We were on our way to a party in south-east London when my friend, Rob, saw the graffiti. Sprayed with painful neatness on a wall: ‘Support Jeremy’. It suited the area so well — a small quadrant of our capital city that the inhabitants I dare say still think is ‘edgy’, even now after they’ve got rid of all the blacks and the white working class by pricing them out of the market. Artisan bread shops and ‘community’ pubs and vegetarian cafés.
Whereas once the occupants of this enclave were engaged in actual work — plumbers, electricians, drug dealers etc. — now I would wager almost all of them get their wages from you via grants and the NHS and what have you. They are the relentlessly politically aware middle-class white people who have swarmed into the Labour party and are forever demanding something called ‘change’. The graffiti could have been better only if the writer had possessed the balls and the time to write what he or she really felt, to wit: ‘Oh do please support Jeremy.’ You have to say, that as furious political injunctions go, ‘Support Jeremy’ is a little less than compelling. Can you imagine them howling it from the burning barricades?
But as I say, that’s the area for you. A few years back I was at a non-league football match nearby, in an even more gentrified neighbourhood. The graffiti on the toilet wall read: ‘Palace run from Millwall who, in turn, run from Hamlet.’ It’s that ‘in turn’ that gives the game away, isn’t it? Well-spoken graffiti, with punctuation, written by people who have nothing whatsoever to moan about.
(My favourite two bits of graffiti, incidentally, come from different ends of the market. The first was on the wall of a bridge on the railway line halfway between Darlington and Middlesbrough: ‘Britain is a violent society. Let’s fucking keep it that way.’ And then, on the door of a lavatory cubicle at University College Cardiff in 1981, a time when the French approach to literary criticism was very au courant: ‘I used to be a structuralist but now I’m not Saussure.’ Yes, ho ho.)
Support Jeremy. Corbyn has been talking recently about what we should do with the refugees massing at our gates. Let them all in, he opined, all of them. And what about when thousands and thousands more turn up, Jeremy? Oh, they probably won’t, he replied, airily. This view would have found its echo in that south London suburb: ‘Oh — yes! Let them all in. Such a shame they can’t afford to live here. We’d love them, obviously. But if they have to live in Middlesbrough, then so be it. I’m sure they’ll integrate wonderfully and end up being cardiovascular surgeons and so on, and improve the ghastly town no end.’
We are back with the self-deluding idiocies of the liberals, the people who think something that isn’t a circle really is a circle, if it only wants to be a circle. An approach to the migrant crisis which is causing the biggest catastrophe to western Europe since 1945. And as injurious to the migrants as it is to the rest of us. A political stance which will make everything much, much, worse — but that doesn’t matter, because at least the people who say ‘let them in’ can feel really good about themselves. And that’s the important thing, no?
Except that these liberals have a nasty side. Let them in, but make them wear wristbands to mark them out from the rest of the population, as has happened at an asylum centre in Cardiff. Let them in but put them in slums with the doors painted red so that they can be easily identified, as has happened in my home town of Middlesbrough (where they are being bunged by the hundred to keep them away from the ‘Support Jeremy’ imbeciles of affluent London). Or send them to the Outer Hebrides and see how they get on. Or: let them in but get the police to rob them of their money and their jewellery as soon as they arrive, as has been happening in Denmark and Switzerland.
All of this is unspeakably odious, almost unbelievably grotesque. My own view would be to let no migrants in at all, partly because of the strain it puts on our own infrastructure, partly because of the problems of cultural assimilation (which we have seen, writ large, on the Continent) and partly because it means more migrants will die attempting come here (which is precisely what has happened, incidentally).
But if you have taken the wrong decision to let in these people, then treat them as people — deserving of exactly the same rights as the rest of us, afforded the same dignities that British or Danish people enjoy. Treating them as caged animals will not, I suspect, help the process of integration. Nor will banning them from swimming pools in case they attack the pouty and — it being a swimming pool — scantily clad kafir babes, which is what some Belgian authorities have tried to do. Don’t let them in if that’s what — justifiably enough — you are worried about.
There is a non sequitur in the liberal approach: let them in so we can feel ourselves to be wonderfully benevolent, much nicer than those racists (i.e. up to 80 per cent of the various European populations) who wish to keep them out. But once they’re here, don’t for a moment pretend that they are normal citizens. Label them, stigmatise them, confine them, and nick their money. This is a truly shocking way to treat human beings and it should shame us all.