Far from being embarrassed, Mrs May was triumphant. Feelings mattered more than facts. Her job as a senior politician with ill-disguised ambitions to become prime minister was to pander to popular prejudice rather than tell the public the truth.
People feel it is unfair that illegal immigrants can use services, she said. They “feel it’s too easy to stay here illegally”. They had the “feeling that people who are here illegally were accessing services”, she continued, before degenerating into a babble of random noise, from which I just about made out that the “people” who had these “feelings” were, of course “hard working”.
Review of Command and Control by Eric Schlosser
The reader’s mind reels as we go through the dangers of political control breaking down in a conflict, the illusion that tactical nuclear weapons could be used in a conventional war without sparking a conflagration, the fallibility of computer systems, the risk of a rogue pilot or general starting a war on his own and the inability of American and Soviet leaders to talk to each other until well into the 1970s.
“We escaped the cold war without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion,” said General George Lee Butler of the US strategic air command.
On 30 October, Britain will welcome delegates from 60 countries for the summit meeting of the Open Government Partnership. David Cameron said when he came to power that he wanted to lead “the most open and transparent government in the world”. One can imagine how pleased and puffed up he will be when the world comes to his capital and applauds his achievements.
I doubt British ministers will tell wide-eyed visitors from foreign shores that they are driving open government out of Britain. They will not admit that the coalition, with the collusion of illiberal judges, is shutting the British public up and closing it down: nowhere more conclusively than when the public seeks to discover how corporations spend and misspend its money.
With the European football association, Uefa, reaching the unavoidable conclusion that you cannot play competitive sport in the 50C heat of a Qatari summer, the way is clear for the international football association, Fifa, to break with precedent and make a decision that does not seem corrupt or senseless or both.
All being well, the 2022 tournament will be held in the winter. Just one niggling question remains: how many lives will be lost so that the Fifa World Cup™ can live up to its boast that it is the most successful festival of sport on the planet.
If you want a picture of where Conservatives of all stripes are taking Britain, picture this.
A Roma woman, “Tanja”, whose family arrived in Britain illegally, is in a room of the Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre, a block of bland modern buildings in the Bedfordshire countryside surrounded with barbed wire.
According to Tanja’s account, a male guard locks the door. He pulls out his earpiece, perhaps to make sure he is not disturbed, and after some initial touching, he pushes his penis in her face. He laughs when he ejaculates in her mouth – so confident is he that he can escape punishment.
It would be dishonest of me to try to out-Jew Ed Miliband. What’s the point? We are both the children of Marxist atheists with no connections to religious Judaism. I wouldn’t even raise the Jewish question if Ed Miliband did not keep trying to remind us of his link to the horrors of the Holocaust.
In speeches introducing himself to the nation, he announced his anti-fascist pedigree by saying that his parents were “two young people [who] fled the darkness that had engulfed the Jews across Europe” to find “the light of liberty in Britain”. How well his words once sounded. As a politician whose grandfather had been murdered in a Nazi death camp, he would oppose crimes against humanity. As the child of immigrants, he would never play the race card.
One unnoticed casualty of the Syrian crisis is that Miliband Minor will never be able to use the Holocaust again.
An occasionally shrill but always pertinent voice has vanished from “our national conversation”. As the broken manifesto promises remind us, whenever New Labour or the old Conservatives went along with the security establishment and proposed an attack on basic freedoms, the Liberal Democrats would explode.
You did not have to agree with them to be glad they were there. You might have thought that the police needed new powers to combat terrorism. You might have thought that the Liberals were gibbering paranoids. But you still ought to have been grateful that one major party obliged the authorities to justify themselves. The Liberal Democrats could say with pride that they kept the state honest.
And now they don’t.
When a state massacres 600 demonstrators, it is not just its own citizens it murders. It also kills the possibility of compromise. The perpetrators mean you to understand that there can be no going back. When they kill, they are well aware that they are shedding too much blood for normal politics to kick in and allow differences to be patched up and deals made.
The killers have the swagger of gangsters. “We know,” they seem to say, “that we are breaking all the basic standards of civilised behaviour. We know people will hate us until the day we die for what we have done today. But do you know what? We don’t care.”
The rest of the world may not care either about the revolutionary, or counter-revolutionary, terror in Egypt – and for reasons I will get to later our inability to agree on what to call it speaks volumes.
Not once does the word “innocent” appear in the Ministry of Justice’s 161-page proposal to remove legal aid from defendants. The British right is no more troubled by the notion that citizens are innocent until proved guilty than it is by the thought that wealth should not determine access to the law, or that the police can fit up suspects or that the state can behave unjustly and that the best way to keep it honest is to expose it to constant scrutiny.
You hear the powerful’s impatience with accountability everywhere in the statements of ministers. “What we mustn’t do is just leave untouched a system that has grown astonishingly, making the poor extremely litigious,” said Ken Clarke when he was justice secretary. Defendants don’t need a “Rolls-Royce” service, says his successor, Chris Grayling. Trust the benevolence of the bureaucracy, they seem to whisper. Believe in its procedures. No one but cunning criminals or greedy lawyers objects to protecting it from challenge in the courts.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is meant to protect against “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”. The conscience of mankind, however, has become remarkably forgiving of late.
What can outrage it? Not the 80,000 dead, according to the UN (a minimum of 94,000, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights). Not the 1.5 million the war has driven into exile in poverty-stricken camps, where families sell their daughters to dirty old men to pay for food. Not the United Nations, which last week talked of soldiers forcing children to watch the torture and murder of their parents and concluded that, while all sides were guilty of war crimes, rebel actions did not “reach the intensity and scale” of the massacres committed by government forces.