Everyone knows that Gary Lineker recently had an almighty row with the BBC and, by extension, the government for his criticism of home secretary, Suella Braverman’s words when she talked about the government’s planned illegal migration bill.
In the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on this subject, which has given me time to ponder and, in my opinion, perhaps the UK has slid further than Lineker indicated.
For a week or more, the country almost sank under the weight of the outrage. From the time of Lineker’s original tweet through his suspension from Match of the Day to his reinstatement six days later, this story blotted out all others. Cost-of-living crisis? What cost-of-living crisis?
But the funny thing is, a lot of this vast outpouring of outrage missed its target.
Lineker called out the language used by the home secretary. He described it as “language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”. Many people immediately and erroneously decided that he was comparing Braverman’s plan to the Holocaust or that he was basically calling her a fascist.
This is not what he actually said but, nonetheless, perhaps it raises a question we should look at.
Is our government becoming similar to the fascist regime in Germany in the 1930s?
The early warning signs of fascism are well-described.
Now let’s take a look at just some of the things being done by our current government.
Controlled mass media
Recently the home secretary took off to Rwanda to reinforce the government’s migration plan. She banned the Guardian, the BBC, the Daily Mirror, the Independent and the i newspaper from the trip and invited only favoured outlets such as GB News, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph to accompany her.
Rishi Sunak is also playing this game; he has shut out the press from the Conservative Party’s spring conference. Many are predicting that this won’t apply to GB News which seems to be rapidly morphing into the Conservative Party Broadcasting Station, employing as it does so many Tory MPs.
Unsurprisingly, other powerful organisations are following the government’s lead – it’s very convenient after all.
Why would the Met not want one of the best television investigative journalism teams at their press conference?
At the same time as silencing inconvenient voices, the government is loudly promoting – unopposed – its own narrative via a broadcast news channel. Prior to the budget, we saw two Conservative MPs on GB News interviewing Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. This interview was, in turn, promoted by the Treasury.
Ofcom’s regulations are quite clear.
And yet Ofcom seems to be OK with this because, according to its chair Dame Melanie Dawes, the regulator does not regard GB News as a news programme.
The illegal migration bill
The government’s new illegal migration bill ticks several of the boxes of our early warning checklist: identification of enemies as a unifying cause, disdain for human rights, obsessions with national security (aka ‘borders’) and crime and punishment. It’s no wonder it’s being promoted so loudly.
Braverman has famously admitted she would love to see a photograph of a flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda on the front page of The Telegraph. She called it her “dream” and her “obsession”.
What inspired her? Is she by any chance aware of the fact that Adolf Eichmann developed a plan in 1940 to ship Jews off to Madagascar?
Braverman also uses language to cement the idea in our minds that people coming here seeking asylum are our enemies – indeed, that was specifically what Lineker was talking about.
Joan Salter, a Holocaust survivor, is eloquent on the effects that Braverman’s words are likely to have:
“When I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion’, I am reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others. Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?”
Disdain for human rights
Talking of human rights, is the Conservative Party is now anti-Churchill? Boris Johnson’s great hero was instrumental in setting up “the idea of a Charter of Human Rights, guarded by freedom and sustained by law”.
Why would anyone in the government want to remove the protection of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights? And yet, that is what some of them – Dominic Raab, we’re looking at you – want to do.
What do you think?
I was always against the whole Nazi comparison during the Brexit years, but day by day I am becoming quite convinced that the government is using a similar manual. The language used, the control of the media, the evasion of scrutiny and disdain for human rights – all these things cast shadows back to the regime in Germany in the 1930s. I haven’t even started on ‘suppression of labor power’ and ‘disdain for intellectuals and the arts’ (or experts, as Michael Gove would no doubt call them).
Should we be worried – what do you think?