PR, a deficit of statesmanship and the centenary of WW1
Last week, the Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury did something which should cause us concern, wherever our political allegiances may lie. I give David Cameron his full title in order to place firmly in the frame the constitutional duties and responsibilities of the head of government in a democratic state.
The tone of the Tory playbook last week was pitched around toughness on immigration. From the announcement that the period of time for which EU migrants can claim welfare payments will be reduced from six months to three (after an initial three-month waiting period), to his eager participation in a photo-op with immigration enforcement officers, the Prime Minister made himself foolish, unconstitutional and obnoxious.
The foolishness first: Cameron would have gained more respect by telling voters the truth. Migrants are less likely than British citizens to claim benefits and they contribute more in taxes than they take in benefits. An OECD report last year found that they make a net contribution of 1.02 per cent of GDP or £16.3 billion to the UK because they are younger and more economically active than the general population. By trying to promote the idea that these migrants are idling scroungers, the Prime Minister also undermined the other trope of the Farage tendency – that they are 'taking our jobs'.
But it is the disgraceful display in the Slough flat of four Albanians, alleged to be illegal immigrants, which should trouble us more. After border officials had raided the flat and removed the suspects, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary turned up to pose in the living room and loll on the kitchen units of people who had not yet been able to benefit from the justice of due process. Two pillars of decency which underpin our culture – innocent till proved guilty and the privacy and sanctity of the home – were casually violated by a man whose instincts owe more to his PR origins than to statesmanship or constitutional rectitude.
This was far more than distasteful opportunism. Participating in a media circus in the home of individuals who had not yet had their right to due process, means that they are much less likely to receive justice fron any tribunal or trial. It is not the first time that the Prime Minister has shown contempt for the processes of justice – remember his Twitter indiscretions on both Nigella Lawson and Andy Coulson which earned him rebukes from members of the judiciary?
Today (4 August) as the centenary of Britain's entry into World War 1 is commemorated, the Prime Minister declared of that generation which suffered so much for the wretched failures of politicians: “Their enduring legacy is our liberty.” I am left wondering what that might mean under this government and I am certain that my grandfather, who left much of what should have given him tranquillity in his last years upon the field of the Somme, would have laid the rough edge of his Cumbrian tongue to such hypocrisy.
© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen
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