“F*** off back to France.”
Is this the words from your unhinged Uncle after a few whiskeys at a family party? Is it from Timmy ten numbers with an avatar for a Twitter photo somehow finding its way to your increasingly scarring algorithm? Or is this the transcript of a resurfaced video clip from a TV personality in the 90s?
This is a quote from the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, publicly broadcasted in 2023.
Has there been the type of backlash you’d expect from his colleagues? Headline news on our public broadcaster? An immediate statement from the Prime Minister to disassociate himself from the comments? A forced sabbatical to get him out of the limelight?
I repeat the headline… how have we got here.
You might’ve seen photos of this floating accommodation block on socials this week. The kind of thing you’d imagine thousands of, lined up in a row, whilst attempting to picture the dread of communism in obscure Russian villages.
It’ll host 500 male asylum seekers, more than doubling the previous capacity of 222 when providing accommodation for oil and gas workers, while they await the outcome of their applications. A floating “jail,” as one asylum seeker from Syria confidentially told the BBC.
It’s not all bad… they get free buses into the city with tickets to certain events in the local community. They even get a taxi back on the taxpayer if they miss the last bus – ‘luxuries’ which some locals have pointed out can’t be afforded by themselves.
They’d be damned if they do & damned if they don’t offer this… either way it’s meant to pose as a kind of ‘deterrent’ for people crossing the English Channel on small, life-threatening dinghies & help ease the £6m per day cost of housing asylum-seekers.
How this singular barge just off Weymouth even touches the sides on either of these fronts is beyond me… but the Government seem to think it’ll work.
It’s hard to get your head around until you hear Lee Anderson’s reaction, MP for Ashfield and Nottinghamshire. He sent a message out to migrants, telling the Express that: “If they don’t like the barges they can f*** off back to France.”
Now there is an argument to be had about migrants coming from France… it’s often ignorant of the desperation of people actually doing it having links with the language here or simply knowing people in Britain, but there is an argument to be had.
If you’re lost, I’m pointing to the argument that migrants should be discouraged from making this dangerous, potentially (and often so) life-threatening, journey over the English Channel because France is just as safe and welcoming country for people fleeing war. This isn’t a ridiculous thing to be saying necessarily.
Again, this is often ignorant of the obviously desperate, personal circumstances that each migrant finds themselves in. If you’re a young person who’s just left Syria, under the instruction of your parents to head for the UK where you have a friend or family and the locals will be able to understand you better because of the mild understanding of the language… you’re going to do it.
If we halt conversation on the premise of ‘migrants must stop when they reach a safe country’ then countries like Poland and Turkey would not be functioning. We need to help these countries help other countries.
There is also a valid contribution to be had that some of these people crossing the channel may not be fleeing war or dangerous countries and they may just doing it to better their lives in Britain.
And aye, this may be true for an unknown percentage of the English channel crossers… which brings the current, Brexit-championing Government into question about not being able to control our borders despite promises that leaving the EU would do so. It would also bring to light promises of bringing down levels of net migration that leaving the EU was promised to bring, even though it’s going up considerably since then.
The reality is that these politicians don’t know how to approach this. It’s a complex task and a 500-person barge is not going to sort anything.
I’ve suggested having a tailored approach to immigration policy… why don’t we open up more legal routes by offering work to migrants in Scotland? Why don’t we open up freedom of movement in areas other than the south of England in a tailored approach by granting work permits in areas that desperately need more people?
‘Wait but would that… that wouldn’t look like… you’re not suggesting increased devolution, are you? Dear lord, no. Our sacred British nation must not run the risk of anyone suggesting anything remotely sympathetic to increased power to devolved authorities. You’ll turn everyone into raving, nationalist lunatics. God no!’
I’m not actually quoting, of course. But you get the drift. We must look at it through the singular prism of one nation, one decision. Centralisation of Westminster is the only way of protecting us from these maniacal Jocks who need put back in their box. That’s the line from both Labour and Conservatives, even though the suggestion of devolving issues like immigration makes obvious sense. We’ve seen the same pattern of thinking for the drugs issue, as you’ll remember.
So what does this barge mean? What does housing 500 men in this cramped, floating jail do to sort the problem Southern Englanders have with migrants landing on their shores?
Well, one thing it does do is allow Lee Anderson, Deputy Chairman of the ruling political party in Westminster, to come out to the press and say: ‘Don’t like it here? Well, f*** off back to where you came from.’
It’s edged us one bit closer to open racism. It’s contributed ever so slightly to the normalising of language that ‘others’ people. It encourages hateful language, divides people on the issue and therefore conquers political battlegrounds by putting people on their side through emotional blackmail. It gets us talking about an issue that puts Conservatives on one side and everyone else on the other, all the while planting a seed of doubt and guilt in voting for the others come polling day. Don’t you dare betray your country.
Think I’m overanalysing it? Well, why hasn’t the Prime Minister issued an immediate statement condemning that kind of language? Why does Lee Anderson think he can be so careless when discussing the issue? Why are Conservatives sticking up for him, saying his language is just a little “salty” (Alex Chalk) but knowing fine well it erodes standards of public discourse? Imagine Nicola Sturgeon said something like that.
Or more importantly, imagine YOU said something like that at your work. Imagine any public servant, like a teacher or a member of the police force, used language like that in a professional capacity. Be a slightly different story eh?
One rule for them though, I guess.