Who is going to manage the expectations of our newly emboldened racists when their white future doesn’t arrive?
During a bewildering post-EU weekend – Osborne AWOL, Boris cricketing, Corbyn rearranging the beanbags on the Titanic – the nation yearned for erudite sorts to take to the lectern with wise words. Until last Wednesday, it seemed, we were swimming in these people. The clever, the very-committed and the born-to-rule – of both In and Out persuasion – were making a terrific din.
But in the days which followed Johnson, Gove, and Farage gaining victory, their muted response gave emphasis to a different growing howl: the roar of the racist dunderhead; the squall of the now emboldened bigot.
It was a rainy weekend in June and these people were “getting their country back”. Remember in April when that line from the lips of a little old lady on Question Time felt almost harmless? Now, not so much.
Anna Soubry speaking about immigration on Question Time
“We are shocked and deeply concerned,” said the Polish Embassy in London, “by the recent incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against the Polish community and other UK residents of migrant heritage.” Notes about “Polish vermin” had being pushed through letterboxes. There were laminated cards handed out in Huntingdon. There’s a certain aptness that this most fervent Little Englander is also a fan of the laminator machine. But more importantly, there’s a poignancy that the Poles, who are a largely peaceable community throughout Britain and were also our crucial allies in the Second World War, are targets of such spite.
Attempting to reason with note-daubing bigots may feel pointless, but it is also necessary. We must shout these people down. Both the Leaves and the Remains must fight this slide into casual far-right thinking.
This is not to say that 17 million votes to Leave were inspired by 1970s Alf-Garnett racism. Of course they weren’t. But it certainly suggests that many racist berks who voted Leave feel newly ebullient. Sparky, in fact. Righteous in their legal wrongness, for it is still illegal to shout “jungle bunny” in a supermarket or “towel head” at King’s Cross Station. And while Boris Johnson, in today’s Telegraph column, denied the Leave vote was about immigration and was, in fact, powered mainly by a thirst for democracy, I read no incidences at all this weekend of the public submerging Whitehall, champing at the bit to get going with democratic reform. Meanwhile Twitter and Facebook filled with dispiriting, albeit anecdotal, talk of “Send them back”, “We’ve won, now you’re off”. We have read of unpleasant incidents on buses, cafes and workplaces. It warned of a sea change among the stupid.
In Monument Mall, Newcastle this Saturday, the National Front unveiled an eight-metre long banner proclaiming “STOP IMMIGRATION, START REPATRIATION”. It was almost as if the nuances of the referendum and of Iain Duncan Smith’s “promises that were a series of possibilities” had been lost. It was as if having “won”, and with 17 million new friends, they felt it could only be time before a “bus schedule for brown folk” fell through their doors. Who, I wondered, will manage these people’s expectations when their perfect Caucasian world does not appear?
These NF sorts were falsely promised, by Farage and his ilk, £350m per week pouring back into the NHS, starting right about now, so heaven forbid by Christmas we still have to wait two weeks for a GP appointment. In fact, during the colossal mix-up over whether all our European hospital staff are allowed to stay, go or need different visas, the NHS experience may be longer than ever. And I fear NF sorts are not terribly easy to fob off when they’re angry.
Meanwhile, a London restaurateur reported rejecting an online dinner reservation due to the added request: “Do not send a European to my table, I want a British waiter.” Again, this dreary thickie is in for a great disappointment if he feels that from now on Britain’s restaurants will be staffed by local people only. Who, I wondered, would inform this fool that modern Britain’s greatest pride, our hospitality industry, is literally propped up with European sweat, tears, waitress bunions and chef’s chafe?
No Europeans? No kitchen brigade, no front of house, no cleaners and no alert sort with an accountancy diploma running the payroll. No Europeans? No dinner, numbnuts. Maybe this diner should stay at home, eat a can of HP Breakfast In a Tin and fantasise about Britain’s great white future behind closed doors. Because it is a fantasy. Leave or Remain: we must fight these racists together.