‘In this he follows those other utopian traditions of the French revolutionary great terror, the purges of Stalin and Mao. His walled island state now resembles North Korea. If he were to enforce his ideal of the human blank slate, then he would have arrived at Pol Pot’s ‘Year Zero’.’ Part 2 of the author’s essay on utopia(s)
‘For me, the surprise is more in the way the media and parliamentary system has reacted to ‘target-gate’. We have had almost two decades of opposition parties, select communities and the media grilling governments on their failure to meet removals targets. This criticism has now been turned on its head: the fault lies in setting such clunky and unethical targets in the first place – not in the failure to meet them.’
‘The name Immigration Removal Centre sounds harmless enough; just a pragmatic facility for holding people briefly on their way to another place. Don’t be fooled by the name. These places share the most punitive attributes of our prison service with none of the ameliorating facilities for improvement or rehabilitation.’
At the ragged end of a sorry year Fay Young goes in search of poems for Christmas and finds five offering humour, humanity and even a hint of hope that the world is not definitively going to hell on a handcart: praise to “a writer’s ability to touch people’s hearts with a phrase that doesn’t stop wars but makes people smile.”
Germany’s welcoming culture for more than a million refugees last year is under siege as Angela Merkel struggles to retain control. The Far Right is capitalising on doubts and anxieties, notably since the New Year sexual assaults on women in Cologne. The author returns to her home country and finds it divided anew but determined to defend its liberal democracy against the extremists.
All eyes on Dave and Donald but, virtually unnoticed, Europe’s main Far Right parties met recently to plot their common future – and regaining national sovereignty is at the heart of their “Other Europe” strategy. Sounds familiar?
Denmark, one a paragon of liberal tolerance, is pilloried for its parliamentary vote to seize refugees’ assets to pay for their welfare and upkeep. But the vote is very unpopular at home. And accusations it is destroying the European project are wide of the mark: the EU itself is at fault for failure of solidarity.
David Cameron’s ham-fisted plans to help mainly Muslim women learn English have rightly been condemned for stigmatising people – not least as government funding for teaching English as a second language has been cut. Here the United States rather than Europe may have a better, more liberal process of integration.