During, and since the referendum on the EU, whilst there was some discussion on the various merits and demerits of the union, the overwhelming theme of the newspapers (of a certain type) in the UK was xenophobic and literally hateful.
Clearly, some press found that hate sold far more copies that nuanced and careful dissection of the facts. This led to some people basing their vote on a rather narrow definition of what the EU was about.
In short… Mr Average (or monsieur Tout le Monde) didn’t want to read about trade deals or exchange rates and would walk past a headline suggesting that was what was on offer, but a story that foreigners were causing the breakdown of the NHS would chime with someone who had to wait for an appointment or a kid in an overcrowded class.
There seems little doubt to me that this has contributed to a large increase in the number of hate crimes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, committed against foreigners from the EU or elsewhere. (While there is and has always been some hate crime in Scotland, according to Police Scotland there has been no similar increase here.) Tales abound of people being accosted and assaulted in the streets, and even on at least one occasion, killed, for speaking another language in public.
In view of this, I can’t help thinking that it was imprudent populism that led the UK governing party to highlight last weekend, just how tough they were going to be on foreigners.
The English health secretary made it clear that, just as soon as England had found some English people to train as doctors, they would send foreign medics home. (Just how he was going to do that wasn’t clear. Sack then? Make them redundant? For not being British? Well, with no Human Rights Legislation, anything is possible¬!)
Amber Rudd, their Home Secretary, intends that companies keep a register of foreign employees. In England, schools are sending out letters to parents asking where their children were born. And Boris the Buffoon is secretly (or not so secretly) stopping EU citizens working on a Brexit project!
Mr Fox, who is one of the Three Brexiteers, has refused to make it clear what will happen to EU people living and working the UK, because he wants to use them as bargaining chips in trying to get concessions from Europe. What a deeply unpleasant man he is. These are people, not chips in a deal, Mr Fox.
All of this seems to me to be deeply unpleasant stuff. Parts of Rudd’s speech were even being compared with Chapter Two of Adolph Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’!
Mrs May says that she wants to lead a government for the ordinary British (read English) working person, not the liberal elite, not the Eton elite. She wants to occupy the “middle ground”, she says! But I think there is more than a little truth in this humorous piece from the Canary, which suggests that she searches the middle ground between UKIP and the Ebola Virus!
More seriously, and at the risk of being accused of endlessly wittering on about Scottish Independence (eh Niko?) if this is the Britain we are likely to have to live in for the next 9 years, I want out of here! Fast! Before I’m scared to talk French on my phone in the street!