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Cameron’s Stalling on Refugees Shows No Understanding of British History

Huguenots Huguenots Fleeing France

David Cameron’s refusal, which he was forced to reverse, to take any refugees from the war torn carnage taking place across the Globe just reaffirmed what we already knew; this prime minister has no grasp of British history or our tradition of embracing those in trouble across the oceans.

Within days of entering Number Ten his family must have been scratching their heads as to where all the money spent on his education at Eton had gone. On his first visit to the US as PM Cameron described the UK thus, “We were the junior partner in 1940 when we were fighting the Nazis.” Err.. really? America did not enter the war until December 1941! Britain stood alone in the face of Nazi tyranny as Stalin’s Soviet Union weighed things up and decided to side with Fascism by invading Poland in 1939, and US capitalism (against the wishes of President Roosevelt) was never going to get involved until it’s own interests were threatened.

His slip was a Freudian one as Tony Blair was famously described by the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson as George W. Bush’s, “poodle” a title reinforced by the 2007 toe curling, “Yo Blair!” incident at a St. Petersburg summit. “Follow the money” is a truism and the UK’s dreadful financial situation means we are, and have for a long time been America’s junior partner in the Capitalists Club.

Cameron’s lack of understanding of UK history and traditions is summed up by current events. His “promise” to take just 20,000 refugees, and then only ones selected (what a word when connected with “camps”) from the Middle East means that only nine families will be relocated in Hull. This information was provided the Council’s Cohesion Officer at a Public Meeting last Wednesday. The dozens of people in the room were crestfallen. The anger was palpable.

Let’s Do the Math, as our American cousins say starting in the 18th Century.

50,000 Huguenots  came from France to England as Protestants fleeing a spasm of religious violence in France. The population of Britain was 5 million at the time meaning the new arrivals accounted for 1% of the people living here. If this was extrapolated into today’s numbers we would be accepting 630,00 refugees!

Moving forward we took 13,000 German refugees from the Palatine (opposed by the Tory opposition) in the early 18th Century. This would equate to well over 100,000 if this happened in the 21st century. (At this point I am embarrassed to say that despite two degrees, postgraduate diplomas and 18 O levels between us, this married couple couldn’t manage how to work this out accurately as we can’t do percentages! So much for education being dumbed down today).

The 19th and 20th centuries saw some of the basest and darkest periods in history. The Jews paying an especially heavy price with pogroms in Eastern Europe followed by the Holocaust, surely one of the greatest crimes in history. The UK’s response was to take 200,000 refugees and the contribution to British life from Jewish immigrants continues to be legendary.

In 1968 Kenya, followed in 1971 by Uganda began expelling Asian workers. 70,000  were welcomed into the UK. However the response of Capitalism began to take a sinister turn as the Labour Government led by Harold Wilson rushed through an Immigration Act to stem the flow saying only people with a proven close connection to the UK could enter, even if they had a British passport. It was a direct reaction to Enoch Powell’s notorious “Rivers of Blood” speech. It was a poor show from the Labour Party but to his credit Cabinet Minister George Thomson broke ranks saying, “to pass such legislation would be wrong in principle, clearly discrimination on the grounds of colour, and contrary to everything we stand for.”  But he did not resign and went onto be a bastion of the establishment.

In Hull we accepted refugees from the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s and this City has a proud tradition of standing up for minorities and the oppressed. William Wilberforce is a son of our City and today (literally) masses of relief is being delivered by volunteers from Hull Refugee Exchange. 

Sinister developments have taken place over past few days as Capital panics that the mood of Solidarity here and across Europe may morph into a demand for change as people work out why this mass movement of populations continues to take place.

Semantics is the starting point with BBC Newsnight referring to the refugees as “migrants” trying to imply that there is some form of choice available. Then the Daily Express front page apropos of nothing, claimed that ISIS fighters  were hiding amongst those fleeing. How low can you go? This has then led to discussions on Sky News as to who was deserving of our help with one ludicrous assertion that the men fleeing were cowards and comparing them to the UK population that fought the Nazis. The Mail On Sunday chipped in today, claiming that a migrant had been overheard claiming to be an IS killer. This took precedence over a story reporting the deaths of 30 refugees as a dinghy overturned in the Med.  

The Tories and Capitalist parties hate anything that smacks of Solidarity and coordinated action because then through experience and sharing with others workers discover where the real power lies, if only we could get our act together. Hence the divide and rule approach to this crisis. Cameron won’t budge on this subject. We must build a mass movement not to reform Capitalism, but to end it.


About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.


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