There has been a lot of talk of this in relation to the recent EU referendum, with Brexiters being accused of being anti foreigners, little Englanders, etc. Whilst there are of course elements of this mindset here, as everywhere, I have spoken to a lot of people who want limits on immigration but who do not fit this stereotype.
Brexiters tend to be older, and a number of people talk of how they have been told to work and save hard for retirement, and have done their best to do so, but are now appalled at the number of people coming here who are getting benefits they and their families have not contributed to. They feel betrayed, and see basic services such as hospitals, housing and social services overwhelmed. Schools start term having to accept lots of children whose existence they knew nothing of, and who often speak no English.
The British do not lack compassion for the poor in other countries; as a nation they have founded and funded loads of worthwhile charities, especially those fleeing war, but bringing them here is a very expensive option which will put more pressure on a system which is already failing.
There also seems to be a problem with the use of the term ‘racism’, as it is often abused. I have a particular abhorrence of being pestered in the street by charities etc. I do my best to avoid them and make it clear by my body language that I am not interested. But this doesn’t always work.
A member of a religious group followed me as I tried to steer away from him, and he tried to force a flyer into my hand. I glanced at it, wasn’t interested, and tried to hand it back to him. He accused me of being ‘some kind of racist’ for not wanting to read it.
On a rainy day a woman was obstructing a footpath with a suitcase and bags; I was in a hurry to get past and unwilling to step into the road, so I pushed past her. She accused me of being a racist. I might accept that I was a bit bad tempered, but that was not about race.
Many schools struggle to deal with the wide range of languages spoken by pupils and their families, with many starting school with no knowledge of English and poor social skills. For parents who spend so much effort reading to their kids and encouraging them to learn, they find their kids held back in their education.
This letter in Saturday’s i is really disturbing:
“Many years got when I was headmistress of an east London school I had a phone cal from a mother who asked me if she could come to see me, though she didn’t live in the catchment area. i agreed and when she arrived she told me that her five-year-old little girl was the only English speaker in her reception class.She hated going to school as she couldn’t relate to the other children and had no friends. She asked if I’d be willing to admit her daughter to my school where 50 per cent were English speakers.
I assured her tit was all right as far as I was concerned but the local authority (Labour) had the ideas and wouldn’t permit the transfer, saying it was based on racist grounds.
This is an example of the way politicians haven’t listened to working people, they’ve simply labelled them ‘racist’ if they post out very real problems.”
This woman was probably forced to either move house or – more drastic – to home school her child. Ridiculous.
I also had a conversation with some people who live in the Welsh valleys, traditionally a Labour heartland. They told me of a meeting they attended with their Labour MP. They kept asking him to fix things for them but he kept saying he wasn’t allowed to do that. They were utterly frustrated with the level of control that central office held over him, and wondered what was the point of voting for him. They are the type of people who voted for UKIP, who are now being labelled as ignorant racists, but they are part of a large group who have been ignored by our leaders, and who are not anti-Europe, but they took the opportunity to oppose Cameron who has spent years imposing austerity on them, destroying jobs and communities, and who then had the nerve to ask them to support him in Europe. As a journalist wrote, he offered the poor and the dispossessed a free hit and they gave him a bloody nose.
There is now a petition online to get the referendum re-run as so many people voted to leave but now acknowledge they did not believe it would happen and merely wanted to protest against the government. Some sources say the referendum is not legally binding, and the force of nature known as Nicola Sturgeon is investigating ways to challenge it, so the results may – and should be – reversed. It is now becoming clear the exit campaigners have no idea what to do next, and many of the gains they claimed were purely guesswork. So many people voted on the basis of misinformation. Sp we seem to have had an Election-Macelectionface situation. As with the naming of the polar exploration boat, there is hope for common sense emerging.
I think it was Thatcher who cut the connection between local councillors becoming MPs, though the trend became marked under Blair, with the rise of university graduates and outsiders running for office. As with The States, there is a real sense of frustration felt by many that in a supposed democracy, so many voices are not being heard.
Maybe Brexit will act as a wakeup call to our leaders to stop leaning on PR and listening to the electorate.
Maybe this will be a chance to clear out some of the dead wood and get some genuine representatives into power.
Maybe hell will freeze over.