Thursday, 14 April 2016

A Bite of Nostalgia.

"The times you lived through, the people you shared those times with — nothing brings it all to life like an old mix tape. It does a better job of storing up memories than actual brain tissue can do. Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they can add up to the story of a life.”  (Rob Sheffield)

It's amazing what you come across buried on old data drives. I recently unearthed an old backup drive, which by the standards of the day was "portable", in the same way that the old "portable" pcs were more like "luggable" than today's lightweight notepads.

Even mobile phones were heavy, brick-like, objects, hardly capable of fitting in a pocket.

Most of the files on my hard drive dated from 2003-2005

And of course in 2005, there was a general election. Tony Blair was Prime Minister, and against him was Michael Howard, of whom Ann Widdecombe had memorable said "he has something of the night about him", conjuring up images of Vampires.

The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but its majority now stood at 66 seats compared to the 160-seat majority it had previously held. It remains the last Labour general election victory in the UK. But Michael Howard lost, and had to return to the dark side of the Commons.

I came across this mock-up joke piece which I had put together, which shows Mr Howard very much as "something of the night". It was very much a light-hearted spoof but it is interesting to note how immigration was very much on the agenda even over ten years ago.
Vampire Party Manifesto

The leader of the U.K.'s only Transylvanian Party, Michael Howard, urges you to support him and his

Sensible policies for sensible vampires:

1) health - shorter waiting lists for blood transfusions, free coffins on the NHS

2) immigration - we need to keep out all those people trying to sneak into the U.K. by hiding in boats,
trains and planes. We don’t want these people because they are trying to grab a stake in Britain, and we
are against stakes. Genuine cases of hardship can fly in by night.

3) money - we may be bloodsuckers, but we don't want all your money. We are looking to reduce taxes
and introduce alternative payments schemes. We're not after money, only blood.

Remember the vampire slogan: "Are you drinking what we’re drinking."

If you are a young man or woman, you can also join the young haemovores, they are always looking for young (and fresh) blood.

There was an interview from that time which shows Jeremy Paxman grilling Howard. This is the extract dealing with immigration:

HOWARD:  I'm going to explain that to you Jeremy, you just have to be patient for a moment or two. Only two our of ten of the people who apply for asylum in this country today are genuine refugees, so we want to break the link between people who have to come to the country illegally, who have to trick their way in, in order to apply for asylum. We would take a number of genuine refugees from the UNHCR and if people arrived in this country and wanted to claimasylum we would we would look for overseas processing centres and put them there... Asylum seekers arriving in the UK and other EU member states, could be transferred to a transit processing centre where their claims could be assessed, that centre would be located outside the EU

PAXMAN: This would also involve you would it not in withdrawing from the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.


PAXMAN: Are you aware of any other civilised country that has withdrawn.


PAXMAN: Are you aware of any other political party in Europe, even for example the extreme right wing national front party in France, advocating such a withdrawal.

HOWARD: I, I've no idea what their ...

PAXMAN: No, are you aware of the other countries which are not signatories to that, that convention ...

HOWARD: Mr Blair is on record as saying that the 1951 Convention is out of date and that it doesn't respond to the circumstances which we face today. I agree with him about that. The difference between us is that he only talks about it, I'm prepared to take action to deal with it.

PAXMAN: You presumably have a list of paper on which you've got the names of the other countries which are not signatories to that convention. (interjects) You know that they include for example, Saudi Arabia, Libya, North Korea. You want to be in the company of those places do you.

It is interesting to note that the current remedy, of an agreement whereby refugees are taken out of the EU and returned to Turkey (the place from which they entered the EU), has a very similar ring to this.

Of course, Turkey is hoping to thereby fast-track its entry into the EU, despite clear indications that it cannot tolerate a free press, but it is taking migrants out of the EU for "processing".

In “A Cause for Our Times: Oxfam - The First Fifty Years”, Maggie Black outlines the historical reasons for the UN Convention against forcible repatriation. The post-war landscape she describes is horrifyingly like that we find today in the Middle East. It is worth looking back, and seeing why the convention was passed and why it is important that it be respected:

"The story of each refugee is an individual story. It is a story of fear, in which flight and exile, material loss, the abandonment of home, kin, country, personal status, job and profession, even of birthright and identity, seems preferable to the fate involved in staying put."

"During the war, around 30 million people in Europe were uprooted by one cause or another from the land where they belonged. The task of wholesale repatriation was given to UNRRA, but it was a difficult task to complete."

"At the end of 1945, 750,000 displaced people who refused to go home were still living in camps in Austria, Germany and Italy. Most came from countries absorbed into the Soviet bloc; many had ethnic or other associations which led them to fear persecution if they returned. New waves of refugees soon joined them. All these people, rich and poor, young and old, skilled and illiterate, wanted a new start in life. Many set their sights on emigration to North America."

"When the United Nations General Assembly discussed what to do about these refugees early in 1946, the debate was long and heated. The idea that, under certain circumstances, the citizen of a country might claim as a right protection against being made to belong to it was a relatively novel concept, and by no means universally agreed."

"Finally, against opposition from the Eastern European countries, the principle of no forcible repatriation — first upheld by Fridtjof Nansen, Refugee Commissioner for the League of Nations after the first World War — was accepted."

"This advance for human rights gained ground when a UN Convention set out as the criterion for refugee status ’a well-founded fear of persecution’ in the home country. It was many years, however, before the 1951 Convention was fully recognised in international law."

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