A COLUMNIST AT DAILY TELEGRAPH sticking up for Priti Patel at the Home Office hardly counts as surprising.
“I’m on Priti Patel’s side in the deportation row – because she’s on our side” was the headline on Allison Pearson’s article this week. Her column began, “Seventeen rapists, killers and drug dealers were deported in the small hours of yesterday morning.” The article sits behind a paywall, where it can stay as far as I’m concerned.
Why? Because that’s just one way of looking at the latest post-Windrush disgrace dished up by the government. Another might be to say that 15 black Britons who served time in prison for crimes they committed have been expelled to countries with which they have little, if any, connection.
Another way might be to wonder at the double standards that apply to black people in these circumstances. Rarely do you read of white people who’ve served prison sentences being ‘sent back’ to the USA or Australia or even Canada (although royal ‘offenders’ do sometimes take refuge in that last location).
Yet black people who have offended and served their time are being deported so that the government can look tough.
The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, told Sky News that all due process had been followed. Tellingly, he then said: “We have an established process for ensuring that where we have foreign nationals who have committed crimes here they should be, where possible, deported.”
The key here is the use of the phrase “foreign nationals”, which makes it sound as if these are foreign criminals being sent back to where they recently came from. Instead they are, in the main, British citizens who committed crimes and were punished. To then expel them suggests black people deserve a higher form of punishment than white people.
Michael McDonald, one of those waiting to be deported, wrote a short article for the more sympathetic Guardian under the heading: “I served my time in prison. So why am I being deported?”
McDonald added: “I’ve lived in Britain 20 years, raised children here and paid my taxes. In Jamaica I really will be a ‘foreigner’.”
His sentence was for drug dealing. Boris Johnson, that second-rate Churchill karaoke act with his shouting and arm waving, has admitted to having used cocaine when young. In other words, he was complicit in the sort of crimes committed by drug dealers. But he’s an old Etonian posh boy, so it doesn’t matter. . .
McDonald’s sentence has also been effectively imposed on his family: his kids keeping asking him on the phone, “Daddy, when are you coming home?”
That ‘home’ is in Nottingham. “But when the government talks about sending me ‘back’,” wrote McDonald, “they mean a place that’s completely foreign to me – Jamaica.
“I have no family in Jamaica; my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles all live in the UK and have British citizenship.”
That is a cruel way for a country to behave and I feel only shame.
The thought of Allison Pearson behind her paywall summons up a walled garden where the roses have more thorns than petals, as she walks about muttering that the Home Secretary is “on our side”.
Which side is that? Pearson sometimes harps on about her Christianity, but none of this sounds remotely Christian; but what does an old agnostic like me know about anything?
I don’t want to be on Allison’s side or on Priti’s side. All I want is to be on the side of humanity. Deporting Michael McDonald achieves nothing as he has been punished already. All it does it unnecessarily punish people who love and need him, in the name of looking tough.
And should Priti Patel ever slip up and be threatened with expulsion to Uganda, from whence her Ugandan-Indian parents arrived in 1972, I would stick up for her right to remain here, too.
Yes, Priti Patel herself was born in London. But she seems strangely obsessed with punishing immigrants and their children whose lives turned out less well.