“Those who look for the light at the end of the tunnel
Will never enjoy the allures of the dark.”
— From Proverbs of Bachchoo-ka-Adda
Sajid Javid is Britain’s home secretary. Together with the chancellor of the exchequer and the foreign secretary, his position is one of the great offices of state and stepping stone to Number 10, Downing Street. There is of course no guarantee, as mavericks and outsiders succeed to that office if these panjandrums don’t distance themselves from the failed policies of their Prime Ministers.
The Indian media regularly features American politicians with some Indian connection as possible presidential candidates. Nikki Haley, we are told, is of Punjabi origin and may be a contender for very high office.
In Britain, apart from Sajid Javid, the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, there are perhaps 15 or 20 MPs from the ethnic minority communities in both Labour and Conservative parties, just as there are senators and congressmen of Asian immigrant origin in the United States. In London Sadiq Khan, another son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, is the elected mayor holding very many crucial and powerful briefs. In Ireland, Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach (or Prime Minister), is the son of a Maharashtrian immigrant doctor.
The power and preeminence of these individuals is testimony to two phenomena of the modern Western world. The first is that one aspect of globalisation, which entails the movement of capital and of labourers from poorer continents to the richer, brought the fathers of Sajid, Nikki, Sadiq, Leo and the others to Europe and the United States. The second is the socially enforced meritocracies of Europe and the US which allowed the children of humble origin to make their way to political pre-eminence.
These factors don’t and can’t work in reverse. No Brits become India’s home minister. No Irishmen rise to be chief ministers of Maharashtra. There is of course our own Sonia Gandhi, but she didn’t get to be the boss of the Congress through the operations of capitalism or non-existent Indian meritocracy. Her status owes itself to love and marriage, (Awwww! Sweet!) This Christmas the media prominently announced that Sajid Javid had cut short his holidays and was being brought back from a secret location to his desk so that he can solve the major crisis that has hit the country. Was it war? Was it rioting in the streets? Had a tsunami or earthquake killed thousands and made millions homeless? Was there a widespread mutiny among the police? A spate of terrorist attacks...? No, gentle reader, none of the above!
Three men who said they were Iranians had been picked up by a patrol boat in the English Channel as they tried to cross from France on a rubber dinghy. They had no visas and were refugees. On subsequent days a few more rubber dinghies and frail craft were apprehended in the Channel attempting to cross from France.
The government declared a crisis. The home secretary would cut short his holiday and “deal” with this illegal attempt at inflating Britain’s population.They were coming across from France because they saw England as a soft touch. There were thousands on the northern shores of France who could possibly be trafficked by criminal gangs to invade the sceptered isles.
Javid, son and scion of the immigrant communities, would save the nation in this hour of peril posed by “immigrants”.
Some statistics came to light on the social media. On an average day, 5,000 people go to food banks in Britain because they have no money for food and rely on these charitable institutions to eat. On the same day there are 5,700 reported incidents of domestic violence, mostly but not exclusively against women. Through the night of the average day 4,000 to 5,000 homeless people sleep rough on the streets. And on average each day over the last few weeks, when the migration began, four people, yes four refugees, attempt to cross the English Channel and enter Britain. And that is the crisis. None of these figures may seem horrific in India, but where there were none, one makes a difference.Have the British lost all sense of irony? Or is the inherent xenophobia of sections of the population being exploited for political effect by the Conservative government and its noble home secretary.
Javid, potential replacement in this very year for Theresa May, has been setting out his stall without disloyally or openly declaring that he is a candidate, still less a challenger. The selling point of his manifesto is the idea that modern conservatism, the philosophical linchpin of his party, ought to be meritocracy. Pakistani boys, or poor boys and girls from any background, ought to aspire to education, respectability and prosperity at least and perhaps to great positions, power and wealth. His immediate test is how he attends to this dinghy boat crisis and the four immigrants who try and sneak into Britain each passing day. He has publicly said that it’s a sort of Catch-22. I presume that a very tiny ripple of opinion in the country is in favour of deploying the Royal Navy in the Channel to shoot holes in the rubber dinghies and drown their passengers. Most would be for processing them in some way and sending them back from whence they came with a veneer of legality and humanitarian compassion. It is now accepted practice in Europe to deploy crafts to pick up people in peril in the Mediterranean or in the Channel and subject them to scrutiny after they are rescued.
Javid can, in conformity with such civilised practices, deploy more official craft to pick up such passengers from the tricky waters of the Channel. Thereby hangs the dilemma. Will such deployment encourage more people to attempt the crossing, knowing that the risk of drowning has been significantly reduced? Will Javid’s sense of his own history and even a sense of shame override his ambition to replace Ms May? Gentle reader, watch this space....