Friday, 17 December 2010

What Makes A Good Citizen, And The Threat of Carnage To Sacred Cows

Bloody hell. I should definitely set up as the Mystic Meg of Northwick. As predicted - following last night's  news reports - most of today's callers want to know why Mohammed Ibrahim has any right to family life, given that he ruined someone else's by killing their child.

"The sooner we get rid of this stupid Human Rights Act, the better," says Mr Beales. (Who is usually a big fan of the Act, at least when it applies to him.)

He's leading the charge today, though - as everyone seems to agree with his views, including Greg, who can't stop ranting about the judges' decision.

"It's pretty bloody rich when you think of some of our cases," he says. "Like Samuel's."

"God, yeah," I say. "Sickening."

Samuel is one of our favourite constituents, who we've fought really hard to support throughout his application for asylum and subsequent appeal. Despite being traumatised by events in his war-torn native country, he has nevertheless been a model citizen (in all but official status) ever since he arrived in the UK. Years ago.

He is such a nice guy who, unlike the usual suspects, is always polite and cheerful. Since obtaining permission to work, he's married Lizzie - a single parent with two children. She had never had a job herself, and was dependent on the state until Samuel's hard work took the whole family out of the benefit system. They're a really happy family, and the children are well-adjusted and beautifully behaved. Unlike mine.

So, even though Greg and I are used to the anomalies of the immigration system, it still came as a bit of a shock when Samuel's appeal was refused, on the basis that he could supposedly return to his still dangerous home country - and take his new family with him. Despite the fact that his wife and step-children children are British citizens and that none of them have ever even been to the war zone where Samuel was born. Nor would they bloody want to - and who can blame them?

There was a lot of very loud swearing in the office when we heard about the decision, and Greg became convinced that Samuel's only being treated like this because he is black. I don't know if that's true or not, but Greg was determined to test the theory. I don't think the Border Agency found his anonymous Ali G impersonation very funny, though.

I cannot understand the reasoning behind turning Samuel down: if he ends up being deported, the children will lose their father figure, their mother will again end up dependent on the tax-payer; and HMRC will no longer get their hands on Samuel's taxes. I guess the children's biological father might have something to say about his rights, too. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous.

"Maybe we should tell Sam to kill someone," says Greg. "Seeing as we seem to value an asylum seeker who leaves a trail of destruction more than one who makes a positive contribution to society."

"You've only got to look at Mr Meeeurghn for evidence of that," I say, as the phones start ringing again.

They barely stop from then on and, with each call, I find the attempt to sound as if I take a liberal approach to the Human Rights Act increasingly challenging. By the time Richard Levinson's finished with me, I've completely given up.

"How the hell would you woolly-headed civil liberties people feel if that man had run over your child and left her to die - and then screamed about his right to a family life?" he says.

"Like killing him myself," I say. "Very, very slowly."

Greg nods in approval, but Shami Chakrabarti would be so disappointed.

After all that, I'm not exactly looking forward to today's Labour Party Christmas lunch. The subject of Mr Ibrahim will inevitably raise its head again, and then Greg and I are bound to end up looking like Tory moles when we don't take the expected line on it. I'm pretty worried about the prospect, but Greg doesn't care.

"It'd do some of these bloody people good to get a reality check from us," he says. "Then they can feed it in to policy development. Not picking up on the mood of the people is where we've been going wrong. We can't keep refusing to say the unsayable."

"Hmm," I say. "Don't you remember what happened when I complained about that incompetent Council officer in front of Pete Carew?"

"No," says Greg. "What did happen?"

"Pete yelled at me that I was bashing the entire public sector, and then he said I was a traitor to the Party."

I'm still really cross about it, even though I'm trying to avoid accusations of having a memory like an elephant.

"F*ck," says Greg. "I'd forgotten that. Well, we'd better not get drunk then, had we? Not if we need to avoid the whole in vino veritas thing. We might do irretrievable damage to a whole herd of sacred cows. It'd be carnage."

"Yes," I say. "And it's not as if we can't usually rely on The Boss for that."

On which note, I suppose I'd better go and tart myself up before we leave for the restaurant, given that Vicky looks as if she's dressed for a film premiere. Now there's a ruminant I'd be happy to do some damage to.

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