Is this becoming the new face of Britain?
If so it is deeply shaming, especially after the terrible tragedy last week when 20-odd migrants – including children – drowned in the freezing waters of the English Channel: and in a British part of the Channel, apparently. I imagine that Nigel Farage, pictured day after day over the past few months bravely standing on the cliffs in readiness to repel these invaders, wasn’t greatly troubled by this; or Home Secretary Pritti ‘Cruella’ Patel, who has been campaigning for weeks to make the rescue of drowning migrants a criminal offence. This of course is monstrous.
My question however is this. How much does this demean Britain (or at least England) as a nation? How typical are these lifeboat-blockers and the other assorted quasi-Fascists who support them? Much of the responsibility of course must be placed at the door of the popular Right-wing press, which has been monstering immigrants for years now, until its readers simply can’t be aware of any other version of events. Then of course there are the leading Brexiters, exploiting xenophobia for their own purposes; and the genuine racists and xenophobes.
But is Britain as a whole really as viciously xenophobic as all these would suggest? I should like to think not. On the other side of the picture there are the hundreds of ordinary Glasgow citizens who blocked an ‘Immigration Enforcement’ van in May this year (‘let our neighbours go!’: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-57100259: but then that was Scotland); and the thousands who leapt to the defence of the three ‘black’ members of the England football team who were targeted by racists for missing penalties in an international football match against Italy in July (https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/racist-abuse-targets-english-players-missed-penalties-78791056). Hopefully these actions in defence of ‘aliens’ are more reliable indicators of genuine opinion in Britain than that dramatic event – and others like it – on the south coast last month.
Of course there have always been racists, chauvinists and xenophobes in Britain; just as in – probably – every other country in the world. (Even Sweden has them.) This phenomenon certainly isn’t either peculiar to or necessarily more pronounced in Britain; for example because of her past imperialism, as is sometimes asserted. (I’ve argued elsewhere that the contact with other peoples that colonialism necessitated was as likely to temper race prejudice as to encourage it.) Unfortunately, however, small minorities like the ones that tried to stop the Hastings lifeboat launching, and individual she-devils like Britain’s current Home Secretary, inevitably give another impression. And who can be certain that that impression is false?