Calais and Aspiration

The attempts by migrants and asylum seekers to enter the UK is not particularly newsworthy in itself. Getting into the UK illegally is not an easy feat and the Channel ports and the tunnel would seem to be the most obvious place to make an attempt. The recent and ongoing crisis in and around Calais must seem small beer to some of the other countries in Europe that continue to bear the brunt of welcoming migrants. Despite the best attempts of our media, most would be migrants do not want to come to the UK. Only relatively small numbers out of the large and growing numbers of migrants end up by Calais.

Unfortunately this is enough to create a mini panic within the British establishment. How to keep the buggers out seems to be the dominant line. Never mind the humanitarian suffering behind all these movements or what is causing hundreds of thousands of people to undertake the dangerous journey of travelling half way round the world. Much simpler to just unremittingly focus on portraying them all as untrustworthy scroungers who must be kept out at all costs.

What I find particularly fascinating about the media and political response is how it relates to the celebration of aspiration as a positive virtue to be encouraged. Now if the thousands of people who are camped in and around Calais are demonstrating one thing, surely that is aspiration. They want to improve their lives and are prepared to undergo all kinds of unimaginable suffering and dangers in order to achieve this. Allied to a large dose of aspiration, these would be migrants have also demonstrated endeavour and determination in spades.  All the kind of things that our media and UK political parties constantly praise as key British values. We should therefore be welcoming with open arms the prospect of more young people full of aspiration, endeavour and determination. Exactly what the UK needs to meet the challenges of competition from China and the rest of the world.

But it seems that aspiration is only a good thing if it is British citizens who are doing the aspiring. Others are most clearly not welcome at all. Underlying the nasty language of the opposition to these would be migrants is a barely disguised racism and narrow nationalism. Of the British variety of course. What is especially sad about this, but all too predictable, is the alacrity with which the Labour party has joined in this attack on migrants. What the response from the British establishment in both the media and political parties shows, is that nationalism of the worst possible kind is alive and kicking in the UK. It is telling that it is the SNP, along with the Greens, who have made a more positive response, accepting that the UK should be willing to accept its fair share of the migrants arriving in Europe. Yet it is the SNP that continues to get accused of narrow nationalism. The nasty nationalistic response of the British establishment is but further proof of how unreformable the UK has become.

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