11 Days Remaining

Saturday 19th
posted by Paddy McGuffin in Features

FOR the sake of attempted humour, this column has flitted between personas and belief systems like an ADHD butterfly on crack over the last seven years or so. One thing I hope which has not been in question is the pure outrage, disgust and contempt in which this column holds the Establishment and our woefully inept politicians and so-called leaders.

And, guess what folks… this week is no different.

One might have thought, with a fair degree of entitlement, that things would be winding down as we draw ever closer to the end of this most benighted of calendar years.

But no, it would appear that deceit, calumny and spite have a sell-by date and the Establishment want to get it all out there before it starts to curdle and leave an indelible and all-pervading stench on their hands.

Regular readers of your scribe’s ramblings — God help you — may have noted its somewhat frequent references to once (vaguely) popular culture. Mainly in the form of bad puns and as the old phrase goes: if it ain’t broke, what the hell are you whingeing about? Or something like that.

Invariably these references are from a bygone era, mainly because despite this being the age of the soundbite — or perhaps for that very reason — there are so few people worth listening to these days.

Voltaire, Hazlitt, Wilde, Mencken, the Marx Brothers, Lenny Bruce, to name but a handful, have carved out their place in immortality — their pithy maxims and wit still instantly recognisable and still uncannily relevant after all this time.

This of course may also have something to do with the fact that we seem hell-bent on reliving the mistakes of the past and in some cases actively seeking to return to it in all but chronological terms.

Of this number of luminaries, it could fairly be said, the name of cult director Sam Peckinpah does not as a rule crop up with any kind of frequency.

But it is the shock Wester director — or more accurately his oeuvre — which, employing a certain degree of artistic license, provides the mot juste this week.

Bring them redress for Diego Garcia.

The tiny Indian Ocean territory is rapidly becoming an albatross round the necks of the British government and reared its head again on Wednesday after the government yet again refused to grant the dispossessed islanders leave to return to the land they were so callously evicted from by the British state over 40 years ago in one of the most shameful and almost wholly ignored incidents of larcenous despotism in the modern era. Apart from Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, etc, etc.

That’s the thing about colonial land grabs, you might think you’ve got away with it for a while and bury your head in the purloined and generally blood-soaked sand but sooner or later they always come back to bite you in the arse.

Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Islands, is a perfect case in point.

When the Brits struck a deal with the US to hand over the islands for a military base in 1973, the somewhat crucial question of the indigenous inhabitants and their rights did not raise so much as a ripple of concern.

Instead they were hounded off their land, had their animals poisoned and were eventually dumped elsewhere and left to rot — presumably in the hope that they would all drop dead and solve the problem.

But you know what? Those pesky Chagossians just won’t go away.

That’s the problem with these foreign types, they just don’t understand Great British justice.

And it’s not just the islanders themselves who won’t go away. Diego Garcia itself has a nasty habit of cropping up in the most unfortunate of circumstances.

You will no doubt recall that it was Diego Garcia that the then foreign secretary Jack Straw repeatedly denied was in any way linked to the unlawful US kidnap and torture rendition programme, only for it to emerge that it had very much been a part of the sordid scheme with numerous rendition flights stopping off there and strongly supported allegations of torture and abuse on the island itself rising to the surface rather like a turd in the swimming pool — or a BP oil slick.

And it’s not just new Labour who have come a cropper in regard to the Chagos Islands.

On Wednesday night Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan was once again forced to state that the government’s decision to prevent the exiled islanders from resettling on the British-controlled territory is “final.”

The government said its decision against resettlement was on the grounds of “feasibility, defence and security interests and cost to the British taxpayer.”

Funny, almost that precise argument could be applied to Trident renewal but that isn’t a problem apparently.

It might also be worth pointing out at this juncture that it was a certain Alan Duncan who sparked outrage in April when he claimed that anyone who was not a millionaire was low-achieving scum.

But to return to the case in hand. The unilateral stance was met with fury not just by opposition MPs — some of whom are probably delighted to have been able to pass the buck on this particular issue — but from the government’s own back benches.

Speaking in the Commons, SNP MP Peter Grant described the decision as “a return to the days of the arrogant colonial Britain that should have been consigned to the dustbin of history 100 years ago.”

While Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: “This decision continues to undermine the United Kingdom’s human rights record and the British sense of fair play.”

Shadow secretary of state Emily Thornberry also joined in the condemnation after recovering from a rather unfortunate gaffe in which she bizarrely confused St Helena with St Helier while trying to criticise the cost claims.

It’s not that difficult. One was used to imprison Napoleon, the other is used to keep tax avoiders out of prison.

That’s your British sense of fair play for you.

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