At the risk of falling foul of Godwin’s Law …

I’ve been quiet of late, because I’m in Jordan. Ordinarily trips to foreign parts bring a spike in my blogging as I regale you with my hilarious anecdotes and pithy observations. But, firstly, the hilarious anecdotes usually start with large-scale consumption of a substance somewhat frowned upon here; secondly, my pithy observations are being saved up (believe me); and, thirdly, I’m ridiculously busy trying to learn Arabic, which it turns out is something of a tricky language.

But things in Britain go on without me, it would seem, and pretty horrifically so (not least because as every week passes, things get roughly 5% more expensive for me here). I don’t have time for a long rant, or the mental energy to be excoriatingly insightful, so all I intend to do is provide you with a short list some of the anti-Jewish legislation passed by the National Socialist government in Germany in 1933.

February 27, 1933: The Reichstag Fire Decree curtails civil rights in the face of “communist violence.”

  • 2014: R v Incedal and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar becomes first trial to be held entirely in secret, the gagging order is upheld in 2016.
  • 2016: Theresa May announces British troops will not be subject to the European Court of Human Rights.

March 31, 1933: Decree of the Berlin city commissioner for health suspends Jewish doctors from the city’s charity services.

April 7, 1933: Law for the Reestablishment of the Professional Civil Service removes Jews and Communists from government service.

  • 2015: Home Secretary Theresa May launches drive against “entryists” in public service.
  • 2016: UK government bans foreign-born LSE staff from advising on Brexit.

April 25, 1933: Law against Overcrowding in Schools and Universities limits the number of Jewish students in public schools.

  • 2016: Schools must collect data on the nationality and citizenship status of their pupils. Amber Rudd introduces restrictions on overseas university students.

Look, obviously these comparisons are not exact. I am not claiming that the approach of the Conservative government is anything like on the scale or malignancy of the pre-war Nazi-controlled Weimar Republic. But what I am saying is that both of these represent, in an environment of economic strife, a systematic and institutional process of marking out a group of the population as “other,” making them lesser human beings to be monitored and restricted, and identifying them as responsible in large for the economic problems and potentially actively repugnant to the ideals of the state.

As well as scale, there are differences in kind. I can think of two in particular:

  1. In the Weimar Republic, the economic conditions were utterly disastrous for the whole populace (this is not to demean the experience of the half million plus forced to use food banks in 2015), but were also imposed from outside by the punitive stringency of the Treaty of Versailles. In contemporary Britain, the economic straits are a consequence of policies of precisely the same government (or, at least, the same party) that now seeks to blame them on their selected “others.”
  2. Most obviously, Hitler was a maniac, whereas Theresa May is an intelligent and, one presumes, fairly rational human being. The data exist showing that migrants bring a net economic benefit to the UK; that even in the jobs most affected by immigration—low-paid semi-skilled or unskilled service jobs—the effect of migration on wages equates to about 2p per hour; and that migration has virtually no effect on employment levels (and where it does, it is migration from outside the EU that has the effect). No-one would suggest that the Nazis should have known better, because knowledge was irrelevant to their programme. Theresa May does know better—she can hardly be unaware of these data—but knowledge does not appear to be relevant to her programme either. This, above everything else, is deeply worrying.

I get back from Jordan in late December. I have been, whilst here, thinking hard about whether to stay in the UK and fight the good fight; or to leave for other shores and let the country descend into institutionalized xenophobia without me. The latter option is winning out at present … I can just see nothing, nothing good that can come of our present direction, nor any practical way to change it.

If you are a decent person then your only option tomorrow is to vote IN

Listen:

It no longer matters what your economic views are, whether you have (justified) left-wing concerns about monetarist policies being written into the EU, whether you worry about the purported undemocratic nature of the institution (whilst living in a country with a wholly unelected upper house and a head of state who got her job by virtue of who her daddy was), whether you worry about sovereignty (which lies entirely in the hands of multi-national corporations, bankers, and a few super-rich individuals anyway), or anything else.

The last two weeks have seen the most toxic, vile incitement to racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia it has ever been my misfortune to witness in this country. No other real arguments for Brexit have been put forward, and one cannot claim that it is just the unofficial campaign headed up by Nigel Farage: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have equally engaged in demonization and racism. What else could be read from their scaremongering about an apparent imminent accession to the EU of Turkey, epitomized in their challenge to Cameron to guarantee to veto Turkish membership of the EU. What is this other than an indication that Turks will never be fit to be considered “one of us”? This is deliberate playing to the lowest common denominator, the basest of prejudices, and the worst of human nature; in Johnson’s case it is also stunningly hypocritical.

Everyone knows—surely—that Johnson’s volte face from being a pro-Europe, pro-Turkey expansionist to a nudge-nudge-wink-winking dog-whistle xenophobe is solely motivated by his personal ambition. That he is willing to shove his dick in the cesspit of racist sentiment to get there far outstrips his soon-to-be-predecessor’s favoured location for that organ. Could you really vote for that? Whatever reasons you have for doubting the EU, are you going to empower a man whose personal desire to run the country is so great that he cares not if the very country he ends up running be a bankrupt viper’s nest of racists and xenophobes?

Nigel Farage and his "breaking point" poster

Nigel goes the Full Smethwick

Or would you rather vote for Nigel Farage, who has no illusions of running the country, and therefore is free to go Full Smethwick?

Racism and xenophobia are not the exclusive preserve of the Out campaign in our politics, this is true. David Cameron, though now bemoaning the stoking of intolerance by the Brexit camp, was more than happy to endorse Zac Goldsmith’s explicitly racist campaign for London Mayor, and indeed played his own part—under parliamentary privilege—in that vicious affair.

A vote for In will not purge this country of the racial politics in which it is festering.

But, without a shadow of a doubt, a vote for Out will endorse it. Whatever discussions we could have had about Europe and the UK’s role within it have been hijacked by a naked racist and a utterly self-interested opportunist monomaniac.

A win for Out will be, first and foremost, a win for racism and xenophobia. If you are in any way a decent member of society then—whatever justified concerns you may or may not have about the EU—this time you must vote, and you must vote In.

 

 

Can we quit with the “German” jibes about Mrs Windsor, please?

I’m a republican (with a very definite small r) and, as I didn’t get handed a nice little earner as a senior civil servant on my father’s retirement, I see no reason why Charles Windsor should get his Mum’s job—or anyone get it, for that matter. I’m quite happy to take down the monarchy, and as I’ve written elsewhere, jokes and satire are a very good way to undermine the presumption of the right to power upon which institutions such as the monarchy depend.

But then there’s this, retweeted by the Republic official account. And Frankie Boyle asking whether we should “be forced to sing songs about a German.” And Russell Brand’s Facebook idiocy. And many other dull variations on the same theme.

Can we stop this, please? The last monarch to be born outside of Great Britain was George II, in 1683. Mrs Windsor’s real name, Russell, is not Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, because it was changed to Windsor, and if we are republicans then surely we consider Elizabeth Windsor and her ancestors to be no different from us, and not due the special considerations they currently get. As such, they are just as entitled to nativization as anyone else and they are just as entitled to change their names as anyone else.

This is not simply a matter of being pedantic about a cheap, inaccurate, and lazy joke. In the poisonous atmosphere of anti-immigrant rhetoric that currently pervades our political culture, calling the Queen a German is not just a silly throw-away line, it is endorsing an almost BNPish refusal to accept that three hundred fucking years, for God’s sake, is enough to grant one the entitlement to be considered a citizen of a country. A narrative about immigration with which most progressive leftists would be unhappy is suddenly embraced when it comes to knocking the monarchy.

Please, stop. It’s an embarrassingly lazy and unoriginal joke, anyway, but in its dogmatic and far-right refusal to accept the fact that descendants of migrants have the right to be considered natives of the country in which they are born it is doing far more damage to ordinary people struggling against the xenophobia currently gripping the UK than it will ever do to Mrs Windsor.