A Race into the Gutter

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There's nothing respectable about appeasing the Nazis.

Many years ago I wrote in this column about a judge who had admonished a victim of rape for being provocatively dressed which, in his view, meant that she had contributed to her own downfall. Rape, I argued, seemed to stand alone as the crime where the victim was seen to share responsibility.

However, I was wrong--for it is increasingly clear that victims of racism, victims of tyrannical governments, those who take desperate flight from their homelands, are also being blamed for their own predicament.

The bilious taste that has been left by the French and Dutch elections is creating its own nausea here. Of course we had the horror of BNP Nazi scum winning council seats in Burnley. But what 'respectable politicians' are doing causes as much unease. For it is their response to the racists that can really provide the far right with the room to grow.

The whole history of British immigration law has been outbreaks of pockets of racism, followed by media hysteria, which in turn is followed by further racist immigration controls. This, we were told, would defuse the situation. In fact it has always had the opposite effect. For once mainstream political parties accept the logic of the bigots, the bullies and the out and out fascists, they give that logic a credence and credibility that it does not deserve.

If immigration control is the solution, then as sure as night follows day immigration must be the problem. And from this it is not the fanciful notion of the 'hoards' who have not yet arrived that are worthy of fear and loathing, but the reality of the black and brown faces and foreign accents of those already here. Whether they've been here five weeks or five generations becomes irrelevant--respectable politicians have accepted that they are a problem. It matters little whether that acceptance is coated with honeyed words or is spewed forth in hatred--it has the same impact. In fact the honeyed words merely make it easier for the hatred to be expressed.

Around the time of the sacking of Ann Winterton, the ten-a-penny Tory racist, I heard a number of racists ring up to defend her 'right to free speech'. She was the victim of political correctness, they argued. At least two of them drew comparison with David Blunkett's 'swamped' speech. 'See,' they said, 'Winterton can't tell a joke nor Blunkett the truth without being howled down.' In other words, it was the racists who were drawing succour from Blunkett. Of course he had made a plea for unity against the BNP--nevertheless BNP voters were quoting him approvingly, and identifying him as a victim of the 'race relations lobby'.

The same people, I am sure, will be delighted at Peter Hain, a man who they would have hated as he did his utmost to disrupt and discredit the apartheid regime in South Africa. Now they find him complaining about countries that are a soft touch for asylum seekers, and admonishing sections of the Muslim community for being isolationist.

Forget discrimination in jobs and housing, forget prejudice and bigotry, forget racist policing, or racist attacks--these are not what help isolate certain immigrants. No, like the rape victim, they are the authors of their own misfortune, with their weird religion, dress sense, culinary preferences and languages. This has been precisely the point Nazi leader Nick Griffin has been making.

The likes of Hain and Blunkett will insist that they are having 'an honest debate' and that they are soothing the troubled waters. In fact they are doing nothing of the sort. The honest debate would be to show just how much poorer a country we would be without immigration, be it as political refuge or economic need. The economy, the public services, the food we eat, the books we read, the music we listen to have all been enriched and changed for the better by immigration. What a dull and insular country we would be without it. These things are never said, or if they are they are lost in the headline grabbing admonishments, citizen tests and calls for greater restrictions.

If this is how the government behaves, then what of the Tories? Should we doubt for one minute that a party packed with Ann Wintertons would have any real hesitation to use the race card if it thought it to be a trump at the next election.

I recently saw a copy of the 'Sunday People' in which David Mellor has a column. You remember Mellor--repulsive, Chelsea shirt, sucked toes etc, always pompous and unpleasant, but never particularly associated with the Tory right, or its more racist wing.

Well, here he was writing about the 'race game'. He was, you understand, most concerned that unless we had a proper discussion about racism in Burnley, Oldham and Bradford, it might grow. So what was Mellor's contribution to calming the troubled waters of race? He wrote a column about an 'Albanian illegal immigrant' who beat up and sexually assaulted two teenage virgins.

Throughout the article he used terms like 'riff-raff'. There were, he said, 'dozens of riff-raff walking openly through French marshalling yards'. There was the question, 'Why do we let the riff-raff in?' And it was explained that this assailant was 'just a nasty little straw in a foul wind blowing dross like him all over Europe'.

They were 'scumbags...who often resort to crime for their money and violence for their sex... all costing money that could be spent on hip and heart operations'. That this foul dross could spill from Mellor's pen, has, I have no doubt, got much to do with nasty little straws that seeped out of the mouths of Hain and Blunkett.

With friends like these...