Tuesday, 14 June 2016

I don't understand Priti Patel

I don't get Priti Patel. Let me be clear, I don't mean this in a slanderous way. I quite literally mean that I don't understand her logic or arguments. Golly, I am getting myself in a twist here trying to unravel what it is about Priti that I don't get. Such is the power of Priti logic/illogic. I do understand what she is saying but it just doesn't stack up. What is her real message apart from 'Leave', 'Leave' and then 'Leave some more'?

I met Priti once about 3 years ago when I was trying to find the room I was meant to be in at the House of Commons. She came along and I asked her for directions. She helped me. I asked her who she was. She introduced herself. Ever since then I have paid extra attention whenever she has been on TV. A folly, I reckon, for the befuddlement that has gripped me.

Perhaps to understand Priti we need to step back in time to 2012 when she co-authored a book called 'Britannia Unchained'. Let me be clear, I have read enough about the book to not actually want to read it. This is because I am a worrier. I worry about how neoliberalism is eating away our democratic rights. I worry about my job security because of austerity. The last thing I need is to read a book which has content that the Financial Times describes as prescribing 'shock therapy for the country: welfare cuts and Beecroft-style labour market deregulation'. I can't tell you how much worry the Beecroft report caused me. I still quote it at people during left vs right political discussions for the simple selfish reason that I want to spread the misery that it caused.

Part of the 'shock therapy' seems to include name calling. 'Britannia Unchained' describes British people as being 'among the worst idlers in the world' who 'prefer a lie-in to hard work'. I don't know about the former but the latter is, surely, something that afflicts many of us. How many sane people would actually jump out of bed shouting, 'I don't want a lie-in and I am off to work hard?'This doesn't mean though that the majority of us actually give in to this preference.

The book attempts to build political opinion into an evidence base for a wholesale introduction of free market policies that would completely do away with any role that the state would play. It comes up with some unsavoury examples such as the solution to difficulties over childcare involving 'informal and cheap childminders'. There is no way I would have sent my child to an 'informal' childminder and I would not even have dreamt about paying someone who looks after my child a 'cheap' rate. I have always paid my childminders more than they asked for because they were looking after the most precious asset in my life.

The best review of the book in my opinion can be found here and I may not have read the book but I think i know enough to surmise that Priti's politics do seem to revolve around a certain amount of self-contradiction and selective memory. She condemns EU Commission officials  for "getting away with living the high life at our expense" but does not mention the Westminster MPs' expenses scandal. She further states that "families have been hit hard since the financial crisis...but EU officials are using our money to fund their jollies". What about the subsidized alcohol served in Parliament versus cuts to spending on disability welfare?

During an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Brexit Priti said: “There would be more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU including universities, scientists, farmers, regional funds, would continue to get money.” How does she square this with the free market economic liberalism set out in 'Britannia Unchained' where the state, quite obviously, is the villain to the super hero of the free market?

The political website, Left Foot Forward, refers to Priti's pledges as being 'fantasy pledges'. Interestingly, the Political Scrapbook website has totted up the amounts and, apparently, the pledges made by the Leave side amounts to  £100 billion.

The prize for the most awkward Priti moment though has to be the #saveourcurry house campaign for the simple reason that it forced Asians like me, living in the UK, into the role of agony person/aunt/uncle. Having to comfort white English people who love their Friday night take away curry that nothing will actually change is foreign to someone like me who cooks my own curries.

In all seriousness, I am an immigrant who came to this country 35 years ago during the days when the National Front were openly bigoted and people like me had to stay indoors for our own safety, on the advice of police, when the NF held a rally or a march. Much has changed tremendously since then. The last thing I want is for my mixed race daughter to grow up in a country where the fear of immigrants is given legitimacy and respect by those who have prospered from immigration.

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