Tuesday, October 18, 2016
False accusations that Britain is a racist country
By Nadhim Zahawi MP (Nadhim Zahawi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and MP for Stratford On Avon)
Everyone needs to calm down, breathe, and think a little bit more before they react to stories about Brexit. Many seem to be excited every time they stumble upon a shred of evidence that might be twisted to point towards their view – already dearly held – that those who support Leave are racist fools, dreaming of an all-white Britain.
And this fantasy view is now sometimes taken of the entire Government, simply because Theresa May has committed to following through on the will of the British people. Now many opponents of Brexit are prone to seize upon any Government policy as evidence of shameful racism, and make it controversial. All to fit their sad view that this country is suddenly something to be ashamed of.
We saw this in the response to the consultation on the number of foreign workers companies have hired. Cue outrage – and the creation of fears that the Government will soon be regularly publishing lists of foreigners for angry mobs to threaten. But if only the outraged had paused and listened to what Ministers are saying, they would have heard what the plan actually was. Instead they heard a few words; placed them within their pre-existing view of the ‘xenophobic Tories’ and conjured up something to shock themselves with – something that gets wilder and wilder during the game of political Chinese whispers that is modern social media.
Of course the policy – to provide information to central Government about how many foreign workers they had to hire in order to provide useful detail about skills shortages – was perfectly reasonable. But when this reality started the perforate the self-satisfied bubble of disgust, those who had blown it up just called the move a U-turn and went on their way, ready to be righteous another day.
It would be all too easy to accept that some have created this idea of a racist Britain for themselves to fight against, and to conclude that we should ignore them, and get on with our lives. But instead we must stand up and challenge this view because it is so damaging and so far from reality. Ultimately, this distorted viewpoint only undermines the real fights against racism and intolerance.