YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN: Don’t tell me to ‘be nice or go home’
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Tories who try to silence me by telling me to leave and go home are running scared, says YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN.
Until last week I'd never met the Tory MP Peter Bone.
This is what I knew of him: paid a trainee working in his business 87p per hour in 1995, although this was before the minimum wage was law a rate £2.50 an hour had been mooted; claimed up to £40,000 in expenses to pay his long-serving wife, Jeanette; believes the NHS was modelled on Stalinism and wants the service privatised; repeatedly slams EU regulations which give workers basic rights; believes gay marriage wrecks the priceless institution of marriage; recently left his wife for a much younger, married woman; wants June 23 declared a national independence holiday and is a hardline Brexiteer.
Not really my type of chap.
But then we were match made by the BBC's Daily Politics. Sigh. Another day, another confrontation. Rowing with the enemy has become my USP.
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Bone turned up in a suit and some rather colourful trainers (new, young love can prod grey men to do the oddest things). Columnist, Matthew Parris had written in the Times that stormy, divisive Brexit was driving him insane. He couldn't sleep, couldn't find peace.
Bone and I were booked to discuss the column. Both of us tried hard to remain good natured. I confessed I too was being driven to the edge of madness. Mr Bone, calmly and complacently opined that the divorce would be liberating and glorious for everyone (Is this what he tells the abandoned Mrs Bone, I wonder?) Then he ran out of niceness and found himself saying I should leave If I found it so hard to accept Brexit.
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I challenged him and he was somewhat rattled, repeatedly assured me that he didn't want me to depart from Britain. Not that I was planning to follow his advice or orders.
Only this week other right wingers laid into me because I didn't behave like an adulating subject when Harry married Meghan. I am not a royalist. People are starving in this country and the Windsors get millions of pounds of state aid. They symbolise inequality and buttress the democratic deficiencies of our nation. Oh my. That infuriated the erratic Miss Nadine Dorries and her Brexit Tory cronies.
Why can't I be 'nice', grateful? Conservative and avowedly Christian columnist Tim Montgomerie accused me of playing the 'race card'. I don't play cards. The most vituperative wanted me to get out of 'their' country. (Note: being white, they feel no obligation to be nice to me).
Such Tories try hard to hold in their inborn prejudices, but, however tightly they press their thighs, the intolerance leaks out. To them people who look and sound like me belong elsewhere. As do our British born kids. Brexit has given them another excuse to tell us to go back 'home'.
Yet these same diehards also insist migrants should integrate and embrace 'Britishness'. When we fulfil those expectations, and speak freely (a much vaunted British value), they recoil, want to snatch away our national identity and entitlements. We are here on sufferance and must look down, be humble and please the master race. Preferably with those 'picaninny,' 'watermelon smiles' Boris so likes.
These jingoists are victims of history old and also new. Hooked on bombastic patriotism, they still fantasise about the long-lost empire and obliging subjects – see above. They never emotionally connected to the EU. Their wars with European nations carry on. Their psyches seek safety in imagined fortified enclosures. Incomers breach the walls of the sceptred isles and bring in expansiveness and internationalism, European pan-nationalism too. I embody all that. That's why Bone, Dorries et al are scared and aghast and why they try to silence me.