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Dithering Dave and the refugees

I detest the term “game-changing“, but the wide publication of the little body of Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach touched millions of hearts coarsened by decades of anti-immigrant racism and hysteria. Having obstinately set his face against taking more refugees, Dave and his pitiful government were shamed by the huge numbers taken in by Germany, and a rare united front by the press (excepting the Express, and the Daily Star for whom the latest Big Brother was more newsworthy) who turned on his unsympathetic response to the crisis. Matters weren’t helped either by Yvette Cooper exploiting the government’s difficulties – perhaps the only leadership candidate to do so during the contest. It is to be hoped then that if any good is to come out of this tragedy, and the nameless stories of suffering and loss that go untold, let it be a stake through the toxic attitudes to refugees and migrants once and for all.
This shift caught the government on the hop. While the Labour leadership contest captured the commentariat’s attention, the tabloids in particular spent the summer whipping up hate toward the three thousand or so refugees camped in Calais. Stories abounded of men jumping onto trains, hiding in storage containers, clinging beneath lorries … and of holidaymakers inconvenienced during their short Eurostar hop over to Paris. The BBC got in on the act showing how the refugees lived, and profiling their determination to get into Britain. This allowed Dave to show the “strong leadership” trailed heavily by the Borg-like message discipline of the general election. A little bit of hand-wringing was allowed to acknowledge the plight of Syrians and Mediterranean boat people, before Dave “got tough”, rhetorically speaking, with the French for lax security around the port and Channel Tunnel entrance. Aspersions were cast on their bona fides. After all, wouldn’t a genuine refugee claim asylum in the first safe country they landed in? The PM showed “leadership” by offering assistance with security, and reassured the baying press that “the swarm” would not be reaching British shores, no matter how bad it got across the Channel. Being strong against the weak about sums it up.

And then that photo. All of a sudden, the plight of refugees braving the Med went from insects scurrying toward Britain’s shores to desperate people fleeing war. Completely unprepared for this about turn in popular attitudes, Dave did what came naturally: he dithered. Now, I’m not one to talk about dithering seeing as I’ve had a recent bout of the undecideds as well, but for Dave it’s a characteristic of his premiership. He dithered over energy prices. He dithered over the 2014 floods. His government are dithering still over Universal Credit. And, in-keeping with the ruling tone, the Chilcott Report is setting new records for procrastination.

Dave’s paralysis all of last week, and yesterday’s miserable announcement that the UK would be prepared to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years has triangulation stamped all over it. After getting an easy press ride all summer, he was mindful of right wing raggery turning on him at the moment they could be running blood-curdling smears about Jeremy Corbyn. Worse, too much sympathy and this hard right flanks becomes dangerously exposed to UKIP. They might be suffering at the moment, but persistent anti-immigrant bile and Europhobia will surely see a return to form in the not too distant. And as Dave wants to win the EU referendum, stoking their fires is the last thing he wants to do. Yet, at the same time, our Dave isn’t nasty. Believe it or not, putting the poor under the Tory kosh is tough love – what His Royal Blairness used to call “compassion with a hard edge”. He knows what’s bad for them is what’s best for them. Appearing callous in the week public opinion changed made this posture impossible to sustain without severe reputation damage. Hence the dogs dinner we’re left with. 20,000 is too many for the bigots. It’s too few for anyone not undergone a compassion bypass.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

Image credit: UNWRA


  1. David Ellis says:

    The liberal imperialists and their useful idiots in the pro-Putin left are evacuating the only people that could provide the personnel to defeat ISIS and Assad on the ground whilst volunteering the rest of us for infinite levels of immigration which is going to result in a major right wing backlash. This is done in the name of the rapprochment deal with Iran that has already resulted in 100s of thousands of Syrian deaths and millions of refugees.

    At least `Dave’ has pledged to take `our quota’ directly from the camps by selecting the most vulnerable rather than as the Germans have done simply and suddenly declaring a relaxation of visa requirement triggering a stampede and a veritable Klondike for the people smuggling gangsters ensuring only those with the sharpest elbows and the deepest pockets can run.

  2. Bazza says:

    Yes dithering Tories.
    I made the mistake today of looking at the comments on the BBC website and it must have been a BNP 3 line Whip!
    I have never read such right wing bloodlust and racism but if any of the posters had been critical thinkiers perhaps they would have wondered why the Tories announced now that it had killed a British IS member in a drone attack?
    Is it because the Tories are in a mess re their handling and solutions for the refugee crisis and needed a distraction plus felt they had to feed sections of the public some meat.
    They have been sat on this for a few months so why make it public now?
    I wonder if it is just one of the things they had in store if a certain person wins as Labour Leader?
    Of course you have to do everything to protect British citizens but as a rational and civilised society it has to be legal, have checks and counter balances, and have a Commons mandate.
    It has been heartwarming to see the recent outbreaks of humanity from many people in Europe though sadly not from all.
    Yours in peace and international solidarity!

  3. swatantra says:

    Its a nonsense to suggest that Europe and the World are responsible for the plight of half the population of Syria decamping abroad, While we are at it, why not encourage the other half to flee Syria and leave that country completely empty of Syrians.
    Its about time the Syrians turned on their oppressors and ousted them, even if it means sacrificing their own lives.

    1. Robert says:

      God help the labour party with people like you in it.

      1. swatantra says:

        You are not even a member, so save your prayers.

  4. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    A silly article; unhelpful in it’s tone and also in it’s tired assumption that some kind of presumed moral high ground exists on this topic, and furthermore that this is occupied by the Labor party or by the disaster capitalism lobby; as exemplified by the various charities and is driven by compassion and not by their financial interests.

    Without being gratuitously callous about this, but contrast the kind of, “middle class,” indignation, maudlin and typically saccharine, that the, “marketing,” of the unnecessary and tragic death of this very photogenic little boy is presumed to have generated; with the sheer brutal indifference to the thousands of deaths here in the UK, (possibly as high as 1200 at Mid Staffs,) being caused by DW&P policy, policy that was introduced by Labor in first place.

    Personally neither I nor anyone else that I know personally seem really want to have yet more refugees pouring into this country, in addition to all the others already here.

    Much as we might wish to help, (and the best and only real help we can offer people like this poor unfortunate child, would be to stop bombing Syria at the behest of the US and to bring the troops that are involved and the RAF home,) we’re now a very small, increasingly overcrowded, island in the North Atlantic, with insufficient employment or accommodation for everyone already here.

    All our public services, on which we all depend are already overstretched, underfunded and under massive operational strain and sustained political attack, so quite how the placing of another huge and additional strain on them, from yet another, “high need,” group of potentially very damaged and traumatized survivors can possibly benefit anyone at all is baffling?

    In fact it’s kind of insane.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      The political line on the admission of a large tranche of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants into the UK; is one thing and it’s completely unconnected with and unrealistic about the frequently negative real life experiences of many people who come into contact with them in all kinds of situations.

      But once again the problem here at least as the out of touch Labor party perceives it isn’t this policy of national self harm, it;s the attitude of the voters, wrong and mistaken.

      For the record, during my lifetime and as far as I’m concerned, the whole multicultural experiment, increasingly traduced, slandered and maligned has been a huge success, but it now risks coming unraveled because of stupid policies like uncontested mitigation into the UK, which is effectively importing unemployment, violence, ignorance and poverty into the UK whilst at same time exporting prosperity.

  5. Jim Denham says:

    On a related topic: interesting to note that, for the Morning Star, when it’s a choice between alleviating the plight of refugees, or the opportunity to denounce the EU, denunciation of the EU takes priority:

  6. David Pavett says:

    Phil B-C argues that Cameron is in a political bind over the refugee crisis. Indeed he is. The humanisation of the plight of the refugees through the photograph of Aylan Kurdi has led to some Tories demanding a more generous response while others remain stuck in the “swarm” mentality.

    However, critisising the Government is the easy bit but as soon as that is done we should surely move on to explaining how an alternative policy would work. When we do that we find that from the centre-left to the left the “alternatives” range from arguing for admitting 10, 000 Syrians (Cooper) to a general call to comply with UN agreements but with no specifics (Corbyn).

    When we go from the refugee crisis to the more general question of immigration the situation is not much clearer with Cooper calling for tougher but smarter controls as well as an EU top-up fund for countries with a net inflow (I.e. accepting that controls won’t work) while Corbyn is unable to get beyond repeating that immigration is a good thing.

    We can enjoy the Tory travails over refugees/immigration but we should then pass on quickly to trying to start a serious discussion about the mass population movements. So far the left has not been good at this. It is so much easier to fall back on abstract humanistic rhetoric and criticising the the racism of the right. Unfortunately that is not enough to make a meaningful policy.

  7. Jim Denham says:

    It is obvious that the only possibility of resolving the present migration crisis in a fair, humane and rational manner will involve more European co-operation and integration.

    Migrants should be allocated between EU member states on the basis of a country’s wealth, size and number of those already settled of the same heritage. This approach would involve any resettlement being arranged immediately after the application is made, to ensure a family or individual isn’t wrenched away from somewhere they’ve come to regard as home. It would almost certainly have to happen before an application is either approved or rejected, with all the difficulties that entails for cross-border information sharing and language barriers. It would also mean countries that have previously experienced low levels of immigration having to accept more. As has been shown by both the deal forced on the Greeks and the unsuccessful attempt to agree a similar agreement earlier this year, such solidarity is not always forthcoming: more EU integration is the only possible way forward.

    The reason Cameron oppose any such arrangement is that it would mean taking in more asylum seekers. The Tories put cutting immigration figures and being seen to oppose European integration ahead of seeking a rational and humane solution. So, it seems does the Morning Star and the anti-EU “left”.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      “More EU integration is the only possible way forward, blah, blah, blah, blah………………….”

      It’s pretty likely after reading your post above, that you haven’t even begun to understand the bigger picture here; which are the geopolitical forces, (war and poverty; created by being American economic and foreign and economic policy,) driving these movements, some of which seem almost to be land clearances, (remember the history of the Scots or of the indigenous Americans for 2 examples of what I mean.)

      10 years ago there were reasonably modern and stable and effective central governments, (we may not have liked them that much but we could trade with them and to some extent even influence their policy,) in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but we got rid of those.

      With wisdom of hindsight, was that really such a good idea?

      1. Jim Denham says:

        “It’s pretty likely after reading your post above, that you haven’t even begun to understand the bigger picture here” … I can assure you, Mr Craig-Weston, that I do. What the rest of your banal and inconsequential ramblings have to do with finding a solution to the immediate humanitarian crisis that faces us, is something I readily admit to *not* understanding, however.

        1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

          A dull, pedestrian and perhaps entirely predictable response, but I note that you still haven’t answered the question I posed at the end of my, “banal and inconsequential ramblings?”

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