British politics is wildly tough on immigration, we are told. Politicians of all parties are ‘populist’ in their toughness, supposedly, and the debate has got out of hand.
If, like me, you’ve heard those pronouncements from various media outlets over the last few months and wondered if it’s really the case, you might be interested to watch this:
Can you imagine what would be happening this morning in Britain if David Cameron had made a Palestinian schoolgirl cry on national television by explaining to her the reason she and her family might not be allowed to stay in the country?
The BBC would have exploded. Twitter would have disappeared, to be replaced by a torrent of molten outrage pouring out of every smartphone. Inevitably, some self-appointed spokesmen for compassion would shortly be assembling on Whitehall to communicate their displeasure by defacing one innocent war memorial or another. 38 Degrees would be deciding if it might be logistically easier to email MPs with lists of people who hadn’t yet signed a petition calling for the heartless Prime Minister to resign.
Merkel calmly put across a perfectly reasonable argument for a migration policy with limits. She did so in what most politicians would consider a nightmare scenario – of all the audiences you might choose, it’s fair to say that a weeping teenager who fears you are about to ruin her life is extremely low on the list. I doubt the Chancellor enjoyed the experience, or would seek to repeat it, but leadership does sometimes mean saying things people don’t want to hear, even when it is difficult to do so.
It’s worth wondering whether any of our own politicians would have the gumption to do the same, if required – and if the perpetually outraged in our society would be allowed to crucify them for doing so.