Friday, 30 April 2010

People Like Us

I can’t say that I shared the outrage of our nation’s press when our Prime Minister referred to Mrs Gillian Duffy from Rochdale as “some sort of bigoted woman”.

It is not something I would say of Mrs M. And, as far as I am aware, none of the forms of the word bigot is in the approved lexicon of the boys’ Specialist Language College; nor of the various associations of youth to which they belong or aspire.

I always try to distinguish politics from bigotry, but I find the task gets harder. So I can’t be quite clear where Mr B felt that Mrs D crossed the line from political insight to bigotry. She was reported as saying “you can’t say anything about the immigrants because you’re saying that you’re ... but all these Eastern Europeans what are coming in, where are they flocking from?”

(“So, what am I missing here?” interjects Mrs M. Don’t they flock from Eastern Europe?”)

If the Duffy family and the Mandall family have different ranges of views on this topic, it is perhaps less a reflection of bigotry than of geography. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Rochdale.

Here in the Bridge, we had a fine batch of immigrant au pairs from the Slavic region a few years back. I didn’t hear too many complaints in the Devvy. Nor when the Oak opened a Thai restaurant. But perhaps it feels different a few miles down the road in Hyde, which boasts a thriving Bangladeshi population, a huge pork sausage factory, an impressive portfolio of boxers and serial killers, and lots of restaurants.

The more I think about it, the more I am astonished by the number of things I don’t know about being foreign in Britain. For instance, if the Queen married Philip today, would he be British? Would he have to pass a test about which side of the road to drive a cricket bat, or how many gills there are in a pint of brown trout? And what would happen to him if we decided to deport him?

As it happens, M3 was born offshore, so to speak, while I was freelancing on behalf of our European friends. We were advised that our son would be British-By-Descent, which means that his heirs would not have a Right-of-Abode if they were also born abroad.

Now, for all that I love Foreign Parts, I also love our own Little Sod. So I was less-than-impressed that a Mandall might not be welcome here.

I thought of writing to my MP about it. But I don’t like to bother him if I can help it. He works so hard, and looks as though he’s been wearing the same wool-rich sports jacket and polyester trousers since the election before last. I may be in a small minority here, but I’m not aware that MPs have taken a vow of misery. Just give them a decent wage, or at least a few John Lewis vouchers.

MPs Andrew Stunell and Mark Hunter in action

It all turned out OK for M3. This particular extended trip was generously financed by the European Community. The British High Commission kindly gave us a pamphlet which explained that, the European Commission being merely an adjunct of Her Britannic Majesty’s Government, M3 is British-Other-Than-By-Descent. And his seed for ever.

At least, until they change the law, which no doubt they will soon enough. One man’s bigotry is another man’s vote.

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