This is my last column for a while and I wanted to end my first year of writing for The P&J on a suitably festive, celebratory note.
This week I went on my first “work Christmas night out” in a while (I’ve been freelance since 2011; there haven’t been many) with a group of other Scottish novelists, many of us meeting for the first time. It was exciting and inspiring, and I thought maybe I could write about the sudden flourishing of Scottish fiction in the last few years; wondered whether it could have anything to do with that intense, painful period of national self-analysis Scotland underwent between 2011 and 2015.
But then I got on the last train home, looked at my phone, logged into the latest instalment of The Boris Johnson Armageddon Show, and my planned column suddenly felt far too self-indulgent. Next year, maybe.
Of course, the Tories’ callousness and cruelty is taken as read. It even seems to be part of the appeal to their voter base; they will excuse horrendous, racist human rights abuses but apparently can’t countenance their own (admittedly very real) sacrifices last Christmas being mocked at a Downing Street piss-up.
Well, do you know what? Fine. At this point, if it takes an office Christmas party to get this cabal of sneering, coked-up, amoral profiteers out, let’s go for it.
How did we get here? And how do we make it stop?
On Wednesday, while the spotlight glinted on Allegra Stratton’s tears and Carrie Johnson dutifully went into labour with a spectacularly-timed and particularly festive distraction, the Tories pushed through what might actually be their least humane bill yet, which is really saying something for them.
The Nationality and Borders Bill gives the home secretary, a daughter of immigrants who seems fanatically obsessed with locking the door behind her, the right to strip British citizens of their citizenship without actually informing them. An estimated six million British people – the very, very vast majority of them people of colour – could potentially be targeted by this.
As the author Malorie Blackman tweeted: “I knew this was coming from the moment Shamima Begum was stripped of her British citizenship despite the fact that she is UK born and doesn’t have dual nationality with Bangladesh. Citizenship should be an absolute and not conditional. Are us people of colour conditional Brits now?”
The bill also criminalises – actually criminalises – those truly selfless souls who try to rescue migrant boats struggling in British waters. It automatically gives the UK Border Force immunity from prosecution of any deaths that occur “during pushback operations”, which very much sounds to me like our state sanctions murder now.
At some point, we have to ask ourselves – what country is this? How did we come to be living here, ruled by these people? And how do we make it stop?
Labour members, please, hold your breath and get in formation
Despite being raised in a very lefty, Labour-voting house, I gave up on the Labour Party long ago, as did a lot of their traditional support in Scotland. It is a long time since they have been anything other than centrist; and while I really feel for those activists on the English left still desperately trying to push the party back to its socialist roots, I also really wish they’d just stop.
No, Keir Starmer is not a socialist. He’s a great big beige centrist pudding with nice hair
For the last 14 years now, Labour members have consistently listed “infighting” and “undermining whoever the current party leader is” under “Hobbies and Interests” on their Tinder profiles. It’s their refusal to work together to defeat their common enemy (that’s the Tories, by the way, not “each other”) that has left the field clear for this plague of incompetent, corrupt locusts to asset-strip the UK for the last decade, unchallenged.
No, Keir Starmer is not a socialist. He’s a great big beige centrist pudding with nice hair. But when did anyone in the UK (yuppies of the early 1980s and late 1990s aside) get a prime minister they truly believed in? Starmer would almost certainly not usher in a glorious new golden age of equality, but I also find it hard to believe that this Nationality and Borders Bill, or the recent Universal Credit cuts, would have happened on his watch.
Personally, I want to be living in an independent Scotland as soon as possible, but until then, couldn’t we please just try and get someone a wee bit less basely inhumane in charge? How many more of the most vulnerable people in the world have to be crushed under the capriciousness of the Tory machine?
Labour members, please, hold your breath and get yourselves in formation behind the least bad option while he still has a chance of becoming prime minister and stopping this descent into fascism. Many, many people’s lives are at risk while you bicker about ideological purity.
I really hope I don’t end up eating these words in a few years time but, honestly – he couldn’t possibly be any worse, could he?
Kirstin Innes is the author of the novels Scabby Queen and Fishnet, and co-author of the recent non-fiction book Brickwork: A Biography of the Arches