Every morning I wake up in a country that is less welcoming and more racist. Every morning there’s something new, whether it’s scaremongering about people from EU countries coming here (you don’t even need to pay the Sun money to read its xenophobia – the cartoon tells a thousand words, with masses of sinister yellow-eyed dark figures gazing towards poor old white father time) or another politician, of whatever persuasion, pandering to racism and fear.
Earlier this week it was Tristram Hunt doing his bit for the Labour Party, explaining without evidence that migration was responsible for low achievement among ‘white British boys’. Today the Coalition Government – that’s the “Liberal” Democrats and the Conservatives – moots an idea to charge ‘migrants’ for NHS services. Is it kite-flying ahead of the backlash against our supposedly open borders and the much vaunted tidal wave from Bulgaria and Romania? Is it pandering to Ukip voters who might have abandoned the Tories? It doesn’t matter. There will be something else tomorrow. And tomorrow, and tomorrow.
This isn’t my Britain. This isn’t my idea of Britain. We are not overcrowded. We are not overloaded. The Daily Mail the other day described Britain as being ‘a crowded isle’, although somehow that meant making England into an island and ignoring the wide open spaces in Scotland and Wales – conveniently enough. The narrative keeps going. We’re full up, we can’t continue. We have no more room. There isn’t anywhere for newcomers to go. But we’re not full up.
Wages are low and jobs are not secure – but migrants didn’t do it. People are being ripped off and forced to work zero hour contracts – but migrants did not do that either. Thirty years of anti trade union legislation from the Conservatives and New Labour, cheered on by our friends in the press, helped sort all that out, and we didn’t lift a finger to do anything about it. Now we’re stuck with terrible pensions, useless working rights, abysmal wages and if we want to take an employer to a tribunal, we have to pay £1000 for the privilege. All that happened, on our watch. It wasn’t the migrants who did it. We did it to ourselves. Labour, Lib Dem and Tory, we all played our part in making that happen. When we’re working well past 70 and getting nothing for it, we should do well to remember that.
Houses are stupidly expensive, and there isn’t enough social housing to go around – but migrants didn’t do that, either. Again, we did it to ourselves. We decided to elect governments who would stop building social housing so our own homes would rocket in value and we could reap the rewards. Some of us did very nicely out of it; we bought property and made a fortune by charging ridiculous rents to the Government for tenants on benefits. Migrants didn’t make this happen. We did.
And now the change to the NHS comes in, supposedly with the lowest of the low, migrants, as the sole target. But if charging comes in, it will not stay with that marginalised and despised group of people. Once the wedge is in, the other people we have been told to hate will gradually be forced to pay more and more. Then in 30 years’ time we can look back and say, damn those immigrants in 2014, they caused the death of the NHS. But it won’t have been them. It will have been us. We are enabling it. Right now.
And now we want to pull up the drawbridge to cling on to the snivelling wreckage we’ve got left behind. This might be an awful place to live, but it’s our awful place to live. We want to stop anyone else from enjoying the benefits sanctions, homelessness and Atos assessments – that’s all for us and our children’s children to thrive upon, this poisoned atmosphere of hatred, suffering, discrimination and suspicion. Don’t blame us; blame the migrants. They did it to us and we didn’t close the borders soon enough.
This isn’t my Britain. I’m not quite sure whose it is, any longer. A home for tiny-minded mongrels who think they’re pedigrees. A haven for easyJetters who want to pop over to Spain as soon as it gets chilly but who don’t want anyone coming to their beloved Blighty. This is a place where we have willingly given away our own freedoms and our own rights and pretended that someone else snatched them from us.
No-one robbed us. We robbed ourselves. We made choices and these are the consequences – of New Labour, of Thatcherism, of the Coalition. Blame migrants if you can’t bear looking in the mirror, but know this: it has never been their fault and it will never be their fault. If life stinks, it’s because we voted for it to stink. And it will keep stinking until we do something about it. No amount of border controls or charging for the NHS will change that.
This isn’t my Britain, yet it is. I played a part in all of these decisions. I didn’t do enough to stop it from happening. I haven’t fought hard enough. And if I don’t fight now, I can’t complain. I can’t complain, when it all fades away.