For, it was not just the European Union and its insistence on its citizens’ right to move freely across the Union and especially in and out of Britain that preoccupied them, it was the presence of millions of global majority people, ‘coloured immigrants’ who had made Britain home to themselves and their British born children. It is they who for generations the Far Right had been persecuting and murdering, ostensibly on behalf of the ‘silent majority’ who, so they claim, had been afraid to speak up for fear of being branded ‘racist’.
It is they who had been subjected to weekly onslaughts by the Far Right who, despite their vile, racist and intimidating conduct, enjoyed the protection of the police who ensured that they could exercise their right to racially abuse, threaten and intimidate in the name of free speech. Now, the silent majority could at last join them and more openly and audaciously confront the aliens in their own right, while giving the Far Right reason to feel totally vindicated.
Both before and after the referendum vote on 23 June, that wide spectrum along which sit politicians, police, members of the judiciary, people in the media, members of all political parties, headteachers and classroom teachers, civil servants, regulators, the English Defence League, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Britain First, the British National Party and other neo-fascists, was in full voice and in full view. Britain First, currently the most active of the organised fascist groups, has a website strapline: ‘Britain First, Taking our country back’. It says of itself: ‘Britain First is a patriotic political party and street defence organisation. Here you can join forces with patriots like you and make a real difference!’
All at once, the nation had returned to the 1950s and 1960s when it was respectable to talk openly about niggers and coons, coloureds and wogs and mark out territory with signs saying ‘no coloureds’, ‘no wogs’ and ‘no dogs’; to engage in paki-bashing against anyone who look as if they might be of South Asian heritage and in gratuitous violence against African people.
‘Our country’ and the ‘we’ who were demanding it back, were not considered to be any other but white British. As such, any deviation from that ‘norm’, born here and knowing no other place, or claiming no other identity, or not, was fair game for physical and verbal abuse, contempt and ridicule. That was the ‘freedom’ that Brexit had restored. That was the reinstatement of the inalienable right of the Englishman that had been curtailed for far too long, not least by restrictive race relations legislation. That was the process of confirming all ‘immigrants’ and their children as ‘other’, as having no entitlement even to basic civil liberties, as undesirable and as a burden on the state and its institutions that they hoped would displace all talk about race equality, equal opportunity, equal rights and the rest. That was the process of confirming black youth as an ever present threat to social order, a problem for ‘our’ police and ‘our’ schools and generally surplus to requirements in ‘our’ country.
The pre-Brexit expectation, therefore, was that the government and all political parties would wake up to the traction UKIP had gained across the country and the credibility it had with the electorate and show signs of being tough on immigration and of the need to allay fear and unease among those who had legitimate fears that ‘their country’ was not theirs anymore. Any party that wished to consider itself electable, therefore, had to be seen to be singing from the same song sheet as UKIP, if not as the English Defence League and Britain First, and demonstrate to the electorate that it was taking their fears and anxieties seriously and taking active steps to provide evidence of so doing. So, as a gesture of good intent and a sign that you mean business, you deport 50 Jamaicans to a country that they hardly know and of which they are ‘nationals’ only as a result of historical neglect.
The entire country engages in a debate about immigration and the need for government and political parties to be sensitive and responsive to the electorate’s fears about immigration as if:
a) The electorate is only white
b) Only that white electorate in middle England and among the squeezed working class have the right to determine the future of Britain, in or out of Europe
c) That white electorate rebuilt Britain’s infrastructure, economy and health service singlehandedly after two devastating world wars, while the immigrants ‘took our houses and scrounged off the state’
d) That white electorate even knows its own history and how the history of Britain’s imperial and colonialist past intertwines with that of ‘the immigrants’
e) That white electorate has the right to determine who and what they will and will not tolerate
f) That white electorate has the right to determine the threshold of ‘tolerance’ those whom they’re magnanimously tolerating, the ‘othered’ and excluded must not breach
g) The ‘othered’ global majority are to be treated as people who have simply been resettled in the ethnic colonies that the nation has carelessly allowed to evolve and who are not part of mainstream society and its institutions
h) All the offspring of that ‘othered’ population must be regarded as ethnic minority extensions of their 2nd and 3rd and 4th generation immigrant parents, all of whom, frankly, the country could now do without; they with their lack of loyalty to ‘our’ country that allowed them to make it their home, they with their jihadist fundamentalism, they with their lack of respect for ‘our’ fundamental British values, they who perennially put a strain on our social and health services and remain at odds with our police up and down the land
So long as that supposedly white only electorate could set the political agenda for government, to the extent that Nigel Farage and UKIP could cause a prime minister to pander to and fan their fears and precipitate a referendum on British sovereignty over immigration control and over people’s fundamental human rights, any and every political party could forget about their ‘One Nation’ rhetoric.
Not surprisingly, therefore, while all of that is going on, the government announces that it has no specific plans to mark the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024. That is despite the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon stating that “People of African descent are among the poorest and most marginalized communities around the world” and a recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “Healing a Divided Britain”, showing that in general people of African descent in this country face most race inequalities.
As recently as August 2016, The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties, expressed concern that in Britain “persons of African descent face institutional racism” in such areas as health, employment, education, “stop and search” practices and the criminal justice system.
The same UN Committee also calls on the Government to mark the UN Decade and to adopt “a national action plan to combat discrimination against persons of African descent in consultation with communities of African descent”. The United Nations chose as its theme for the Decade: “Recognition, Justice and Development”.