Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: Gordon Brown

Oh, those Russians…

Summer holidays are about the sun, the sea, getting away from it all or, in the case of Russians, getting away with it. This year I have spent two weeks with my family in the hot African sun, surrounded by Russians both big and small, but very Russian. The following became quite clear from being with them, closely watching them and talking with them.

1. They are locked into the 1980s like a Hazel Dean Greatest Hits collection. (There would be only five songs on that album and if you can name two you win a prize.)

2. They really can drink a lot.

3. They like to take pictures and pose in those pictures, a lot. The sort of poses that would grace the catalogues of the very companies that would sell you the clothes you used to buy in the 1980s.

4. They have money. A lot of money.

The Russians I shared the sun with were not oligarchs who were handed a state-run monopolies by a pissed president to do with what they willed. These are Russians who work for these oligarchs. They are middle class Russians mainly and they are happy, not just because they were on holiday.

When you probed a little deeper, they were happy because they love and are proud of their country and their leader, one V Putin.

The world, geopolitics and the media love a bogie man. Nothing sells a news bulletin or a newspaper more than a bad guy to point at and say ‘it’s his fault’, or ‘her fault’ for that matter. Think of the names that have been used for that very purpose over the last few years; Saddam Hussein, Col Gaddafi, Mohammed Morsi, Jimmy Saville, Sharon Mathews, Maxine Carr, Angela Merkel. The media love the binary world of the old Hollywood Western where the good guys wear the white hats and support their gun slinger against the black hats and their gun slinger.

Vladimir Putin has a very big black hat. He would not be out-of-place in a hollowed out volcano lair, sitting in a high back, black swivel chair. You can picture Putin stroking a white cat while surrounded by Ninjas in orange boiler suits turning nobs and flicking switches, tapping on computers and watching security screens. But it’s not as simple as this Bond image and the media in general is doing a disservice for making it so, much like the coverage of Gaza and the continuing ripples and waves of Sykes-Picot a century on from the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Take Crimea. Putin has. Bad joke. But Crimea is more Russian that Ukrainian, indeed if you look at the history of the region Crimea is more Russian than Moscow. Is it wrong to cede to the will of the people and take control of what actually wants to be yours? Putin did not seek a war, conflicts or even a spat with the west, but it has done him no harm. Quite the contrary. Putin needs us to be his black hats and we need him and his people to be ours. Putin also needs the west to be strong too in turn make him look and be stronger and he needs the West, especially the EU to buy Russian gas, oil, coal, wheat.

History is replete with lines drawn on a map as a result of war, dividing lands and people. The effects of this from the First World War are still being felt today thanks to the afore-mentioned Sykes-Picot plan for the Middle East.

Putin is a leader, not a manager and the world needs leaders as it does have too many managers. Look at Barrack Obama. The world thought they were getting a leader but they got a manager. Margret Thatcher was a leader, John Major was a manager. Tony Blair was a leader, Gordon Brown was an unmitigated disaster. The jury is out on David Cameron but I think we all know what Ed Miliband will be, and so do his party.

So what has this all go to do with my holiday in the company of Russians? Well they are happy, they have a sense of nation and purpose and, even with their economy going into recession, they are bound together and even if they struggle they will struggle together and be stronger for it. History should teach us that a strong leader, who knows the people and their history needs watching very closely. That leader also needs our respect, our admiration and our caution.

One last thing. Can you think of any other flag of the world that could be turned into a bikini without it causing offence? Well the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes makes an excellent two piece swim wear ensemble. Maybe the flag of Saudi Arabia could be next? Maybe not.

I’m not being racist but…

Immigration. It’s a complex word that strikes a deep chord, gets the media in a tangle and makes politicians worry about what they can say, or don’t say.

At the last general election in 2010 it was the third rail of British politics. Touch it and you will die. Bigotgate anyone? Ask Gordon Brown about immigration and see his jaw lock, as only it can. This year and the next general election this will and must change.

It is a painful reality that, as part of he EU, we have freedom of movement around the 27 member states and they do here. So we can no more pull up the UK PLC drawbridge and lock the doors with a sign on saying ‘No Vacancies’ than Spain can do the same to us. Maybe Spain, Greece, France, Portugal would like to send back all those British expats living in those warmer European climbs? Freedom of movement is a central plank of the EU and, without it, the whole project will fail. So for the UK not to be part of this fundamental part of the EU means we are out, even before you get be asked if you want to be in or out in 2017. It is a shame that the bill that would have made that law has now died a painful death at the hands of our noble lords. That is politics for you.

This last week has seen the Prime Minister commit again to ‘tens of thousands’ of net immigration just as parliament got itself into a total tis over the Immigration Bill. The sight of our Home Secretary having to sit on her hands and abstain on an illegal amendment to the bill shows how difficult this whole issue is, even for our law makers and party leaders.

So is it racist to debate immigration? The BBC gets itself in knots over the issue, as do most national newspapers and politicians. Is it racist to want border controls? If it is then most countries outside the EU are guilty as charged. ‘I’m not being racist but … can I see your visa?’ Is it racist to expect those who choose to the UK to pay taxes, to be part of the wider community, to speak the common language and respect the laws and traditions of the UK? Is it racist to ask those who come her to be part of our culture, life, and principles? Is it racist to send home those who threaten lives or incite hatred against the wider society?

Last year the retiring Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks suggested multiculturalism creates a society where “everyone is a guest”, and went on to call for a “multi-ethnic” society not multi-cultured. In essence multicultural means many cultures rubbing along together, all trying to understand and respect each other. But what happens when things rub? Friction, heat and then worse. Lord Sacks went on to say multiculturalism in Britain has “had its day” having led to “segregation and inward looking communities”. Is he a racist for say that? Am I a racist for expanding on it?

We must stop being afraid of a debate on immigration and the many unique cultures that live in the UK. We must control our boarders, know who is coming in and out and we must stop saying ‘I’m not being racist but’ every time we dare to express a view that might offend someone. Free speech is just one of the many reasons why we are all here and free speech might just achieve a multi ethnic, broad, mono cultured society that we can all live in, happily.

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