A satirical commentary on the pig swill served by MPs’ social media feeds.
Perusing Kevin Foster MP for Torbay’s Facebook feed is like perusing the remains of John Gummer’s beefburger. You remember that – the one fed to his four year old daughter in 1990? Babe’s long enough in the snout to remember Gummer as just one of a long line of Conservative stooges who seemed to believe being a member of parliament was more about convenient self-serving photo ops than serving their constituents.
As if to prove the point, on Foster’s Facebook header there he is (Foster) surrounded by schoolkids dressed in Boris Johnson’s favoured garment when ‘wanting to look busy’, namely hi-vis, but in this case the kids are wearing it. Foster just looks like he’s relieved to be in another photo.
Babe was just preparing to scour Foster’s feed for pig swill titbits when her little piggy eye was caught by the whopping 136 comments (and counting) on the fumbling Mr Foster’s post of 26 February. In one of the usual puff pieces, now standard for Conservative MPs, there was a linked and far lengthier article justifying his existence. Always hungry for fresh swill, Babe checked it out. Foster’s long weekly excuse resembled Mangnall’s famously oxymoronic ‘Highlights of My Week’, with one difference. Foster’s was written in a much more approachable way than Mangnall’s ‘stick up the butt’ awkward prose, and Babe has to say she found the predictable PR puffery, that stands in these days for a ‘resident’s update’ from a Conservative MP, was actually quite readable. Well done, Mr Foster! If you’re going to feed your constituents pig swill, you might as well garnish it with a little spice!
But, apart from being a marginally better writer, Foster resembles Mangnall in most other respects. They are a double act, a duo of politically deaf, dumb and blind comedians – Devon’s own Laurel and Hardy. And like a classic silent comedy, both men come with a horde of angry constituents on their tails who are clamouring to be heard, listened to and understood. And both men, being Conservative apparatchiks, brainlessly toe the party lines, failing to grasp where they are going wrong.
And now, in his role as Minister for Safe and Legal Migration (Babe wonders how ‘Stan Laurel’ Mangnall felt about his neighbour getting a leggy up the greasy pole instead of him), Foster has landed himself in some smelly Brexshit. Clearly poorly qualified for a ministerial role that demands ‘political nous’, Foster tweeted that Ukrainian refugees might wish to apply for the Seasonal Workers scheme in order to reach the safety of welcoming Britain. It reeked of the implicit assumption that Ukrainian refugees would be perfectly suited to a new life in Britain picking our fruit and veg.
Never mind that Ukraine is a technologically advanced, modern, civilised society. Never mind the fact that many of the families fleeing for their lives from Ukraine were, just days ago, production designers, bloggers, video producers, coders, marketing executives, as well as mothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Foster’s tweet just underlined neatly, in case the dots needed joining, the fact that the present-day Conservative party is riddled with an ideological view of the world based on a Britain from 60 years ago. For the Conservative Party of 2022, Eastern Europe still equates to Borscht.
So when Foster tweeted – and then deleted – that fleeing Ukrainians could apply for the Seasonal Worker scheme whilst escaping the bombs, it shouldn’t really have been much of a surprise to others. And it shouldn’t have been a surprise to Foster when his constituents got hold of it and bombarded his Facebook puff piece with their angry comments in return.
One constituent commented:
“So these people are fleeing a war and he’s suggesting they become fruit pickers, stupid man”
Another pointed out the glaringly obvious:
“Why won’t you give back the dirty Russian money that’s funded your party?”
(Babe notes that the issue around dirty Russian money is one that shortly risks engulfing the Conservative Party. The longer sanctions have time to develop, the more uncomfortable it will become as people twig quite where the dirty Russian money has roosted – under the mattresses of Conservative HQ. Boris is increasingly harping on menacingly about the pain that sanctions will cause for us here in the UK, intoning ‘are we sure we want to do this?’ Well, we are sure. But Babe suspects maybe Boris is the one who’s not so sure, dragging his feet about cutting ties with the oligarchs who finance his party. Time will tell.)
Another constituent pointed out the poverty of compassion at the heart of Foster’s Little Britain’s response to the Ukrainians’ plight:
“The Albanian ambassador to the UN just announced that the 4th poorest country in Europe, with a GDP per capita just 10% of the UK, just told the Security Council that his country will take refugees from Ukraine. The UK’s refusal to welcome Ukrainian refugees shames our country. You are not fit to govern. We derserve [sic] better”
“Oh dear…..your name is mentioned in so many articles in newspapers. You have shamed the people of Torbay, you should be deselected!”
A cascade of likes and hearts greeted this furious comment:
“I think your latest is clear to see – you’re absolutely not fit for your role and [sic] do the honourable thing – I’m a farmer and have always been supportive of immigration and policy of free movement – how you dare fill you [sic] Brexit problems with these displaced people who might not want to be fruit pickers in the name of my industry you utter twerp. Go on lead by example – open up the Manor House with open arms and welcome these people to safety. DISGUSTED – god knows what your parents or those around you think – I know what my 8 year old would think. Bet you go down well on the school run.”
“So where are the visas?
“Why have we stopped accepting visa applications from Ukrainians?
“Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, and it has taken some 15,000.
“Ireland has removed all border check requirements.
“Meanwhile, we post images suggesting we will ‘stand with Ukraine’ on social media, but back it up with flimsy sanctions and closer borders.
“It’s an actual disgrace”
And so it went. Foster, Minister for Safe and Legal Migration (and vegetable pickers), wisely kept his head low, clearly trying to avoid any cluster munitions coming his way.
This, then is Foster’s ministerial brief as listed on the government’s website:
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Safe and Legal Migration)
The Minister’s responsibilities are:
- UK points-based system;
- simplifying the immigration system and Immigration Rules;
- current and future visa system;
- net migration;
- EU Settlement Scheme;
- nationality; and
Wow – that’s quite a list.
It’s Brexit in a tin.
It’s Farage’s list of porn names.
It’s a list of everything that ‘moderate Brexiteers’ (vanishingly few these days) claim Brexit wasn’t about (muttering about ‘sovereignty’), but is a complete list of everything it really is.
This government’s record on compassion for refugees is poor to say the least. For example, the disgraceful treatment of Afghan refugees who desperately needed asylum, many of whom had supported the British military, that were either refused entry or left behind in their hour of need. The abhorrent safeguarding risks to minors who have reached the UK after crossing the Channel, only to be housed in filthy mass dormitories, an invitation to predators and extremism. Many refugees, even if they are lucky enough to have eventually reached the UK by dangerous small boat, then encounter terrible housing conditions and fall through the cracks in social care. Most refugees are held in ‘hotels’ and ‘centres’ for indeterminate lengths of time with little support or attempt to help them settle in a strange new country.
Even the title ‘Safe and Legal’ on Foster’s ministerial badge harks to the wilful mischaracterisation by this government in casting immigrants fleeing war as somehow ‘illegal’. They have not done anything illegal, except make an attempt to enter a country to claim asylum. That in itself is not an illegal act. Foster would do well to reflect on how swiftly the tables have turned for Ukraine: and how he might feel if he and his family desperately needed to travel at great risk, with few possessions and little money to a ‘friendly’ country. He could always pick their vegetables.
One comment in the thread of outrage brought the discussion briefly back from Ukraine to Foster’s patch of Little England:
“Why did you and your party let Torbay become the most deprived area in the south west?”
And that is yet another tragedy at the heart of both a terrible European event and our pathetic Government.
With the wet-lipped, white-and-blue-collared-shirt look of a used car salesman, Foster stands out against the haggard thousand-yard stares of many in his slumsit constituency. Harking back to faded glories, the reality of the real Torbay under his government is one of a dilapidated down-at-heel seaside town. Drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, squalid housing and poverty exist cheek by jowl with the millionaires’ playground of Torquay marina. Rough sleepers pervade Torbay, whilst wealthy landowners and yachters enjoy their luxurious second and third homes. Foster’s Torbay is the perfect analogue for Boris’s broken Britain, one that his crooked party has forged with a little help from Russian oligarchs’ millions.
Meanwhile the decent, hard-working people who clearly make up Foster’s constituency are ignored and misrepresented by small minded, cheap and cut-price policies that continue to reduce Britain in the eyes of the world.
As the government backtracks slowly over visas and refugees, as a nation we look like we’re doing the very least we can to help frightened, freezing, starving people fleeing war. And that’s because, in Mr Foster’s government’s hands, we are. After all, we’ve been treating the deprived and vulnerable inhabitants of our own country in exactly the same shabby way, with sweeping assumptions, casual disregard and disdain.
To show compassion you need to understand compassion. The Conservative party is as far away from compassion as you can possibly get. In Priti Patel’s favourite word – she clearly hasn’t got past the letter ‘A’ in the thesaurus – the situation is “appallin”.
Welcome to Littlest Britain – please pick our fruit and veg on the way in.