Notes From the Margins…

Cruel Britannia: Light Unto the Nations

  • February 19, 2016
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This week, while our valiant prime minister was ‘battling for Britain’ amongst the bloodsucking Euro-hordes in Brussels, the Home Office approved the deportation of a 92-year-old South African widow who is blind in one eye.   These two events are not as unrelated as they might seem.  One of the key demands in Lord Snooty’s ‘battle’ in Brussels consists of persuading Britain’s fellow-EU members to restrict in-work and out-of-work benefits to European migrant workers and their families, and such actions are the stuff of patriotism in these bleak times.

So too is the deportation of 92-year-old Myrtle Cothill.  Cothill has been a widow for forty years, and for most of that time she lived in South Africa on her pension, with additional support from her friends and her local church.   When she became older and frailer she moved to the UK to be cared for by her daughter.   Cothill has an enlarged heart, poor hearing and she has lost the sight in one eye because of macular degeneration.  She costs the British state nothing and receives a £300 a month pension, but she is nevertheless physically and emotionally dependent on her family in England.

Despite this, the Home Office rejected her application to remain in the UK last December, on the grounds that her ‘condition was not deemed to be life-threatening’ and that ‘suitable medical treatment’ was available in South Africa, in the form of the Red Cross.  Cothill has been in the country since February 2014 -two years after changes in British immigration law drastically restricted the ability of adult dependent relatives to enter the UK.

Last October her application for leave to remain in the country on human rights grounds was rejected by an immigration tribunal, which declared that she had ‘obtained entry to the United Kingdom by deception, and that she and her daughter arranged their affairs with the deliberate intention of making her removal difficult.’

The tribunal vice-president declared that ‘Evidently neither of them is a person of credit and there is no reason why they should be believed…about the appellant’s circumstances.’ One can only assume from this judgement that Myrtle Cothill is not really 92 but a lot younger, that she can see with both eyes and she doesn’t have an enlarged heart, and that she does not require the emotional and physical care that a 92-year-old woman might need from her daughter.

Above all we should disregard her daughter’s insistence that ‘ My mother is in a terrible state.  She is just shaking and shaking….She should be with her family.  The heartbreak of leaving us at her age could finish her off and finish me off too.’

Of course no red-blooded British patriot  can  allow such blatant sentimentality and emotional blackmail to cloud their judgement, and we have learned again and again these last years that none of our institutions is more patriotic than the Home Office.

So on Tuesday a Home Office immigration enforcement officer informed Cothill that she was booked on Virgin Atlantic flight VS601 next Tuesday.   Cothill’s immigration adviser has described this decision as ‘contrary to every human instinct or duty to care for our elders’, but we have long become a country where human instincts that were once taken for granted have been revisited and reassessed according to other criteria, such as their cost to the taxpayer, or ‘hardworking families’ or simply British citizens per se.

Nowhere have these instincts been more conspicously absent than in our collective attitude towards the immigrants who have had the temerity to come to our shores.   I say collective, even though there are millions of people in this country who would be genuinely shocked and appalled if they were aware of the Cothill deportation and so many other similarly brutal decisions that have been taken over the years.   But these are not the people who are driving our viciously barbaric immigration policy, and they are not the people Lord Snooty is ‘battling’ for in Brussels.

Both Cameron’s flagwaving and the Home Office’s latest demonstration of ‘toughness’ are intended to placate a rightwing press that eats xenophobia as its daily bread.   Politicians – and Tory politicians in particular – have colluded with the tabloids in inciting that section of the British public that is most selfish, most paranoid, and steeped to its dismal core in hatred and contempt towards  everything foreign.

Let no one be fooled by the fact that some of the most rabidly anti-immigrant tabloids have supported Cothill – whose father fought in the British army in World War I.  For these patriots individual cases are generally eclipsed by the generic portrayal of immigrants as parasites, terrorists, health tourists, rapists or invaders who take something away from ‘our people’,  unless they play in the Premier League.

Dripping with bile and whining victimhood about all the evils that immigration has perpetrated on our kindly, generous nation, these voices have drowned and smothered the better instincts of the British population, to the point  when the state is able to present  even the most egregious acts of cruelty as just another routine demonstration of rigour  and implacability in ‘defending our borders.’

The Cothill deportation is one more example of our vertiginous descent. Of course it’s shameful and disgraceful that our government should be even considering the deportation of a half-blind, 92-year-old woman.

But this is what we’ve allowed ourselves to become.  It’s what we’ve allowed our government to do in our name, and perhaps the most terrifying thing about it is that we don’t even seem to realize how shameful and disgraceful it really is.





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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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