Notes From the Margins…

Black cat’s something May can’t explain

  • October 05, 2011
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It’s the Conservative conference and your government hasn’t got a great deal to offer the electorate or its core constituency except misery, gloom and exhortations to grit your teeth and bear the pain.  OK,  George Osborne has tried his best, promising the conference

together we will ride out the storm.  And together we will move into the calmer, brighter seas beyond.’

Sounds like a chorus from a One Direction or Glee Club song, doesn’t it?  And it might work for them, but coming from Osborne, the prospect of ‘calmer, brighter seas’ seems a distinctly remote prospect, and it isn’t the most rousing cry to help the nation get through these hard times.

Step forward Home Secretary Theresa May, decked out in leopard skin shoes and an Abigail’s Party suit, with a truly pathetic attempt to cheer up the conference with a little dose of toxic populist bile directed at the Human Rights Act.  Face twisted in the faintest of grins, May informed her listeners

[stextbox id=”alert”]We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act, the violent drugdealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance, lives here.  The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend, the illegal immigrant – the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because, and I am not making this up, because he had a pet cat.   That is why I remain of the view that the Human Rights Act needs to go.[/stextbox]

This got a few laughs, as it was intended to, the bitter laugh of the embittered patriotic Tory trapped in the European Theatre of the Absurd, where even a cat – a cat readers! – can prevent an ‘illegal immigrant’ from being ‘removed’.

The rightwing papers hate the Human Rights Act, which is the European Convention of Human Rights enshrined in UK law, and May’s opposition to it was intended to press many different buttons simultaneously.   There is the ‘European superstate’ imposing its alien and un-British legislation on our proud island nation. There is the concept of human rights itself – something that some (not all) Tories believe is a namby-pamby foreign invention and another expression of ‘political correctness gone mad.’

But most of all there is immigration.   Because it’s bad enough that these continentals come over here to impose their ridiculous laws on us – as if we British need any lessons on  human rights from the Germans and the French eh? But it’s even worse when these laws are preventing us from ‘removing’ dangerous foreigners and ‘illegal immigrants’.

In June this year the Daily Telegraph published an article listing 102 cases in which ‘foreign criminals’ had not been deported due to Article 8 of the Human Rights Act on the ‘right to family life.’

That same month the Mail painted an even darker picture in a story headlined:

Human right to sponge off UK: 3,200 criminals, failed asylum seekers and benefit tourists can’t be kicked out because of right to family life’.

Note these typically Mail-ite linkages.   There are few things more satisfying to a certain breed of Mail reader than the thought of another ‘foreigner’ being ‘kicked out’ – regardless of the reasons and the circumstances for their removal.

The current obsession with deporting ‘foreign’ criminal offenders ignores – among other things –  the fact that many of these offenders may already have served their sentences and may have lived in the UK since they were children.  Take the case of Rocky Gurung, one of the 102 ‘foreign criminals and illegal immigrants we can’t deport’ listed in the Telegraph article.

Gurung was one of three men charged with manslaughter, when they threw a Nepalese waiter into the Thames in 2008  during a brawl at a party, who drowned as a result.  At his trial however, the judge found the three men guilty  of violent disorder and declared that

‘It is clear none of you intended Bishal Gurung to suffer serious harm.  I have no doubt that all three feel remorse and deep shame.  Despite the gravity of the attack, I can treat you all with justifiable leniency.’

We might question such leniency in what was clearly a horrific tragedy.  But this was a decision made by a judge and jury that had nothing to with the Human Rights Act. Gurung served his sentence, and since he lived with his parents in the UK, there was no logical reason why he should have been deported afterwards – beyond the current politically-driven determination by both the Labour and Conservative governments to remove as many ‘immigrants’ as possible, and then use such deportations to reassure the public that their security is being protected.

This is why the Home Office tried to deport him, and Gurung successfully appealed on the basis of Article 8 in the Human Rights Act, after two attempts.    To the Telegraph, however,  Gurung was merely a  ‘Nepalese killer’ and the decision not to deport him was another example of the perversity of the Human Rights Act.

This is the audience May’s crowd-pleasing viciousness was aimed at.  Never mind that the cat story is a lie.   Never mind that Kenneth Clarke realised it was nonsense and said so.   Never mind that the Tories are very unlikely to be able to rescind the Human Rights Act.

The important thing in a situation like this, as May and Cameron well know, is that you show your base that even if those calmer, brighter seas may be a long way off, you can still appeal to the worst and most reactionary sections of the public some bile to keep their bitterness and hatred sharp.  And in doing so you might also remind them that even if you’re stuck with the Liberal Democrats, you are still a Tory government, and you really won’t allow foreigners to dictate to us which foreigners should be allowed to stay here.




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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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