Railways and Refugees

Rail renationalisation can’t come soon enough for me. My train to London this morning was 40 minutes late; the train back – the last one of the day – cancelled. I’m on my way to Doncaster now hoping for a connection to Hull there. If not I think they have to get me a taxi back. We’ll see.

I was invited to a meeting of historians at the House of Commons to discuss refugee policy. It was opened by Lord Dubs (Labour), who as a small boy had escaped from Nazi Germany through the Kindertransport scheme. All very interesting and moving; but I felt my expertise in C19th British asylum policy was too marginal to want to waste their time with. (In a nutshell: there was no asylum policy; Britain let anyone – even known terrorists – in. The reasons for this are interesting, and the subject of my ultra-scholarly The Refugee Question in mid-Victorian Politics; but inapplicable to today.)

Two things I learned. (1) There are 60 million stateless persons in the world today. (2) Britain is the only country in Europe that goes in for indeterminate detention of immigrants, and on a Minister’s say-so alone. I smell the sulphurous whiff of Theresa here again.

In connection with this, one Tory Minister (no less) has recently recommended that all returning Jihadis or Islamists be hunted down and shot on sight. Just in case.

As for the Palace of Westminster: what I saw of it didn’t seem to be in as bad a state as has been made out. But of course you can’t tell from the surfaces. They’re already restoring the roof of the mediaeval Hall; and the Big Ben tower is clad in scaffolding. I found it interesting that on a plaque inside, they credited Barry alone with the Victorian building. No mention of Gothic God-botherer Pugin.

There was a train from Doncaster. It’s pulling in to Hull now…

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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