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Politics, Uncategorized

What Does the “Red Door” Scandal Tell Us About the UK in 2016?

There was a belated media storm yesterday following the revelation that a company subcontracted by the notorious private partner of the public sector, G4S had branded refugee households in Middlesbrough by painting their front doors red. If residents chose to paint their doors in a less conspicuous way then the company returned the door to it’s original designated red colour. 

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Godwin’s Law states that it is inevitable during a discussion online that a comparison with Nazi Germany will be made. In my experience the analogy deployed is usually a spurious and used when the argument is already lost eg. in any debate involving euthanasia. However the Red Door Scandal is such a bleak and obvious reminder of the Yellow Star that Jews were forced the wear during the Third Reich, that depressing as this seems, the analogy is suitable. This was confirmed on BBC Newsnight yesterday when a resident related having stuff thrown at her house by a gang who then racially abused her. They had identified her, and other victims by the colour of their door. This is no different from the story related by John Pilger, “Anne Frank With a Telephone” from the 1980’s were a family is singled out for rough attention by the Far Right only for Newham Local Authority to stand idly by. You can read an extract here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=NpVqOnKWUXkC&pg=PA78&lpg=PA78&dq=anne+frank+with+a+telephone+Pilger&source=bl&ots=3wRA0DBdn2&sig=o4RsXm4MHN_OZ0m7xfGu8pmkgrM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj22eO0p7vKAhWGxxQKHR9hAnwQ6AEIJzAB#v=onepage&q=anne%20frank%20with%20a%20telephone%20Pilger&f=false

There are a number of issues that arise from the Red Door story. The policy of placing refugees in poor communities is deliberate. By doing so the authorities hope that these newcomers will relay how dreadful things are and thereby deter potential entrants to the UK. How many refugee households are there in Witney, the constituency of prime minister David Cameron for example? Secondly by reporting the anti refugee responses the liberal elite media is attempting to portray the UK working class in a poor light; as bigots and racists when nothing could be (by and large) further from the truth. In September it was found by a poll that 31% of the UK population had given money or other help to refugees in 2015, and a staggering 1.86 million were prepared to offer a refugee safe haven in their house!

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Only 200 refugees were settled in the UK from Syria in 2015. This despite a public outpouring of support for the worst mass movement of people since 1945. 

A mass rally and public meetings in Hull at the height of the crisis in September were told by Local Authority Officers that even if we took the numbers Cameron had promised (20,000 over five years) it would make no difference in Hull as it would equate to about 90 families. The UK’s response has been pathetic and does a disservice to our tradition of tolerance and diversity.

In the late 17th 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 refugees from the Palatine in Germany (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.

The Red Door scandal is just the latest in a series of disgraceful episodes concerning G4S and is proof positive that public services should be just that; services for the public. However to make things work more effectively and serve the needs of residents rather than profiteers, the NHS and our other world class services such as education and social care need to be run by the community in partnership with local and national government, and be fully funded.

How on earth G4S are still operating, let alone delivering public service contracts beggars belief when you look at their track record.

The company gained notoriety in 2012 when they oversaw an epic fail to provide security at the London Olympics. Having won the £282 million contract to train a 10,400 mixture of police, military and volunteers staff G4S managers decided to use a large slice of the cash to fill their boots. The Daily Telegraph revealed that the managers pay pool had gone from £7 to  £60 million in just 13 months whilst a spend of £2.7 million recruitment had spectacularly flopped leaving the coalition to step in to plug the gap and G4S smarting at a £70 million fine. Despite this the company continues to thrive even though it suffered the humiliation of losing the contract to run HMP Wolds due to, once again, cutting corners on fully trained staff.

This is the company running refugee resettlement. And we wonder why the service is in such a mess as exemplified by the grotesque example of the Red Door Policy.

The real scandal is that Ministers can wash their hands of responsibility. This is fast becoming the norm in the NHS as fragmentation and privatisation make chains of responsibility impossible to follow. This will become the case more and more in Local Government as provision of services is farmed out to unaccountable, at arms length operations where councillors sit on the board with remuneration, but can play the, “not my responsibility guv” card when things go wrong.

Why are we even having a discussion around refugees? People are people no matter where they come from. It is incongruous and  strange that capitalism has not one iota of a problem with the free flow of money but when it comes to people it will go to shocking lengths to throttle things. Migration has always been a feature of humanity, from the exodus from Africa to the movement of the Cornish to the North East in the 19th century, it’s part and parcel of who we are. That’s why we need a planned economy to make sure everyone is looked after no matter what colour their door is.

 

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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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