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The Wax Man Cometh

Well, after a long terrible time in which the British media seems to have been dragging us all into a late 1930s time-warp substituting the word 'Migrants' for 'Jews,' poor little Aylan Kurdi and his brother Galip have shocked Blighty out of its moral stupor.

Petitions and photographs are everywhere, everyone is scandalised, people are crying, writing to their MPs, offering their homes, sorting out ways to donate and fund... it may not last. But the more hateful are momentarily silenced, because the challenge to their prejudice is loud and angry. A light has been shone on the extraordinary rise of racism among us. One blog likened it to the old boiling frog trope; the idea that if you put a frog in a pan of water and just gradually turn the heat up, little by little, the frog will quietly sit there until it slowly but surely boils to death. And that's where we've been, sitting there while the heat just turned up a little and up a little....

And only by tearing one's thoughts away from Bodrun Beach is there any way to think about this without tears.

I actually begin to feel for Cameron's dilemma. I've seen no evidence to suggest that he is personally racist. But while he sees the usefulness of staying in the EU without being wed to the idea, and while he has the wit to laugh off the 'swivel-eyed loons' on the far right, the fact is that a certain kind of racism has been a long-term staple for the die-hards in his party.

In terms of immigration the Right can be roughly divided into three groups; 1) Normal Tories acting normally, whatever that is 2) The 'Business' right, who see how useful immigration is in lowering wages and flooding the job market with people ready to work all the hours god sends for peanuts, and 3) bona fide racists, fearful of the different, the other, the outsider, to whom Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech became holy writ.

Cameron's behaviour indicates that he belongs in either the first or second category or both. But he has not counted on how many of his own belong in the ranks of the third, how old school they are in their irrationalities. He would always expect greed to trump fear; but he doesn't know them. They've grown more and more comfortable with the lurid viciousness of mainstream media language, not just to do with immigrants but to do with the poor, with benefits claimants, with the disabled. The language has contributed to a climate in which everyone who is against austerity is stealing from The Taxpayer, stealing from us. It has been a useful tone in the nailing down of austerity measures as a belief system into which we must all buy. And how can he disable that tone now, as suddenly the whole of Europe is yelling that we must put humanity first, do something, help, take in more refugees?
He daren't, without handing the right of his party over to UKip, or at least getting himself booted out of the big chair. Decency demands we take in more than the pitiful number of refugees we have accepted, but Cameron faces outright rebellion, both for his position and re the EU referendum he wants to win, if he alienates Tory grass roots any further. So he is stuck with talking about long term solutions and peace in home countries and stuff that will need time and huge expense to sort out, rather than rescue for refugees now. And if that makes him look like a man of wax, it's a well-fitting shoe.

What a strangely fated prime minister he is. Slippery enough to get out of scrapes but then along comes something like this which requires a true statesperson, an extraordinary human being, someone bigger than his party or his time... and that's just not who David Cameron is. He would have been happy to middle-muddle though, making a few bucks for his friends who in turn would give a few bucks to the party ad infinitum, and settle ever after. But the time requires some element of greatness, and I don't think he has it.

I don't think he thinks he has it either. But you never can tell.



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