I wish I had a quid for every time an English Conservative politician or commentator called someone a “leftie”; the term is now deliberately used as an insult.

It seems you can’t have a moderately empathetic attitude to the vulnerable in society, but you’re branded as some type of Trotskyist revolutionary who wants to overthrow the decent values of democracy.

It’s cynical, designed to undermine opponents as somehow untrustworthy, and it’s a sign of how far political discourse has sunk across the board.

It doesn’t bode well that fear and division, nastiness and blatant untruths are the staples of British politics now, and it’s clear that the Tories are lining up immigration as the main issue to win the next election.

“Stop the boats” is the latest slogan in an era of slogans which appear to have replaced real politics.

Yet the left, particularly centre-left, has a long and honourable tradition in Britain of working for the disadvantaged, and without them working-class people would be far worse off, particularly in terms of pay, sick pay, hours of working and many other things.

And, of course, it was a “leftie”, Nye Bevan, who as Labour’s Minister of Health, set up the NHS in 1948.

Before then, access to decent health care was reliant on having money, and the government of the time introduced the welfare state to further help poorer people in a harsh world.

One wonders if today Bevan’s caring policies would have ensured him branded a “leftie” in the disparaging terms we hear today.

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, was at it again this week in the House of Commons, hitting back at “out-of-touch lefties” in the debate over the Immigration Bill.

Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded to the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, calling him “just another leftie lawyer getting in our way”.

This was no throwaway remark. In one short phrase, the British Prime Minister showed his disdain for lawyers, sneered at a political opponent, and warned that the Government of the day wasn’t prepared to let him, or his ilk, stop them.

Not just Starmer – nothing will get in this Government’s way.

Not the courts, human rights lawyers, or even the law itself, which they broke without looking back during Covid-19, and continue to have a cavalier attitude to, especially international law.

Not the civil servants either, all included in a Government document as “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour party”.

Not parliamentary procedure, which they ride roughshod over.

Not legitimate protests, which they’ve tightened up the rules against.

Not nurses, junior doctors, ambulance staff, railway workers, teachers, and the rest for having the temerity to look for a decent wage.

Not even the truth itself. Some of this lot can lie as easily as they breathe.

Not the media, most of which is right-wing, and the one organisation which is supposed to serve the public – the BBC – is now corrupted by Government.

And not Gary Lineker, called a “luvvie” or “a smug little twerp” or even, you’ve guessed it, “leftie” by a DUP MP, Gregory Campbell, among others.

Fellow pundit and ex-footballer Ian Wright supported Lineker, and in a tweet by a Tory councillor, was called “a typical black hypocrite”.

This week, Tory MP Jonathan Gullis was interviewed on Channel Four about his northern constituency, and said there was an attempt to “call people up here racist bigots, Nazis, like Gary Lineker has done”.

Lineker himself responded in a tweet, saying he would never do this, and said the Gullis comment was “outrageous and dangerously provocative”.

The storm over the Lineker tweet dominated the news agenda for days and was really remarkable.

The Match of the Day presenter had taken issue with the policy over refugees, which Braverman has described as an “invasion”.

The Home Office produced a video claiming: “Enough is enough. We must stop the boats”, which went on to say the UK was being “overwhelmed by asylum seekers”.

A reminder of what Lineker actually said: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other European countries”, describing it as a “cruel policy” and adding that the policy was being justified “in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

Spot on, I thought.

Do I think this government can be compared to a regime which sent six million Jews to the gas chambers, and wreaked unspeakable evil on the world?

No, of course not, as much as I oppose what the Tories stand for.

But Gary Lineker’s point about the language being used is perfectly valid, and it’s irresponsible in the extreme for a government to employ it as a tactic.

It’s dangerous, and a slippery slope which needs to be called out.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, we seem to have lost sight of the value of the lives of vulnerable human beings taking the decision to put themselves in danger to come to Britain.

The problem is a serious one, and no one doubts it needs to be resolved. But not only is there a doubt over whether the Braverman Bill will work, but the whole discourse around it has also descended to the disgusting dehumanising of people.

The vice-chairman of the Conservatives, no less, Lee Anderson told the House of Commons he wanted to “get rid of foreign rapists and murderers”.

And this week, Braverman suggested she’d been told by police chiefs that criminality and the drugs trade were linked to people who had come to the UK on small boats.

I’m sure there are serious issues to be addressed, particularly the criminals taking advantage of these poor people no doubt, but crikey it’s as if good old Blighty doesn’t have any rapists, murderers, criminals and drug dealers, so those nasty foreigners on boats must be stopped.

The Lineker comment became, according to some, “a Nazi slur against the Government”, and everybody piled in on either side.

Despite numerous examples of people like Lord Sugar, Andrew Neil and John Humphrys freely expressing opinions critical of Mick Lynch, the Unions and Labour, suddenly Gary Lineker became a problem and was asked to step back.

There was only one reason, and that was because the Government didn’t like his opinion, and with the top brass at the BBC put there by the Tories, it’s clear that the public service broadcaster faces a very uncertain future in the face of political pressure from an unscrupulous Government.

The media landscape in Britain has changed dramatically. GB News and TalkTV regularly platform right wingers like Rees-Mogg, Farage, Richard Tice, Isabel Oakeshott et al, and we have Tory MPs interviewing the Tory Chancellor.

They are, as Fox News in the United States was described, political movements masquerading as a news channel.

And with most of the newspapers under wealthy owners with a right-wing agenda, there is a greater need than ever for a healthy, independent public service broadcaster.

That is what the BBC once was. Sadly, no longer, and the credibility of Chairman Richard Sharp and Director General, Tim Davie (such as it was anyway) is shot to pieces.

The Lineker episode will fade quickly, but the underlying issue of the Corporation’s independence will remain. We already see the critics lining up to defund it.

The control of the media is part of this Government’s campaign to choke dissent and promote fear heading to the next election.

Well, they can hardly stand on their record, can they? So, it’s really no exaggeration to say that the Conservatives are weaponising the immigration issue to fight a dirty election.

This week, Lee Anderson actually said out loud, that they won the 2019 election on three things, Boris, Corbyn and Brexit.

They’ll have to think of something else next time, he said, “probably a mix of culture wars and the trans debate”.

Wasn’t it Goebbels who said: “Arguments must be crude, clear and forcible and appeal to the emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth is unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.”

Oops, there’s that Nazi reference again.

But after the “Get Brexit done”, we now have a preview of the next election, with Sunak standing on a podium bearing the slogan, “Stop the boats”, and there are plenty of Bravermans and Andersons to chip in with “invasions” and a few other slogans as well.

A questioner on the BBC Question Time recently asked, “Is Britain broken?”

If the answer is yes, watch out for a polemic debate, in which both sides will blame the other for it.


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