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MIHIR BOSE ON PRITI POINTS: Who is more British? Moeen Ali or Ben Stokes?

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Now Priti Points for Britishness! Who is more British? Take two England cricketers Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali. They are great friends. Looking at them you would think Stokes is British born, Ali is the immigrant. Not so. Ali is a grandson of an immigrant, his grandfather having come from what is now Pakistan Kashmir.  He was born in Birmingham. Ben Stokes is actually an immigrant. He was born in New Zealand and has Maori ancestry…. Writes Mihir Bose, former Sports Editor of BBC

Patel said there shall be no free movement. But that is hardly a new announcement. Once Britain leaves the EU free movement stops. It remains to be seen what happens to the £30, 000 limit in Priti Patel’s new points system

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Priti Patel (File)

Speeches by Home Secretaries at Tory party conference always follow a standard formula. Tough on criminals, tough on immigration. On crime it is show no mercy to criminals and keep them in jail as long as possible. On immigration it is bolt the door as this island is so overcrowded that it is bursting. Historically, toughness on immigration meant keeping out people of colour although these days they do not openly talk of race indeed loudly declaim that immigration has nothing with racism. That was not always the case.  When I came here in 1969, nine months after Enoch Powell’s speech, the Conservative policy was to send “coloureds” home, coloureds being people from the West Indies and the subcontinent.

Since then sending home has been discarded as a policy but in many ways Priti Patel’s speech to this year’s Conservative conference fits in with what Tory Home Secretaries are supposed to say. The only difference is she is a child of immigrants. In 1969 the idea a “coloured” person would occupy such a position in  a government, let alone a Conservative government, would have been unthinkable. Patel. of course, could not talk about sending the “coloureds” home and making the most of her immigrant background presented herself as a Home Secretary who would really reform the immigration system. In fact, in the great traditions of Tory Home Secretaries she concealed the true story of immigration.

So Patel said there shall be no free movement. But that is hardly a new announcement. Once Britain leaves the EU free movement stops.

Then she said Britain will go for a points based Australian immigration system. Talk about copying the Australians is not new. It has been going on for decades. Nor would a points system be revolutionary. Britain already has a points system. If you are outside the EU you cannot just walk in. People outside the UK seeking to migrate to this country need a job offering them a salary of at least £30,000 a year.

 by . It is interesting that during the referendum leave campaigners told many well off Asians that if they voted to leave then it would be easier for their relations to come to this country. In other words, free movement from the EU would stop, a sort of free movement from the subcontinent begin. This was just what the owners of Indian restaurants wanted to hear. As one Nepali restaurant owner put it to me once we leave the EU  it would be easier to get cooks from India as the £30, 000 limit would be reduced. Many well-off Asians voted for leaving. Patel who campaigned for Brexit could not have been more pleased.

It remains to be seen what happens to the £30, 000 limit in Priti Patel’s new points system.

What Priti Patel did not talk about was what is to be done with people of British stock who have free movement. These are people who , or whose parents or grandparents, migrated to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, what used to be the  white Commonwealth. Under what are called partiality  laws they have the right to come and live in this country. Not for them having to get a £30,000 job. And, of course, these people are white. But because unlike 1969  nobody wants to mention race, and nowadays even the racist denies they are racist, this is carefully concealed.

So Patel said there shall be no free movement. But that is hardly a new announcement. Once Britain leaves the EU free movement stops

But to give you an idea of how it works take two England cricketers Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali. They are great friends. Looking at them you would think Stokes is British born, Ali is the immigrant. Not so. Ali is a grandson of an immigrant, his grandfather having come from what is now Pakistan Kashmir.  He was born in Birmingham. Ben Stokes is actually an immigrant. He was born in New Zealand and has Maori ancestry. And his father supported New Zealand in the epic World Cup final where Stokes played such a crucial role in England finally winning the cricket World Cup.

English player Moeen Muni Ali taking a catch (File)

Ali’s racial background can puzzle his teammates. At one team bonding session the English players took part in a quiz. As Ali told me, “Each of us had to give the quiz master a question which he asked the rest of us. There were all sorts of questions the various members of the squad gave. The question I gave the quiz master was “My grandmother’s name is Betty Cox, who am I?” The quiz master read out the question and asked, “Anybody know?” The question threw everyone. They looked at each other and you could see them thinking, “Oh who could that be?”. It was obvious nobody had a clue. After a few minutes the quiz master asked, “Nobody knows? Give up?”.

The squad nodded their heads. I stood up and nobody could believe it. I can still remember the look on Straussy’s face [Andrew Strauss, director of cricket]. He just could not believe it and still to this day can’t believe that my grandmother’s name is Betty Cox.” Betty had married Moeen’s grandfather when he came to this country after the second world war. What this story illustrates is how complicated immigration is and how colour defines it.

Patel, of course, made no such mention pretending we can have colour blind immigration. But Britain’s history and its desire to make sure people of British stock, and this means white people, can always come back to this country means we can never have that. It would be good if politicians were upfront about this and admitted it. But they will not. The result is the immigration debate will not move on. It will be presented as a numbers game when it is much more than that. Race will remain the great elephant in the immigration room that nobody will talk about. And now with Patel a person of colour, posing as the champion who will close the doors of the room because it is too overcrowded, there is even less chance of having an honest debate about immigration.

(Please send your comments to newsdesk@asianlite.com –  @mihirbose @asianlitemedia)

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