One of the most uncertain British General Elections for decades is looming and creating panic among the major political parties who can no longer take the electorate or their votes for granted. To win hearts and minds at the ballot box, politicians are having to come up with all sorts of crackpot schemes which they think will appeal to the masses.
Of course, the protection of such treasures as the National Health Service and the education system would be a good start for all parties to consider as priorities, as would a commitment to punish the bankers and tax evaders who have helped widen the gap between rich and the poor. When it comes to ethical policies, however, the main parties seem to run in the opposite direction.
It looks as if Home Secretary Theresa May is plodding down that well-worn path of exploiting the poor and disenfranchised by trying to win votes through right-wing fear tactics and intimidation. Having convinced a large number of white, working class Brits that all their problems are down to immigrants, not least Muslims and asylum-seekers, she and her colleagues in government are now training their sights on overseas visitors seeking to come to Britain in order to study, work or do business.
May says that all would-be visitors to these shores should have to demonstrate their respect for “British values”; she wants to make such a commitment an integral part of any UK visa application. She is so busy putting politics before people, though, that she has clearly not thought this one through. The home secretary should remember that some of the world’s most odious tyrants, playboys, businessmen, oligarchs and rulers, and their spoilt brats, head to Britain to spend their ill-gotten gains, with some even buying their influence within and without parliament.
A quick visit to Knightsbridge during the summer months and you can see testosterone-filled Arab youth racing around in their Ferraris and Lamborghinis with no thought for speed restrictions, pedestrians or the Highway Code. They break the law as a matter of routine and often hide behind diplomatic immunity or daddy’s power and position to avoid prosecution.
Putting such disrespect for “British values” to one side, will May make the rulers of most of the Arab states, and visiting US politicians and officials, denounce the death penalty that they all implement so freely? If they don’t promise to fall in line with international human rights law and condemn the use of torture will she refuse them entry into Britain?
What about those countries who deny justice and equality to homosexuals, women seeking divorce and those who dare to dream of democracy? Many of the ruling families and dynasties guilty thereof are friends of the British government even though they treat what we might call British values with contempt.
Will arms dealers who head to Britain and keep the arms industry well-oiled be exempt from signing up to May’s visa document? What about the Israelis and all the human rights abuse and war crimes baggage that they bring to the UK? Would government officials or former Knesset members, or simply those who serve in the military (meaning just about every Israeli passport holder), be grilled about the Palestinian children being held in Israeli jails? Or asked for their views on Apartheid, the use of chemical weapons against civilians or the illegal colony-settlements built for equally illegal Jewish settlers? How about the bombing of schools, mosques and UN buildings?
“We want to make clear to those seeking to visit, work or study in the UK, and those granted protection, that they need to abide by and respect British values throughout their stay in this country,” the new Home Office document reads. “We will make British values an integral part of applying for a visa.”
According to the Financial Times, the visa proposals have been circulated to a cabinet sub-committee on extremism chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron. Liberal Democrats in the coalition government, says the FT, have already expressed horror at the plans, which one senior party official branded a “ridiculous idea”, but since they’re not being tipped to do well in the General Election their influence at government level is on the wane.
“The Tories talk a good game about the global race and then come forward with preposterous ideas like this, which is completely at odds with the Britain we want, that’s tolerant and open for business and trade and investment,” a Lib Dem official told the newspaper.
I have a feeling that Theresa May will drop this scheme sooner rather than later. All it is going to take will be a few frantic calls to her senior cabinet colleagues from well-placed people in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Cairo to make the home secretary kick the proposal into touch.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.