This year, Christmas has seen little in the way of big news stories, which means that there is a news vacuum, and our free and fearless press abhors a news vacuum. Something, somewhere must be talked up in order to fill it. What better than to frighten the readers by telling them lots of Scary Brown People™ are invading our sceptre’d isle?
Not only are these people scary and brown, they are also Muslims, which is guaranteed to whip up the Wall of Gammon™ into a state of apoplexy. Combined with cynical politicians manoeuvring for position in case Theresa May is deposed, the attempts by a rather small number of people to cross the English Channel in inflatable boats has been put front and centre by right-leaning papers in order to score a few more sales.
And predictably, it was the Daily Mail that was the most outraged. “CHANNEL MIGRANTS: NOW IT’S A CRISIS” thundered the headline, under which readers were told “Sajid Javid last night declared a ‘major incident’ over the surge in Channel boat migrants … Amid mounting criticism of his handling of the crisis, the Home Secretary announced he was taking personal control of borders”. Tory leadership bid ahoy!
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, “he is still on holiday with his family in South Africa - 6,000 miles away. Aides refused to say whether he would curtail his Christmas break”. The Mail’s tone suggests disapproval. “12 more migrants were rescued from boats off the English coast and taken to Dover yesterday; It emerged that 121 have tried to cross since December 23 - 90 of them reaching Britain”.
Also, Javid has previous for the heinous crime of leaving Britain over the festive period. “It is not the first time Mr Javid has faced criticism for being absent during political crises. Last year, as communities secretary, he came under fire for staying on holiday amid uproar over a planned increase in business rates … A year earlier he was forced to return from a trip to Australia when the future of the Port Talbot steel works was in the balance”.
Terrible, eh? But perhaps we should stop and think just how serious this alleged “crisis” really is. As the BBC has reported, “at least 221 migrants have attempted to cross the Channel to England since the start of November”. So that’s 58 days, which means an average of a whopping, er, fewer than four arrivals per day.
At the height of the mainland European migrant crisis not so long ago, there were thousands arriving in Germany every day. That country has taken hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Syria’s civil war and the aftermath of the ill-fated Iraq adventure of 2003, for which Britain bears significant responsibility. There have also been many coming from Libya, and yes, we stuck our bugle into that one, too.
Now it seems many of those attempting to cross the Channel are Iranian. And which European country has been in the vanguard of demonising the régime in Tehran? Which has a lamentable recent record when it comes to diplomatic gaffes? That would be Britain once more. Small wonder Iranians with British connections might take this short cut.
For that, greasy pole climbers like Sajid Javid, and purveyors of bigotry like the Daily Mail, have taken full advantage. Over a trickle of four people a day.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at