I’ve written about national embarrassment before. It’s a subject I find fascinating. When your country does something shitty, you can’t help but feel partly responsible, can you? Though, usually, you’ll have absolutely no direct link nor association to the process that has caused such an inherent feeling of shame, you still feel like a bit of a wanker regardless. For instance, I’m happy to report that I’ve never partaken in colonialism of any description, but if a friend born somewhere outside of the British Isles ever brings up The Empire, I’m struck with an unshakable urge to apologise for it. It’s a weird one, isn’t it; the notion of a collective national guilt. It shouldn’t make sense – but it just does. Actually, it’s happening right now.
This week, reading the news has been rubbish. Why? Because it’s full of nasty, horrid stuff. I accept that nasty, horrid stuff is pretty much what the news tends to be, but the past few days or so have been particularly rough. The stories in question refer to speeches made by prominent politicians in the British government; speeches – to be more specific – made at the annual Conservative Party Conference. I know, right! Who’d have thought it?! Stick a load of Tories in one room together and you get awful, divisive politics! It’s almost as if there’s a correlation!
Anyhow, to jump back on-course, the speeches that have resonated the most in terms of their unpleasantness have been the ones that directly respond to the immigration argument. Let’s do a quick run through. Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, said immigrants who ‘consume’ Britain’s wealth were unwelcome. Consume, he said. As if he were referring to a horde of locusts, or something equally parasitic. He also rubbished claims that Brexit would result in a more ‘inward’ Britain, just in case there were any remaining doubts regarding his unwavering arseholery. Meanwhile, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced major restrictions on overseas students, a crackdown on work visas, as well as the implementation of a £140m ‘controlling migration fund.’ Nice.
The worst of the lot, however, came from our new Grand Master. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Theresa May was quizzed on the subject of foreign doctors working in the NHS. In her response, May said that overseas staff would be here for an ‘interim period – until the further number of British doctors are able to be trained and come on board in terms of being able to work in our hospitals.’
To sum up, Ms May is pretty much saying that foreign doctors can fuck right off. Goodbye. Farewell. Bon voyage, and all that. Thanks for everything, but we’re done with you. We’ve got some shiny new British-born ones, instead. No need to thank us for letting you save lives here. This one’s on us. Don’t be asking for any more favours, mind – we’ve already done enough for you! Close the door on the way out. Seriously, go.
It is at this point I’ll refer you back to my point about the news being full of nasty, horrid stuff. While all of the above (and there’s plenty more, too) are indisputable in their malice, the doctors one stings the most. It’s arrogant, conceited, discordant, cruel, and completely summative of Brexit Britain. In October 2016, the crux of British politics is essentially: Britain Good, Foreign Bad. That’s it. In a fat, ugly nutshell. This week, May referred to Labour as ‘the nasty party.’ While it’s not difficult to find the irony in that statement, I think she’s wrong for a completely different reason. We’re past nasty parties now, you see. Right now, Britain is a nasty country – and that’s just it. I truly believe that the Brexit result will be one of the worst things to occur during my lifetime, purely because of the platform it provides to bigotry, alienation and a rhetoric built upon the idea of Us vs. Them. The worst thing is that I don’t even think that these politicians truly believe what they’re saying. Rather, they’re responding with what they believe to be vote-winning populism. If that’s new centrism, then you can find me waiting on the Left, with my head in my hands.
So, without further ado, allow me to finish what I began. To the rest of the world, I’m sorry. On behalf of my country, I’m genuinely really, really sorry. The title tells you that this week made me hate myself. I fear this won’t be the only week of its kind.
Words by Niall Flynn