Saturday, 5 September 2015
Refugees: Cameron changes his spots - or does he?
I suspect David Cameron's advisers and speech writers are desperately looking for verbal formulations which make his progression, from referring to refugees as a "swarm" to recognising that they are after all "people like us" and should be treated as such, as logical and consistent.
What has changed Cameron's public attitude is the public response to pictures of the little Syrian boy's body being washed up on a beach. (Strangely we seemed to be unmoved by news of thousands drowning, and the horrifying reports of 71 being suffocated in a closed van.) Even the Sun has now been converted and is calling on its readers to raise money to help
Oddly, Cameron's change in attitude seems limited to Syrians in camps in the Middle East rather than those already in Europe, and he still refuses to co-operate in a pan-European strategy for each EU member to take its fair share of refugees.
A letter in today's Guardian from three Labour MPs calls upon Britain to "take the lead" in seeking an international response. Why are we in Britain still so obsessed with "taking the lead?" We are no longer a leading world power, and I would be happy if we recognised this and were content just to take a co-operative role with our partners. Instead, on this and so many other issues, we drag our feet.
If an appeal to the pocket rather than decent humane feelings will provoke a more positive response, Cameron's government should recognise that whoever takes in a significant number of these desperate people will reap enormous economic rewards in the future. The bulk are young, enterprising, dogged, innovative, courageous, and determined: just the sort of people we need to revive our flagging economies. If we in Britain continue to sulk behind closed frontiers, we shall continue to stagnate whilst others with more vision, prepared to overcome the immediate problems, sew the seeds of even greater future prosperity.