Thursday, July 28, 2005

 

Is There a Enoch Waiting in the Wings ?

Even before the Daily Mail had led with 'Gratitude!' as its screaming headline, the precise same sentiment had occurred to me. Two of the attempted bombers-Yasin Hassan Omar and Muktar Mohammed Said- were Somalis who had been granted asylum some time ago; the former had also been given some £24,000 in housing benefit. One of the bombers, having failed to explode his bomb in the Tube, apparently looked so desolate that one of his putative passenger victims asked: 'Are you alright mate?'. There is nothing quite like the rejection of kindness to fill the heart with bile. One tends to react with: 'So if that's all they think of us, f**k them!' And that, as tabloid editors know so well, is a near universal tendency amoung their readers. It's worrying to the sixties liberals amoung us to discover that they too have taken a step, however tentative, on that road that leads to a more robust form of discrimination with 'well, f**k off back home then' added on for good measure. It helps not at all when we read in the Guardian 27th July, that their ICM poll shows 5% of British muslims feel 'further attacks by suicide bombers would be justified' and when under 35s are polled the figure rises to 7%. This means that, despite the peacable nature of the vast majority of the 1.6 million muslims in this country, there are 80,000 of them, people have been raised in this country are content that innocent fellow citizens- our friends and relations quite possibly- should be killed in this fashion.

Reading the Mail's headline made me think that we're currently tenuously balanced, as a nation, on the cusp of sliding into a mood of quite fierce racism. To outrage and vulnerability are added feelings of friendship spurned in the most vicious of fashions. These African muslims faced torture and death in their own country but were offered a haven of safety and support by the British state. To show their appreciation, they sought to inflict on their saviours that from which they had been saved. Small wonder we are unhappy and to varying degrees, vengeful. Given the negative feelings which run deep about asylum seekers in the first place, this flagrant rejection of hospitality will connect with the deep feelings of dislike or hatred which already boil just below the surface of our national life. Given this volatile intermixing of negative feelings, who will step forward to exploit it for political purposes?

The main parties are unlikely to do so. Labour, because it is the party of government and must be 'reponsible'; Lib Dems because it would be such a total denial of their history; and Conservatives, collectively, because they will not wish to break the brittle national consensus and further risk sullying their own already woefully sullied brand with yet more 'nastiness'. The BNP will seek to move in , of course, they are already trying, and may pick up more support in discrete areas. But the BNP has an image problem. Most of their cadres appear to be politicised nighclub doormen and their clever leader, Cambridge educated Nick Griffin, has been discredited by publicity surrounding his current court case.

What I'm (nervously) waiting for- and I hope I'm proved wrong, is the emergence of a mainstream politician, like Enoch Powell in the late sixties or (the admittedly less mainstream) Pym Fortyn in the Netherlands, who sees easy pickings by breaking the national silence and stating clearly and forcefully what people are thinking inarticulately (and maybe a bit shamefully) in their own private counsels. I suspect that if this is to happen, it will be a somewhat renegade politician, maybe drawn from those Conservatives with some career behind them and not much to look forward to. Whatever the outcome of this grievous and tragic period of our history, it will be fascinating to see if anyone decides to break cover and, if so, who it will prove to be.

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