The British government unveiled its new immigration policy today, and as we’ve come to expect from this government it’s petty, cruel, restrictive and nasty. EU citizens will in the future have to earn over £30,000 a year in order to apply for residency in the UK. What the government didn’t say was that UK citizens who wish to reside in the EU will doubtless be subject to similar restrictions in future. Meanwhile all those UK citizens who reside in EU countries have been left in limbo.
Theresa May is obsessed with immigration. She is pandering to the nasty xenophobes who infest the comments sections of the press. Just yesterday there was a story in the Herald about a businessman in Scotland who is originally from Bangladesh. He has been refused permanent right to remain in the UK despite having lived here legally for 15 years and owning a successful business employing five people, people who now seem set to lose their jobs. The comments below the article from the usual British nationalist trolls were nasty, petty, and small minded. Empathy is a foreign quality to them. Compassion is a curse to them. These are the nasty little people that Theresa May has in mind when she frames her immigration policy. This is British nationalism in action. It’s not pretty. It’s not dignified. And yet it’s Scottish independence supporters who get castigated in that same press.
Later today the real opposition, which isn’t the Labour party, is attempting to bring forward a no confidence motion in the government. Labour will probably abstain. This is the first time in decades that a government has been subject to a no confidence motion, yet it’s lost in the shouting, the infantile behaviour, and the insult to the intelligence of the public which passes for parliamentary debate.
But none of this gets properly aired in parliament or the press. Instead of holding the government to account, instead we get a pantomime. And that’s quite literally what we witnessed today during Prime Minister’s Questions. It was a childish and stupid display of crowing and question avoiding of the sort we’ve come to expect from a government which has absolutely no intention of explaining itself, never mind being held to account by the Opposition.
Jeremy Corbyn reacted to this infantile display by muttering something. Now the news is dominated by the allegation that Jeremy Corbyn called Theresa May a stupid woman. Because apparently a perceived personal slur against Theresa May is the most important thing that’s happening just now. To the allegations that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic, we now have the allegation that he’s sexist.
It does need to be said that the phrase “stupid woman” is sexist in a way that “stupid man” is not. For centuries, millennia even, men have controlled and dominated women by belittling them and insisting that women were intellectually inferior to men. The trope of supposed female stupidity is one of the pillars of the patriarchy. That’s why in our current era mansplaining is a thing but womansplaining is not.
However Jeremy Corbyn insists that he didn’t mutter “stupid woman” after Theresa May’s display of childish stupidity which was accompanied by the jeering support of her braying backbench donkeys. He claims that what he said was “stupid people”.
It’s true that those two words can be difficult to distinguish when all you have to go on is lip reading. The words woman and people both consist of a series of labial consonants followed by a vowel and ending with a alveolar consonant. To pronounce both words you make two movements causing closure or partial closure of the lips followed by a tongue gesture towards the gum ridge, also known as the alveolar ridge.
When a person is muttering, as Corbyn was, lip movements are not always fully and clearly articulated. Not clearly articulating is kind of the definition of mumbling. Without any audio it’s impossible to tell which word he actually muttered during the exchange, and I’ve played the sequence over several times. It does look to me as though he did in fact say “stupid woman”, but I’m not a lipreader. He could just as easily have said “stupid weapons”, “stupid wombles”, or “stupid bampots”, all of which also consist of the sequence labial-labial-alveolar. Naturally the Conservatives are going to select the option that allows them to feel most outraged, and which conveniently distracts from their actual stupidity.
What looks bad is that right after the event Jeremy scuttled out of the chamber and didn’t make a formal statement to clarify his remark. If he’d got up immediately and stated that he’d actually said “stupid people” he could have killed off the matter. Instead the Tories are going to town on it, Corbyn looks evasive, and the government has got off the hook for its woeful performance on Brexit and its nasty immigration plans. It’s yet another own goal from the Labour leader. The greatest asset this woeful and pathetically inadequate government possesses is that it’s confronted by an equally woeful and pathetically inadequate official opposition.
Those same Conservatives who are now in full on harrumphage are the very same Tories who routinely cast racist and patronising slurs at Scottish MPs. It was just the other day that the SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was told to “go home” by a Conservative MP. It was only a couple of weeks ago that another Conservative told Scotland’s representatives to consider suicide as a response to being ignored by the British government. That’s not worthy of such outrage however. Jocks are supposed to know their place. The point is that the Conservatives are by no means innocent wallflowers when it comes to insulting behaviour. They’re certainly not innocent when it comes to pandering to racists and bigots in how they frame government policy. You can judge for yourself which is worse.
However we’re now in a place where stupid people behaving stupidly believe it’s a greater insult to be called stupid than it’s insulting to everyone else for them to be dangerously and selfishly stupid. They’re wrecking all our futures, running roughshod over what passes for a British constitution, playing Brexit chicken in an effort to sideline parliament. But that’s nothing compared to a mumbled personal insult, if that’s indeed what it was. If that’s not proof all by itself of just how stupid the Tory party is, and more to the point just how stupid they think the rest of us are, I’m not really sure what is.
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