Hurrah for the off-switch!

Many moons ago, our political leaders would bleat;

Don’t trust the BNP! They’re horrible, the BNP! They manipulate figures on immigration and misrepresent the truth and whip up fear! BOO THE BNP! BOO THEM!

This was necessary leading upto the 2009 European Parliament elections, because this was the time of the BNP actually looking organised for once, with the Labour government dancing around an orchestra of innuendo and the Conservatives still elbowing each other with hints about ‘thinking what we’re thinking.” It all came to naught, in a way, as Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons became elected parliamentarians, a result which led to the inevitable demise of the BNP, but that’s perhaps a story for another entry…

The aftermath of 2009 and all that was shown for all its glory with the fall of Phil Woolas. Using the Labour Party’s innate ability to speak the language of race and immigration with all the subtle undertones of a firework being thrown through a takeaway. It was the style at the time.

We wouldn’t be in the position where all three party leaders have to play some kind of Navy-based wang measuring contest were it not for two factors; the Census and UKIP.

Let’s start with the Census. We’re less Christian and less white than at any time in modern history, and nobody outside Fox News thinks that’s one of those bad things we keep hearing about. Oh no, hang on, they’ve just copied a Daily Mail article in full. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?

I’ve not considered the reduction of a white, Christian population on these islands anything of a bad thing for as long as I can remember. But I was young when an Ugandan Asian family moved into a considerably white part of council-estate Preston, so my first experience of ‘immigration’ was a family where a woman whose name was difficult to pronounce made a living cutting hair in their conservatory, and that’s not the “coming over here, claiming our benefits” truth right from the start.

The growth of UKIP is not directly linked to the demise of the BNP, though the coincidence of the timing might as well have been written by a soap opera script consultant. “Let’s pair up the end of one career with the start of another,” they say, pushing a doting father under a bus and dragging an attractive and available doctor through the door. And so here comes Farage, all dressed up, tanned and nowhere to go.

Using the same tricks as the BNP, the sound of drums coming out of the election leaflets pushed through the doors of Eastleigh suggested that 38 million Bulgarians and Romanians were about to leap in a single bound over the English Channel. Wholly inappropriate, wholly scare-mongering and misleading. Such is the immigration debate, though, and the level to which all parties feel it’s necessary to plunge whenever it’s mentioned.

Armed with spades and helmets, off the main party leaders go to ape Farage and his immigrant mouth-frothing. Does a bell go off in their heads, I wonder? Do blood-stained words flash in front of their eyes? MUST SOUND TOUGH ON IMMIGRATION.

It’s counter-productive because the sound  of all British political leaders saying exactly the same sort of misleading, misrepresenting anti-everything is EXACTLY the things which keep Indian University students heading to the USA. And that’s saying something when the US has a more attractive attitude towards immigrants than Britain. It’s the opposite of “better the devil you know”, to an almost perverted degree. But when you’ve gone from “Don’t listen to the BNP, they mislead you on immigration” to “Frankly, this country has become a soft touch.” then you’ve made the leap into exactly the territory you wanted to avoid only a few years ago. It would be like football fans happily sitting down amongst away fans, whilst still chanting their own songs.

Parading in front of us within a fortnight has been Nick Clegg talking about “cash bonds” for immigrants, Ed Miliband pledging to dissuade people from taking low-paid jobs, and Cameron making a speech on the horrors of letting people in which has been effectively ripped apart by his own side. Yawn-a-rama, guys, you’re not convincing anyone.

This country would grind to a halt without the work of people born outside the UK. Indeed foreign workers are over-represented in both the very highest and very lowest professional sectors. It’s not any foreign person’s problem that the native population have chosen to focus on employment opportunities in the middle. If the opinion is, “they come over here taking our jobs”, I can only respond with “they’re taking the jobs nobody else applies for.”

Over-arching all of this, for me, is the big neon-lit sign flashing “I DON’T ACTUALLY CARE”. (I’m not sure how much neon costs for so many words plus apostrophe). Maybe it’s because I had to stop listening whenever my Dad began his anti-everything rant, or because I’ve grown up thinking more about lightbulbs than the exact percentage of non-Britons living here. I’ve tried to care, it’s just the inevitability of the topic being reduced to some gross name-calling tennis match. Our political leaders should know better to keep blowing dog whistles, particularly when the shrill only attracts a minority of voters and a majority of non-voters. The tracksuited circus that is the very splintered far-right won’t be won over by Ed Miliband saying “Immigrants are bad, k?”, it makes no sense to try. Why should all three parties – LibDems in particular – swerve to the right on an issue which actually helps the British economy more than it harms?

I love watching people tiptoe around bank bonuses and high-tax rates on the basis that the City of London could move to Zurich within months, whilst merrily throwing hospital cleaners and bin-men on the next train home. If this country loses its financial heart, there will be trouble, I understand that. I’d love to see how a specific region would suffer, never mind the whole country, if low-paid immigrants were suddenly ordered to pack their bags.

It’s just so much fluff and nonsense. I expect whinging against people willing to come here to suffer colder weather and terrible food just for the sake of a better job from that subsection of obsessed numpties who have “PROUD ENGLISHMAN” as their middle name on Facebook. I’m not one of those wishy-washy, bring down the borders libertarian type, but neither am I happy or comfortable to watch the Tabloid Corps of our ruling classes playing top trumps with peoples lives. If clever, qualified, educated people are dissuaded from coming here in fear of being labelled as “a dirty immigrant” from the Prime Minister downwards, then well done to all involved when the exact result you wanted turns out to be exactly what you get. We don’t need to frame this debate in terms of “immigrants verses native”, but that’s what we’ve got. And why?

Because it’s easier to follow Nigel Farage than it is to turn off his microphone. That’s more depressing than whether the head of year at a local school is Latvian.

Takeway Getaway

Thirty minutes from my house, a ‘hybrid’ takeaway sells kebabs, curries, (halal) pizzas and….BUTTER PIES. If that isn’t multiculturalism in action, what is? Okay, so it’s not high-end restaurant eating but it is an indication all the same. Economic migration into the country has signs of positive consequences across the country, none more so than in food and cuisine. If immigrants can continue to adopt and adapt English traditions like the good-old chippy, then all the better…No?

While “Save the Pub” campaigns enchant local newspaper journos and MPs alike, anything done to keep the Chippy seems not to have taken hold across the population at all. Unless I miss my guess, the traditional chippy has a future far less certain than the local pub. Some chippies within easy wandering distance of my flat have made the slow transformation into varied menus – samosas here, spring rolls there – or regenerations into Chinese, Turkish or Indian takeaways.

Who could be blamed for Chippies falling out of favour? Did they stand still while takeaways blossomed, stores such as Subways took over the High Street, or a general shift in food fashion moved away from the Friday fryers? Can the majority of Chip Shop owners be blamed for standing still while developing tastes moved from the rigid menu of fish, chips and pies?

I have a particularly fond taste for the ‘chippy tea’ of legend. Give me the chips and gravy from a Chinese down the road, gravy smelling slightly of red wine with the texture of emulsion paint. It’s not possible to buy such traditional fast food from an old fashioned chippy here unless I fancy an hour walk into the suburbs, or to wait until an “all night” chippy opens at gone midnight opposite a nightclub. No wonder takeaways and Café Nero and Subway and suchlike blossom if the chippy options become less convenient by the month.

Immigration into the country over generations has influenced and dictated our language, fashion and music. Our tastes have become far more varied and mature since the Britons of my father’s generation got their first taste of post-Empire curries. It could be we are living in an era where the totems of Britishness – the boozer, the chip shop – are turning into something different. Younger drinkers, for example, are less likely to meet up down the local for a few jars while the smoking ban is in place and the corner shop can stretch £20 far further than on-tap beers. The pub as a meeting place still exists, only altered, in transition, and so it seems proven with the fast food and snack markets.

In years to come, then, will the chip shop survive only as English options as an aside to the main curry house menu? Interestingly, certain elements of the old-fashioned menus are finding themselves reinvented by the fancier chefs. More evidence of the slow decline of the chip shop?

For too long, the health “agenda” has been far too dictating, too preachy. Making choices like fish and chips or steak pies or battered sausages was seen as almost a crime against the body. Health “chiefs” – who are they? Like the “community leaders” you hear about? – would decry the deep-fried menus; perhaps the message has actually soaked in, if you will?

All this talk of food is making me hungry. I think it may be best if I choose something quick, cheap, and within walking distance…Tesco it is then….

Proud to be British. Hate the BNP.

The view from my bedroom window is quite beautiful this morning: a uniform blue sky, flickering leaves reflecting the milky dawn sun, a warmth despite of the early hour. It’s fate happily allowing candidates and canvassers an early start to the final days before polling day, potentially a day in history for British democracy.

There are few ways to describe how good Preston has grown as a city without sounding like the archetypal Guardian reader. Our covered market has traditional butchers next to Caribbean fruits and Indian spices, while the walk home through town is a journey similar to many living in university cities and places of arrival for immigrants over the generations. Groups of people outside places of worship can be as commonly Catholics outside St Ignatius’ church as they could be Muslims at the copper-domed Mosque on St Paul’s Road. Of course Preston is not a shining example of multiculturalism, but nor is it torn by strife on the verge of Oldham-style race riots. The division between people here is no more unusual than anywhere else you could identify, a fact supporters of the far-right British National Party tend to ignore. In the country occupied by the BNP, every town is as strictly divided as Baghdad.

History shows that the extreme prejudice espoused by the BNP has been rejected by Prestonians at every opportunity. The 2000 parliamentary by-election saw the appearance of their first candidate on a Preston ballot paper. Result – 1.1% of the valid votes cast, “NAZI SCUM” shouted by members of what was then the Socialist Alliance. Local candidates from them and the similarly far-right England First Party have been thrown out without hesitation. This encourages me; the shadows of their policies are dark and frightening and cold.

The BNP do not represent anything like the best intentions of the country. Their party election broadcasts are confused – sounding over-eager to underline how far away they are from racism while underlining their ignorance on asylum and immigration with every assurance to the contrary. Repatriation of “non-Britons” is a recipe for economic disaster, while nothing is said about the cost of forcing hitherto “oppressed” underclass Britons into work. However else you describe their policies, I suppose the BNP clearly want work to set us free.

Nick Griffin, their current leader, wants to stress how much the party have changed, but the truth is not hard to find. Just scratch the skin to find the racism beneath. Candidates for them who find the truth are even asking voters not to vote for them.

The North West region elects on June 4th. There will be eight seats elected, the final most likely to be the tight, close fight between BNP, UKIP, Green, and Liberal Democrat. When all votes are counted across Europe, I hope with all sense and reason that the BNP have been defeated.

My country is a proud island nation, its language formed by immigrants and international influences, its people as accepting of fish ‘n’ chips as lamb bhuna, as likely to sprinkle through their language words from black America or Hindi as they are the Oxford English Dictionary. The United Kingdom is a nation which helped defeat the kind of enemy who slaughtered millions of people, including their own, for reasons of extreme and absolute prejudice and hatred. We can be a nation which defeats such bile again. On June 4th, I hope any other choice is made to help defeat the British National Party. The good of the nation will come from the defeat of their reckless and offensive racism.