Just please, please fight against prejudice in all its forms. We are all better than that.