Last week, more than thirty British residents who had been scheduled to be forcibly removed to Jamaica in the dead of night were rescued from their deportation flight, thanks to the efforts of lawyers, activists and civil rights groups. Thirteen people were left on the plane and exiled. According to the Home Office, they were all ‘dangerous foreign criminals’ whose deportation was required by the 2007 UK Borders Act. Their lawyers argued that there were grounds for exception. Campaigners emphasised that the continuation of mass deportation flights would lead to the same injustices as the ‘Windrush scandal’ in 2018. The government, professing outrage at the reprieves, used the same comparison to make the opposite point.
‘Is Dishy Rishi on your side?’ asks a recent attack ad made by ‘One Rule for Them’, aiming to expose the chancellor’s allegiance to an international class of billionaires. Sunak’s portfolio is certainly breathtaking. The MP for Richmond (Yorks), known in his constituency as the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’, is the wealthiest in the House of Commons, boasting property worth around £10 million (most of that’s a five-bedroom mews house in Kensington). His father-in-law is the billionaire businessman and co-founder of Infosys, N.R. Narayana Murthy. He has declined to clarify whether Thélème Partners, the hedge fund he co-founded with Patrick Degorce, would profit from the escalating share price of the biotech firm Moderna, which reported on Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine appeared to have an efficacy of 94.5 per cent.
When McDonald’s announced that it would be delivering a million free school meals to children in need, the fast food giant was said to have ‘shamed’ the government. But McDonald’s – with its union-busting techniques, poverty wages and insecure working conditions – isn’t shaming the government by intervening; it’s fulfilling one of the Conservatives’ key articles of faith: that people should be dependent on the will and generosity of the private sector and the free market. When the Conservative MP Ben Bradley claims that extending free school meals ‘increases dependency’ on the state, he is not only peddling a myth about the psychopathology of working-class people, but toeing the line that, even in a pandemic, we should not turn to the state.
Two photographs have come to define Saturday’s demonstrations in London: one of a Black man, Patrick Hutchinson, rescuing a white far-right protester, apparently from death; the other of a far-right protester, Andrew Banks, caught with his pants down, urinating next to the memorial for PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the Westminster terror attack of 2017. Both photographs, and the ways they have been framed by politicians and the media, invite a moral (and nominally apolitical) judgment, asking us to draw conclusions about the two men’s contrasting characters. Hutchinson’s actions – and his impressive strength and stature – are an expression of a heroic, cool and noble masculinity. Banks, on the other hand, is at once an anti-patriot and an ugly embodiment of Little England: boorish, vulgar and, in the words of Keir Starmer, ‘beneath contempt’.