Thursday, 13 February 2020

Who will be next?

In defending itself against critics of the deportation flight earlier this week, the government claimed that the criticism was only coming from the ‘Westminster Bubble’; the implication being that it could be ignored.  The first part is ‘true’, in the sense that the outrage being expressed is mostly coming from MPs; but it is the conclusion that the government draws from that which should concern us.
Firstly, of course, the MPs are elected to represent us.  There is no requirement (or indeed mechanism) for them to check whether their constituents agree with the stance they are taking, but that is no excuse for simply ignoring their views.  If they are doing any sort of job at all, the MPs should also be more aware than the mass of the population of the detail of the content and implementation of government policy.
The bigger concern is that the government believes that it can and should do whatever it wishes as long as it thinks that the population at large isn’t going to actively object.  They are probably (and sadly) correct in assuming that the population at large is not hugely exercised about the deportation of convicted criminals, particularly (and this aspect doesn’t go away just because it isn’t voiced) black ones.  As we’ve seen in relation to other issues, mere facts and details (such as the fact that they’re being deported to a country of which they have no memory or knowledge, the lives that they have built in the UK, their families, their conduct after serving their sentences) don’t shift prejudices and preconceptions, which are often deep-rooted.  The fact that the decisions being taken fly in the face of what the same government calls ‘British values’ (such as justice, equal rights, and fair play) is also irrelevant; the adherence of many to those values is, like that of the government, more a matter of words than actions or beliefs.
History tells us that failure to oppose the loss of rights for some leads to the loss of rights for others.  Those who take away the citizenship and rights of one group today will come after another group tomorrow, and another one the day after.  Convicted criminals, even those who’ve served their sentences and reformed after release, aren’t the easiest group to defend or support, but picking on the least defensible group is the way normalising the loss of rights always starts.  The way to avoid the question “Who’s next?” even arising is not to turn a blind eye to the treatment of those currently in the line of fire.

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