Opinion

Paul McNamee: Our doors and minds must be open

We’re still not letting enough unaccompanied children into Britain

Even Donald Trump morphing into Ron Burgundy hasn’t helped me like him a great deal more. As Burgundy fans will know, Ron will say anything that is put into the autocue in front of him. In Anchorman, a ne’er-do-well tries to get Ron fired. His sign-off is normally “Stay classy, San Diego”. On this fateful occasion the words are changed and Ron reads them. “Go fuck yourself, San Diego,” he says with focus. Cue mayhem.

I thought of Ron as the US president read a speech honouring America at his rain-sodden July 4 parade. Trump has a style of delivering speeches that makes it look like the moment of reading is when he’s first been introduced to both the words and the phrasing. It also looks like he’s misplaced his reading glasses. In many ways it’s a piece of high-wire performance art – he could slip at any time. And slip he did. When he read that the revolutionaries of 1775 had taken the nation’s airports, I thought of Ron. The difference was that there is no consequence for Trump. Just a smirk and a shrug.

There are huge flaws and growing problems in provision with so many parts of the British establishment

In the same way, there is no consequence for anything he does. There is no consequence when he talks of homeless people as some sort of disease-carrying inconvenience that needs dealt with, or when he jokes with Vladimir Putin about getting rid of journalists. Some 26 journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin took power.

And there is no consequence for the way Trump holds children of potential migrants separate from parents and siblings in conditions that, if I heard my dog was there, my fury would be unbounded. And these children are being held for weeks. This is the dark, dark side of empty rhetoric about border safety, about nationhood and a protection of nationhood. It is rhetoric emboldened by the cult of the strong man. When history comes to judge, this is what he’ll be judged on, not his old pals’ act dancing over a border with a North Korean dictator.

The thing is, our hands are not clean here either. We’re still not letting enough unaccompanied children into Britain. We’re not showing enough of an open door and enough humanity. A report from a few weeks ago pointed to a growing number of unaccompanied minors sleeping rough around the north French coast.

At times like this, some people like to say two things. The first, why doesn’t France do something? And the second, well, Britain is overrun, the services are at breaking point and we can’t take any more.

In response to the first: yes, perhaps a clearer policy from the Élysée Palace would help, but we have a lot of people rough sleeping across Britain too. Besides, we’re talking about children – children who have travelled vast distances at great risk to flee whatever terrible problem exists in their homeland. If we can’t offer succour to a few hundred children in dire need, without working out the political point scoring first, we don’t deserve to call ourselves an open and decent society.

There are huge flaws and growing problems in provision with so many parts of the British establishment. We highlight the rising shame of school holiday hunger this week. But still – STILL. The recent focus from Westminster has been around tackling human traffickers running people in on boats to the Kent coast. It needs more. If there were a better policy, to apply the commitment to the Dubs scheme (that’s just 480 unaccompanied minors), then the need for people to pack on to boats will be lessened. And it needs to be more than 480.

The Tory leadership beauty pageant goes on and on. Can’t say I’ve heard them say anything about lost migrant children and the need to be a more decent, open nation.

It’s not good enough. We all need to stand up and tell them.

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