Suella Braverman proved it again: racism is a fire the Tories love to play with

Over the top commentary but elements of truth and unfair to conflate recent politicians with those living in a different time and context, with many similarities in various countries:

Last Friday, an 82-year-old woman wrapped up warm and set off on a 200-mile round trip for a meeting that she half suspected wouldn’t even let her in. As you read this, the film of her speaking that evening has been viewed more than five million times. Which is odd, because it’s not much to look at: a wobbly side-view of a woman with white hair, intense closeups of grey cardigan. Bridgerton this is not.

But it’s the words that count. Joan Salter has got herself down to Hampshire for a public meeting with the home secretary, and now it is her turn to ask a question. As a child survivor of the Holocaust, she hears Suella Braverman demean and dehumanise refugees and it is a reminder of how the Nazis justified murdering Jews like her. So why do it?

Even as the words come out, Braverman’s face freezes. The evening so far has been a Tory activists’ love-in, which, Salter tells me later, made her nervous about being the sole dissenter. But then the home secretary responds, “I won’t apologise for the language I’ve used” – and a disturbing truth is exposed about what Britain has become.

Braverman labels those seeking sanctuary in Britain an “invasion”. Quite the word, invasion. It strips people of their humanity and pretends they are instead a hostile army, sent to maraud our borders. Her junior minister Robert Jenrick once begged colleagues not to “demonise” migrants; now he stars in videos almost licking his jowls over “the Albanians” forced on to a flight to Tirana. Salter is right to say such attitudes from the top fuel and license extremists on the ground. We saw it after the toxic Brexit campaign, when Polish-origin schoolchildren in Huntingdon were called “vermin” on cards left outside their school gates, as race and religious hate crimes soared that summer.

Today, the air is once again poisonous. Far-right groups have been visiting accommodation for asylum seekers, trying to terrify those inside – many of whom have fled terror to come here – often before sharing their videos on social media. The anti-fascist campaigners Hope Not Hate recorded 182 such jaunts last year alone, culminating in a petrol bomb tossed at an asylum centre in Dover by a man with links to far-right groups and who would post about how “all Muslims are guilty of grooming … they only rape non-Muslims”.

Unlike those big men in their big boots frightening innocent people, Salter isn’t chasing social media clout. The grandmother wants to warn us not to return to the times that sent her, at the age of three, running with her parents across Europe in search of sanctuary. She does make a mistake in yoking the home secretary to the term “swarms”. As far as I can see, this figurehead for the new Tory extremism has yet to use that vile word. But I can think of a Tory prime minister who has used that word: David Cameron, the Old Etonian never shy of blowing on a dog whistle, who made a speech denouncing multiculturalism even as Tommy Robinson’s troops marched on Luton. And Margaret Thatcher talked of how the British felt “rather swamped” by immigrants. In those venerable names from the party’s past lies the big picture about the Conservatives’ chronic addiction to racist politics.

Source: Suella Braverman proved it again: racism is a fire the Tories love to play with

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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