Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Slough, Sir John Betjeman

I know, I know. There I go quoting from poetry again. I’m obviously in danger of losing the common touch but stay with me, I’ll get to the point. In 2004, eight countries from the former Eastern Europe joined the EU. At this time the Government predicted that between 5,000 and 13,000 people from these countries would come to Britain seeking work. Just under half a million showed up. So the usual care was exercised in making these predictions. Obviously all possibilities were expertly considered and plans made to expand local services to accommodate the burgeoning population. Yeah right.

At the time, the only other European countries besides Britain to completely open their borders to unregulated immigration were Ireland and Sweden. Anyone trying to get into Ireland was immediately crushed in the exodus of Irish people trying to escape it. Sweden is the home of the Saab (uggh), the Volvo (double uggh) and the snow plough – arguably the most attractive mode of transport of the three. Beer is about £25 a pint and traditional cuisine goes by the name of husmanskost – literal translation, human cost. Then there’s the impenetrable language. I once learned to say ‘I’m hungry and I’m thirsty but otherwise I’m fine’, in Swedish. It wasn’t all that useful as nobody was interested in the food and no one wanted to shell out £25 to buy you a pint.

This is all topical again because there will be a new tranche of EU member countries next year which will include Bulgaria and Romania. Cue lots of boasting from Government as asylum applications from these countries plummet. I will declare here that my moral position is that anyone should be able to live wherever they wish – (I pick Mel Gibson’s Malibu house). As the fortunate holder of dual citizenship (Britain and Australia), I have enjoyed the freedom of coming and going between the two for many years. However, immigrants with language needs and no money in their pockets when they arrive need the support of the host country. We either extend that or we put our hands up and say, sorry we can’t manage it.

My spiritual home, Noosa Heads in Queensland, has a population ceiling. I’ve never worked out how they regulate this as to my knowledge, there are no border controls. I know they’re a bit funny about you moving bananas any great distance but I think that’s because they make the car pong after a while. Maybe they do ethnic profiling and I fit in because of my bleached hair. Possibly, they allow you to have only the same number of children as you have bathrooms. They may even practise euthanasia on retirees who have outlived their usefulness once they can no longer stand all day in shopping centres selling raffle tickets. They must be doing something right as they don’t have people begging in the streets.

So to Slough. Of the 9,000 applicants for a National Insurance Number in Slough in the last year, only 150 were from British nationals. The friendly bombs are indeed falling on Slough only to land in the local KFC, the modern equivalent of the cabbage patch. Commerical interests insist that unregulated immigration is a brilliant thing. They would, wouldn’t they because they can get away with paying immigrants next to nothing and capitalising on their poor language skills and lack of understanding of employees’ rights.

You can’t have a moral position with lots of break clauses so I say yes, let everyone in Europe enjoy the same rights and advantages. But please, let them all be militant and refuse to work in appalling conditions. Pray they stick it to the man – big time.


Mr T said...

"Over the points by electrical traction
Out of the chimneypots into the openness
Til we come to the suburb that's thought to be commonplace
Home of the gnome and the average citizen
Sketchley and Unigate, Dolcis and Walpamur"
John Betjeman on Neasden

That's so pants said...

Thanks Mr T. (Is this my Mr T or a different one?) Did Betjeman write anything about Harlesden? That could be useful