The Migrant Crisis: The UK Is Trying To Have Its Cake And Eat It Too

Yesterday I wrote about the use of the word “swarm” in relation to the situation at Calais.

Here’s a great piece on the cynical hand the UK is playing

Michael Ingle - Interesting Times

The migrant crisis in Calais has assumed tragic proportions, with several of the people trying to enter the UK having lost their lives in the process.  Attempts by politicians in the UK and France to solve the crisis have so far been fruitless, and David Cameron’s increasing frustration has led him to describe migrants camped in Calais as a ‘swarm’.  Appropriate terminology for a zoo, but far from appropriate for thousands of migrants who are so desperate to reach the UK that many of them are prepared to risk their lives.

The irony of the UK’s position

The position of the UK in this crisis is very ironic.  Calais is by far the most important sea crossing between the UK and the continent.  Our economy depends on it for the transport of huge quantities of exports and imports.  Millions of British residents use it to travel to France and other…

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We need to talk about the word “swarm,” Dave

Earlier today, the Prime Minister used the word “swarm” when describing the many men, women and children trying to gain entry to Europe and ultimately the UK from Northern Africa. 

Dave has been criticised by many for dehumanising the plight of these people; people desperate to escape regimes and conditions far worse than we can imagine, conditions bad enough to risk death crossing the Mediterranean in a dinghy or being crushed beneath a goods lorry at Calais. 

Dave was even criticised by little-Englander Nigel Farage although this was somewhat ironic given that Nigel had used the same word himself earlier this morning in an interview. Nige also gave good anecdote as he told of a migrant trying the back door of his car on a return trip which illustrates just how bad things have got. I mean, we have royally fucked up some countries with our gung-ho foreign policy but to see a car journey with Enoch Farage as a means to a better life? Brutal.

Anyway, I’m not focusing on our “blow it up without consequences” approach to international intervention, what I’d like to look at is quite simple and aimed at those who have come out in support of Cameron and his choice of language. My point is this:

If it is okay to describe this group of people in need as a “swarm” then would it also be okay to use it to describe disabled folk  wanting support from the government? Would it have been okay to describe the tourists waiting to return from Tunisia following the recent attrocity as a “swarm”? What about people demanding access to routine procedures which are now being withheld because of austerity related cuts? Are there enough of them to refer to them as a “swarm”?

No, of course not, that’s ridiculous and so is this language being used to describe anything other than a huge number of insects or perhaps birds or fish. “Large numbers of people” is fine; a term which dehumanises the situation, which stops us thinking of the families and children as individual people needing real help is not. 

Cameron knew what he was saying too. His exact phrase was, “You have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live.” He dressed his comments in the rhetoric of UKIP & the far right, the xenophobic and the inward facing, little better than “bloody foreigners coming over here to take your jobs, wives and benefits.”

The word “swarm” to describe people is not okay. To defend it, to shout about “leftie” sensibilities or to quote a dictionary definition as justification is simply inexcusable.

Could this be the beginning of my brilliant book?

@richmariner is going to write a book – or we’re going to write it for him – donate a sentence or two

All That and a Bag of Chips

Will someone start this for me?Like many people who enjoy writing, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’ve written countless articles for blogs, magazines, programmes, papers and websites, but as of yet I haven’t got round to writing that elusive book. That big, bold, brilliant book that I can call mine, forever – even when I’m dead.

I’ve been ‘free writing’ for over 10 years now. I do it at least two or three times a week, and as a result I have literally a million words to inspire me. But the start won’t come, because I can’t settle on an idea. I’ve written about too many subjects, and not enough about one.

A novel? A crime thriller? Short stories? One of those gimmicky books called How Not To Be A Twat On Trains, illustrated in a way that looks like it’s for children but is actually for adults? (I’ll be honest, that’s my strongest…

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Could the SNP be a viable political party for England and Wales?

Both during the run up to and in the months following the 2015 General Election I watched the progress of the SNP with a touch of envy. Here was a party which was saying what I wanted to hear; a modern take on socialism but along with that an understanding of the needs of businesses in their country, a party wanting to strike a balance between the needs of the people and economic stability.

Of course, I had a problem with their original raison d’etre – Scottish independence – as I want to see Scotland remain part of the UK and I think all the home nations are stronger for it, but aside from that this was a party which spoke to me and whose views were fairly representative of my own.

It wasn’t too long ago that Labour and the Conservatives campaigned together to maintain the Union but now the SNP are a strong party in Westminster, the establishment parties – and I include Labour in that – are calling to exclude Scottish MPs from voting on English matters! Why is that though? Can any matter be truly Scottish or English only given that we have a single currency and so many shared resources and infrastructures?

The Conservatives are obviously scared of a strong, confident party which speaks up for the people; a party which is big enough to influence voting but also one which can influence the thinking of the nation with its strong, clear position on issues such as benefit reform, fox hunting and our nuclear deterrent.

What of Labour? The SNP seem to be presenting a traditional labour viewpoint on many matters but why is the party of the traditional working class so reticent to partner with them? I believe that many in the Labour Party truly believe that their route back to power lies in attracting idle class, middle-England voters from the Conservative Party; A New “New Labour” if you will. After years of being accused of being Tory-lite under Tony Blair many Labour figures such as Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt and Harriet Harman now seem to see this as their way forward rather than looking to their core party values and membership.

The rapid rise of Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates that party members new and old see him as being in touch with their core values, despite him being perhaps slightly too “left” for some.Party members recognise in him a sense of decency and a wish to do the right thing for those most in need. They see someone sharing some common ground with past Labour leading lights such as Tony Benn and John Smith and maybe even Dennis Skinner; someone willing to stand up and carry the fight across the floor of the commons without fearing a negative response from the right wing press.

Newly elected SNP MP Mhairi Black in her now famous maiden speech quite openly told the few Labour MPs present that the SNP was founded on the same strong socialist values of the Labour Party of old. The SNP were offering a hand to the Labour Party and many voters would have looked to them and said, “That’s it, that’s what we want!” but the Labour leadership are undecided, unsure of what they are, what they could be or even what they want to be.

So, is there a chance that the SNP could become a valid party for the other home nations? This article on a surge in SNP membership South of the border would seem to suggest it can.

The SNP message is attractive to voters from several parties – Green, Labour, Lib Dem and also Conservative. A party pushing for a more inclusive, fairer society. A welfare system which recognises that poverty and benefits might not be the lifestyle choice that the rhetoric of other politicians might seem to suggest. A party which sees a renewed, conventional nuclear deterrent as faintly ridiculous given the talk of a need to balance the books and wipe out the deficit.

In Nicola Sturgeon the SNP have a credible leader who refuses to be bullied, who doesn’t toe the establishment line and speaks out for those who need support. Is it a credible alternative though? Sturgeon performed incredibly well in televised debates in the lead up to the election and opinion pole ratings showed a party on a par with some established UK wide parties despite the fact that relatively few people could vote for them. I believe the SNP can build on May’s results and I also believe (and hope) that the quest for Scottish independence will be replaced by a party striving for a more Democratic UK, a more inclusive UK and an altogether more positive UK.

How long will it be before we see an SNP candidate South of the border? Only time will tell but many of us will be watching with interest.

A Letter to my MP on Changes to the Benefits System

Dear Mel Stride,

Just a quick note to say that as a constituent and citizen I am shocked
and disappointed that the way the chancellor has proposed to implement
cuts to the benefits system.

I pay tax and have paid tax for many years and am more than happy to do
so. I believe that a society has a duty to support those in need but I
strongly resent changes to taxation which benefit those who are wealthy
enough to not need additional help whilst those at the lower end of the
pay spectrum bear the brunt. The assertion that “we are all in it
together” and that we must all contribute in order to reduce the
deficit rings a little hollow while cuts to the incomes of working
families seem to offset changes to inheritance tax and the higher rate
of tax.

Surely the way to implement this would be in a way which supports
rather than penalises families and workers – to drive changes to
employment and to raise the minimum wage to the point where as much
employment as possible pays a true living wage? As wages rise then the
demand on the benefits system would surely decrease as families would
need and claim less but instead we seem to be making cuts based on an
ideology and rhetoric rather than supporting those worst affected.

The token announcement of a living wage to be in place by 2020 but cuts
and changes being in place long before seems like a token offering to
soften the blow but one which few are falling for.

I know many people see those depending on the benefits as “scroungers”
and that it is a lifestyle choice, a life of “something for nothing”
while the rest of us work to support them but I believe that view is as
outdated as it is incorrect. The austerity of the last 5 years and
further measures coming our way despite warning by organisations such
as the IMF, has left many struggling to get by. I find myself donating
more to charity than ever before but to charities nearer to home, to
organisations plugging the gaps such as foodbanks rather than animal
welfare. The fact that we as a wealthy nation have so many living in
poverty, including children (and changing the way we classify poverty
does not change a thing!)  is surely a disgrace. We should be ashamed
and like with many things rise above party politics and aim for a
stronger, more inclusive society.

I know that you cannot influence this directly of course nor are there
are votes or debates imminent where this might be discussed but as per
previous correspondence if I do not write then my voice won’t be heard.

Yours sincerely,

Rich Mills

A Letter to my MP on Changes to the Hunting Act

There is a lot in the news right now about changes to the 2004 Hunting Act, specifically to allow hunters to use a full pack of hounds to flush out foxes for the purposes of pest control. Currently only a pair of dogs may be used.

Dr Brian May and many others are campaigning tirelessly on this as many, myself included see this as a way of returning to full hunting with dogs. A cynic might also think that this is a change being pushed through by a Conservative party looking to appease landowners, donors, friends and countryside voters still aggrieved since the act became law 10 years ago.

If the government wants to repeal the act then propose to do it in full rather than weaken and dilute it and then debate it and vote freely!

I’ve written to my MP to let him know my feelings, as below. Take the time to do the same if you feel strongly about it or they will never know what you think.

Dear Mel Stride,

I hope this finds you well. I am writing to you regarding the forthcoming vote on changes to the hunting act. As I understand it the amendment is to bring us in line with Scotland where a full pack of hounds can be used to flush out a fox before shooting it rather than a pair currently.

I agree with many campaigners that this will lead to a return to full hunting rather than aiding pest control; that hunts will quickly be able to return to the old ways of full, traditional meets chasing down a fox rather than a scent trail.

The argument seems to be framed as “the countryside” vs. “lefty” animal rights campaigners, that those in towns don’t understand the need to manage the countryside and its wildlife and that can often lead to it being a left vs. right argument or Labour vs. Conservative which i think is wrong and also a shame that either side might look to simplify it so.

As I remember, the vote on the hunting act in 2004 was complicated and the culmination of many years of proposals but now it is law I believe it would be a backward step to ease the law and potentially allow full hunting to resume.

I understand the need to control certain species but believe that this can be done humanely, with no element of “sport” and without a sense of enjoyment in the hunting to exhaustion and killing of a terrified animal with a pack of dogs. I also do not believe that any of the previous arguments about tradition, a country way of life or the economic impact of not hunting can apply any longer given that it is now 10 years since the act became law.

I obviously don’t know your thoughts on this, you were not an MP at the time of the original vote, but I do know that you like to know and will bear in mind your constituents feelings when voting or discussing with the Whips office.

Yours sincerely,

Rich Mills