Friday, August 02, 2013

What the hell are the Home Office playing at - and why are Liberal Democrats letting them get away with it?

So, it seems that officials from the Home Office have been showing up at tube stations in London and demanding to see proof of people's immigration status. That would be non white people's status, by the way. The Independent has more...
Witnesses who saw the operations in London claimed the officers stopped only non-white individuals, and in Kensal Green said that when questioned, the immigration officials became aggressive.
Phil O'Shea told the Kilburn Times: "They appeared to be stopping and questioning every non-white person, many of whom were clearly ordinary Kensal Green residents going to work. When I queried what was going on, I was threatened with arrest for obstruction and was told to 'crack on'."
Another witness, Matthew Kelcher, said: "Even with the confidence of a free-born Englishman who knows he has nothing to hide, I found this whole experience to be extremely intimidating. They said they were doing random checks, but a lot of people who use that station are tourists so I don't know what message that sends out to the world."
This is horrible. The idea that people are being asked for their papers as they go about their business and if they can't provide them, they are bundled up in a van, to be another statistic in a Home Office tweet, is horrible. I strongly suspect many of them will be innocent anyway - I mean, who thinks they have to take their documents with them if they are simply taking a tube ride?  Tube stations are pretty cramped anyway, so being confronted with a dozen burly Border Force types is going to be pretty intimidating.

And what if you are arrested in full public view, maybe in front of your neighbour, or the local shopkeeper, or the woman who does your eyebrows? They aren't going to necessarily know when you've been released, with no action taken, by the Home Office. They may well assume that you have done something wrong.

So why are the Tories doing this? The obvious answer is to say that they are pandering to UKIP, being seen to be doing something about this vast underworld of illegal immigrants the Daily Mail says we have. But I think that there may be more too it. They're not just trolling us, they are trying to toxify us. If they can get our voters thinking that we have abandoned our belief in civil liberties, then that's a job well done for them. They know we'll be guilty by association and the nice liberal minded people who read about it in the Independent in some of our rural England Tory facing held seats might just decide to vote Labour, or Green, or stay at home come 2015. If our voters do that, then the Tories could win some of our seats.

This is where Nick Clegg really needs to kick off. Tim Farron has already said the right things as he usually does:

We need Nick to be obviously fighting the civil liberties corner and being robust about it. The Tories don't care for civil liberties, but they have a vested interest in tarnishing our USP. We can't let them do it.

What bothers me is that there's too much emphasis on what our "electoral market" thinks. Nick's done quite well in the past few days saying what sorts of things need to happen on immigration, like exit checks and spoken out against these god awful vans. However, the language he's using is still a little too "crackdown" rather than "fairness" for me. When things like the vans or the tube station checks happen, every liberal collectively retches. However, you'll get a part of the electorate, and some of them might vote for us, feeling in some way reassured that something is being done. We talk of the importance of policing by consent. What happens if a good proportion of people consent to policing of others by intimidation? For me, it's back to first principles every time. We're liberals, and we don't agree with that sort of thing. Nick,I am very politely asking you to get your arse into gear and get these heavy-handed, authoritarian Tory tactics stopped. Now would be nice. Thanks.

Oh, and if you are fizzing mad about this, and you haven't already, for the love of goodness join Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary. They are brilliant. It'll be the best tenner you ever spent.

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