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Mon Feb 24, 2020, 02:33 PM

With the UK's European door closed, it's open season for xenophobia

Paul Mason explains how, even after the UK has technically left the EU, ‘Brexit’ has escalated into a culture war over immigration.


Two million people saw it live and at least six million have watched it on ‘social media’: last week on the BBC’s prime-time political show, Question Time, an audience member launched a passionate tirade against immigration, littered with hatred and falsehoods. ‘We should completely close the borders,’ she said. ‘You’ve got people flooding into this country that cannot speak English … In the NHS everything’s written in different languages … You arrive on a plane, you get free service, you can have your babies …’

None of the claims was factual—and nobody was surprised when, within 24 hours, the woman was revealed to be an active supporter of the English far-right leader ‘Tommy Robinson’. Members of the discussion panel tried to set her straight—but as a moment in British politics it will be hard to forget. It shows that, within three weeks of the chauvinist jamboree that was Brexit night (January 31st), Britain’s xenophobic right is unassuaged. Even as the candidates for Labour’s leadership succession are trying to assure pro-Brexit working-class voters that ‘the argument is over’, the argument actually continues.

Clearest signal

Those on the English plebeian right don’t just want to leave the European Union—they want all trace of the UK’s multi-ethnic and globalised society eradicated. Also last week, Boris Johnson’s government gave the clearest possible signal that it will go on stirring up their anger against all the old targets in the Brexit debate. In a speech in Brussels, the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator, David Frost, warned the EU that Britain was prepared to walk away from any meaningful trade dialogue if it could not get a Canada-style trade deal by December, when the transition period ends. The UK intends to undercut the EU on food standards, labour-market rules and financial regulation, rejecting demands for common standards in favour of what Frost called ‘sovereignty’. And if it can’t get permission to do so through a trade deal, it will do it anyway.

Sharing rejected

Rejecting the entire basis of the multilateral global system, where sovereignty is effectively shared through trade treaties which can be adjudicated in common courts, Frost warned: ‘We take the opposite view. We believe sovereignty is meaningful and what it enables us to do is to set our rules for our own benefit.’ I expect this stance to be moderated by diplomats when the UK presents its negotiating document to the European Commission this week, but not by much. It is an ultimatum, designed as much for the consumption of the racist woman on Question Time—and her equivalents in every one of the EU27—as for the commission.


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Reply With the UK's European door closed, it's open season for xenophobia (Original post)
Celerity Feb 2020 OP
abqtommy Feb 2020 #1
Denzil_DC Feb 2020 #2

Response to Celerity (Original post)

Mon Feb 24, 2020, 03:51 PM

1. Hate is the perpetual cancer eating away at the fragile society of our world.

When the Druids, Celts, Romans, Angles and Saxons (both Germanic peoples), and the Normans
invaded/settled in Great Britain the English language didn't exist. That came later and took a long time
to develop. Many things have changed over the years except the hate.

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Mon Feb 24, 2020, 06:40 PM

2. The ill-informed ranting woman is Sherri Peach, nee Sherri Bothwell.

She's not just an "active supporter" of Tommy Robinson, having been photographed at demos supporting him, her husband is Roy Peach, who's stood for election as an MP for the National Front. She herself stood for election as a National Front candidate as Sherri Bothwell twice in 1974.

Nowadays, she's more involved with the group Britain First.

Her factually incorrect ravings from the front row of the audience were bad enough, but the BBC's social media team chose to feature them unchallenged on its Twitter feed, using the very busy #bbqt hashtag. Ex-BBC social media staff have observed that this contravenes the BBC's social media guidelines.

This raises the question of how she came to be in the audience, let alone in a front-row seat and called to supposedly ask a question, rather than invited to rant at length. The trail leads immediately to Alison Fuller Pedley (who we've discussed on DU before), who's the audience producer for BBC Question Time on behalf of Mentorn Media. Fuller Pedley has a track record of sympathy with Britain First and other right-wing groups on social media, and has been know to post online where people of that ilk frequent, inviting them to apply to be in the audience, and - surprise surprise - they often get through whatever vetting takes place and are chosen to "ask questions", or more usually, rant about whatever's on their minds.

So Mason's right to sound caution and alarm about the fact that rather than placating them, Brexit has encouraged the far right, but as with Nigel Farage - who wouldn't have had anything like his current media profile without regular appearances on Question Time over the years out of all proportion to UKIP's support at the time - the BBC is amplifying these voices totally irresponsibly. If recent polls are to be believed, UK citizens are more relaxed nowadays about immigration than they have been at any time over the past decade.

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