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.


  1. Whilst I agree that the UK is no longer a world "power" (military/economic) it would be great if we could assert some sort of "moral leadership". I must admit that I'm impressed by Cameron's continuing commitment to overseas aid. unfortunately, the budget of which is probably now to be transferred to "refugee support", admittedly. It would be marvellous if we could set an example for freedom of entry to this country - who isn't proud of the fact that Karl Marx spent most of his life knocking around the British museum? even Stalin (long before he became "famous") was welcome to come along and quaff a few ales - and standards of excellence in education, health and general enlightenment. However, it may be a tough battle. Some time ago I read that British pride was in having the best "fighting men" in the world, not something I'm really bothered about, but I would think that both the Germans and Russians would dispute that, and really be quite nasty about.

    1. Yes, it would be nice if we could show some moral leadership, but I'd settle for moral (and economic, social and political) co-operation. I've no proof of how this obsession with being the leaders goes down with our partners, but I suspect they find it either arrogant, amusing, or pitiful.

      Like you I admire Cameron for sticking to the 0.7% aid promise, but find it sad that he has to justify a small offer of practical help to the Syrians by saying that the cost will come out of the aid budget, thus robbing one group of the poorest to help another group of the poorest.

  2. This comment came via a different route:

    Carol Sherrard
    Yesterday 02:16

    Agree, and his latest position could have been put much more positively from the start. Alex Salmond's comment that Cameron's natural instinct is to walk by on the other side, rather than help someone in distress, I fear is correct. It looks as if he (Cameron) is trying to wriggle round to a position where he can use 'help in the region' to justify military action in Syria, judging by his latest statements.


    A constructive article by Paddy Ashdown in yesterday's Guardian claimed that diplomacy rather than more bombing is what's needed. See