Eunomia · Britain


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Sayeeda Warsi, given a peerage by David Cameron to enable her to join his front bench as spokesman on cohesion, has taken on the issue head on, volunteering her view that immigration has been “out of control” and that people feel “uneasy” about the pace of immigration into Britain. Her intervention has outraged black groups who say she is using the language of the BNP. It also threatens to derail Mr Cameron’s attempts to shake off the Conservatives’ “nasty-party” image, while exposing divisions between left and right.

“What this country has a problem with is not people of different kinds coming into this country and making a contribution, but the problem that nobody knows who is coming in, who is going out – the fact that we don’t have a border police; we don’t have proper checks; we don’t have any idea how many people are here, who are unaccounted for,” she says. “It’s that lack of control and not knowing that makes people feel uneasy, not the fact that somebody of a different colour or a different religion or a different origin is coming into our country.” As her press officer squirms in his chair, she continues: “The control of immigration impacts upon a cohesive Britain.”

Warming to her theme, she declares that the decision to house large groups of migrants on estates in the north of England “overnight” has led to tension in local communities. Similar tensions have been found in the London in Barking and Dagenham, where the far right has been making political in-roads. “The pace of change unsettles communities,” she says.

Lady Warsi’s outspoken intervention is somewhat surprising as she is the daughter of immigrants herself [bold mine-DL]. Her father is a former Labour-supporting mill-worker from Pakistan who, after making a fortune in the bed and mattress trade, switched his allegiance to the Tories. The lawyer, 36, who is married with a nine-year-old daughter, devoted her early career to improving race relations, helping to launch Operation Black Vote in Yorkshire and sitting on various racial justice committees. So her analysis of race relations on the eve of the Tory conference cannot be dismissed as a right-wing rant [bold mine-DL].

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Lady Warsi claims that the conspiracy of silence on the subject of immigration plays into the hands of the far-right British National Party.

“The BNP will look at what issue it is locally that they can exploit and the other political parties are not seen to be dealing with and they will play to that,” she says. Far from ignoring the issue of immigration, she thinks it should be confronted head on. “I think we need to have the debate. One of the problems why the BNP has been allowed to grow is sometimes certainly the Labour Party took the view that if we ignore them they will just go away,” she says.

But while BNP supporters, including the English National Ballet dancer Simone Clarke, have been sharply criticised for backing a racist party, Lady Warsi says that BNP voters should be listened to. “The BNP and what they represent, they clearly have a race agenda; they clearly have a hate agenda. But there are a lot of people out there who are voting for the British National Party and it’s those people that we mustn’t just write off and say ‘well, we won’t bother because they are voting BNP or we won’t engage with them’,” she says.

Indeed, she says, people who back the extreme-right party, criticised for its racist and homophobic agenda, may even have a point. “They have some very legitimate views. People who say ‘we are concerned about crime and justice in our communities – we are concerned about immigration in our communities’,” she said. ~The Independent

This has apparently annoyed many people in Britain (not least of which was probably David Cameron, who wanted his conference week to be blissfully free of anything remotely interesting).  What could the shadow community cohesion minister be thinking, talking about, well, community cohesion like this?  How could someone whose career has been in race relations make statements about, er, race relations?  Obviously, it is considered unpardonable to suggest that immigration restriction or even modest reform is legitimate, which is why these remarks are even considered that noteworthy, and it is considered even worse when it is done by the daughter of immigrants, even though it cannot be dismissed as easily when she says it.  Not just a “right-wing rant,” you see, because no daughter of immigrants could actually have come intellectually to see any reasonableness in ”right-wing” views.  (It is the fact that it cannot be dismissed out of hand, as would normally be done, that I think really vexes Baroness Warsi’s critics.)  If all immigrantss started assimilating and respecting the opinions of their fellow citizens, where would it lead? 

All this makes a murderous backdrop for what will be Mr Cameron’s second, and possibly last, conference as Tory party leader. He was the future, once. Now we are in the extraordinary position where serious Tories talk about Mr Cameron being gone by Christmas, after losing an autumn election — and ask whether the Tory party would survive in its current form, or be torn apart by a modernisers-versus-traditionalists war. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that, if Mr Cameron fails, the party may face an existential crisis. ~Fraser Nelson 

A party conference can be many things: a show of confidence, an agonising reappraisal or, as in this case, a series of auditions by pretenders to the throne while the lost leader withers before our very eyes. ~Francis Urquhart

 

Seventy-two per cent of the American public disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war and 76 per cent believe that the ‘surge’ is not improving matters. Even normally loyal Republicans are making clear that their patience is limited. A rapid British withdrawal would therefore make the Bush administration’s position politically untenable. One senior Republican congressman warns, ‘If Britain pulls out, it’s game over.’ In these circumstances, the update on the progress of the surge that the new US commander, General Petraeus, is due to deliver in September would become largely academic. Bush would not just be a lame duck; he would be a paralysed president, with Congress refusing to fund the war except on its terms. ~James Forsyth

This would be a very bold move in an area of policy where Brown has no particular claim to credibility or ability.  That is one reason why I am skeptical that he will do it.  In my estimation, Brown seems to like to be in control of a situation and does not normally seem to be one given to rash or precipitous moves.  If others are urging him to make this decision, he will hold off and make it in his own good time.  It would be enormously popular, but it would also cause him to be compared unflatteringly in Atlanticist papers with Spanish PM Zapatero (the last left-wing leader who pulled out of Iraq immediately after taking office).  The Economist would tut-tut, The Financial Times would wag its finger, the Times would shake its head, the Telegraph would go absolutely ballistic and the Mail would be, well, the Mail.  There are virtually no actual war supporters left in Britain (it has collapsed to the low teens in recent polling), but this establishment reaction wouldn’t be about support for the war.  It would be a reaction against the perceived slight against Washington and the endangerment of the connection with America.  Indeed, the more significance observers regard Brown’s decision as having, the more likely the establishment reaction to his decision will be negative.  Poland can withdraw its troops because there is no sense that Poland was that vital to the overall effort; Spain can pull out and not be missed.  When Britain pulls out, not even neocons in all their Churchillophilia will be able to stifle cries of “perfidious Albion”–indeed the Churchillophiles will be among the first to condemn Brown as a new Chamberlain.  Britons will love Brown for this.  Many in the establishment, whether or not they actually agree with the substance of the decision, will not be pleased.  

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Sixty years on, the attitude of Londoners towards Americans is radically different [bold mine-DL].  After September 11, 2001, the U.S. Embassy building in Grosvenor Square was supplied with large concrete barriers and bollards to ward off a car or truck bomb. Armed policemen patrol day and night and unsuccessful efforts were made to turn some streets into no-entry zones. ~Carol Gould

The first time I read this, I thought, “That makes no sense, I must have missed something.  How does that show anything about the attitude of Londoners?”  Then I read it again and I realised that the Standard had outdone itself when it comes to fits of crazy anti-European rhetoric.  Even Clive Davis finds it a bit odd.

The problem here, of course, is that all U.S. embassies around the world experienced massive increases in security in the wake of the largest terrorist attack in American history.  Why might that have happened?  Could it be that the government was not so much concerned about unruly yobbish mobs blowing up the front gate as they were concerned to avoid repeats of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam?  No, it’s obviously the evil-minded Londoners who wanted to ram bomb-laden trucks into the side of the building.  (Of course, there were and still are potential terrorists in Britain, but they are not exactly, shall we say, West Enders.  Ms. Gould could talk about the Britons who actually do hate America, but that could get dicey and involve all sorts of deviations from the party line.) 

The next bit of the article is not much better, blaming neighbours of the embassy for being concerned that their neighbourhood might enjoy the sort of explosive attentions the IRA paid to the financial center of London in 1993.  These people have probably overreacted and embarrassed themselves, but it is not difficult to understand why the residents of Mayfair don’t want a prime potential terrorist target literally in their frontyard.  It is, after all, their country and their neighbourhood.  If The Weekly Standard doesn’t like it, they can go cry to their best friend Tony, for whom probably large proportions of the Mayfair protesters voted in the last general.  Frankly, it’s easy to belittle people in central London from the bowels of the AEI building, and if there are British citizens who have hardly distinguished themselves with stoicism and hardy endurance there isn’t much tolerance at the Standard and similar vehicles for anything resembling independence of thought by Europeans.

Take the next item: complaining about opposition to an American trying to buy Arsenal.  First of all, any sensible person knows that you don’t want to buy Arsenal, for goodness’ sakes–you would want to buy a respectable team.  (I will be now be deluged with death threats.)  If the people who own Arsenal don’t want to sell a controlling stake to an American, that seems to me to be a legitimate business decision.  Having endured the delights of foreign oligarchs from Russia buying up football teams, it might be that football owners and fans have had quite enough of making their national sport into a field for foreign venture capitalism.  If Canadians or Brits tried to buy an NFL franchise or, an even more serious threat to national pride, a NASCAR team, the American sports media would raise holy hell over it and every conservative would throw a fit about how “those people” don’t know anything about our football.  This has the virtue of being true.  As for the whining about too many stairs and no A/C in the Tube–suck it up!

The last time I was in Britain, which was admittedly eight years ago now, I was shocked at how accommodating and Americanised people had become.  People in London were short-tempered and rude, as almost all big city people are, but most Britons were decent, pleasant people who gave us no grief.  Yes, this was pre-9/11, pre-Bush, pre-Iraq, but what stunned me was that the once unforgiveable crime of putting ice in tea had become a commonplace thing.  In spite of what they must have regarded as an evil importation of bad taste, the British have accepted iced tea and now do not stare at you uncomprehendingly when you request it.  I don’t know whether it is actually progress–some might take it as proof that Britain really has gone down the drain–but it seems bizarre to regard the British today as being more anti-American than many of them were at the height of the CND days.  The main examples Ms. Gould uses are examples where Britons are reacting against symbols of American wealth and power, which always put people on edge in every corner of the world when they are wielded by foreigners in your own country.  It may not be terribly edifying, but there is nothing strange about it, nor is it necessarily representative of seem broader shift in British attitudes.  They are not turning against Americans or America as such, and therein lies all the difference in the world.       

Tony Blair’s leadership of the Labour Party concludes on 10 May.  The people rejoice!

Via The Debatable Land