Wednesday, 23 April 2014
For England & St George!
It's St George’s Day and a recent survey shows that even though we may be secretly (and rightly) proud of our heritage, we are apparently scared of celebrating our patron saint’s day for fear of being seen as that most heinous of bigot – a racist. In my typical contrary way I tweeted that I favour the spelling ‘realist’ and as a result a few people ‘favourited’ that post but not many dared to publicly retweet it in agreement because, well, you never know how it may be taken.
It’s no surprise though, because even though the taunt of racist has become a parody now, with friends routinely outing each other over the tiniest of twisted slights by deploying the R-Bomb, there is still some nervousness attached to it. There is, I believe, a legal definition which can be tested in court, but in real life nobody has the slightest idea where preference passes over into racism. For instance I would far prefer to work alongside a fluent English speaker with whom I share many cultural norms – not least because I like a laugh and a joke and punchlines rarely translate well - but does that make me a spitting Nazi? Yes, it would seem, to some.
So no wonder the knives were out for Nigel Farage with both mischief makers and concerned public alike determined to denounce a suggestion that an oversupply of labour depresses wages as racist. Racist? Yes, because these workers aren’t native born. This is a straw man fallacy. UKIP’s actual position is simple - open the borders to a plentiful supply of cheap unskilled Labour and those already here are at a disadvantage. That is a pretty simple economic realism which is hard to attack but wait, those cheap units are foreigners, therefore… You Racists! It’s almost as ridiculous as the witch quiz in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
I confess to using it myself all the time. Ed Miliband’s dad was a Marxist, therefore Beaker himself must wish to enslave all of Britain under the yoke of communism. It’s a cheap jibe with which to express my opposition to another term under a Labour government, but it’s not clever. Ed would argue me under the table if I were to try and advance this as a serious political attack because it is lazy and wrong and who the hell am I anyway? No political commentator with any gravitas would ever support such a flimsy fallacy but Kay Burley threw caution to the wind and had a go anyway.
Her straw man argument (and that of many others intelligent enough to know much better) goes thus: Nigel Farage states that a flood of cheap labour depresses low-paid workers’ wages. (This cannot be denied – it’s one of the reasons many employers love the EU; such people will willingly do work that it has become uneconomic for many British born to do.) He, like thousands of other people in public positions employs his wife, a person uniquely available to help him in a way possibly no other person alive could. But wait, she’s German, therefore (and you can almost hear the cogs grinding) he’s not only a racist, he’s a hypocrite!
It’s as if the massed ranks of the media and the political classes put aside their mutual grievances, held a meeting and agreed some battle lines. Time and again, instead of attacking the many chinks (racist!) in UKIP’s armour they went for the man himself on the flimsiest of pretexts, cynically trying to poison him with an oversupply of the oxygen of publicity and betting that if they told the tale often enough it would transmogrify from fallacy into fact. Bomber pilots used to say “If you're not catching flak, you're not over the target.” Farage must be bang on; he’s certainly rattled the cages of some big beasts.
Do you want this dragon slaying or what?
Well today we celebrate - quietly, mind you - that racist heritage of ours as we raise a glass to a Greco-Roman-Palestinian who suffered torture and execution over his beliefs but is remembered in our folklore as a dragon-slaying hero. Be careful what you wish for, many critics said of Nigel Farage yesterday, as they repeatedly lashed out at the figurehead instead of taking on his army. Wise words you might do well to heed. The traditional way of creating a saint is to start off by making him a martyr.
Nigel George’s Day!