Pick and choose our standards?

Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, “We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home.” We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What we can do in Africa, where we still govern and where we no longer govern, depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which this country acts and the way in which Englishmen act. We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility.

An expert ear hears the classical, Ciceronian style and intuits the speaker. It’s Enoch Powell. Yes … him. 27th July 1959, and a late night debate on the Report of the Hola Camp massacre.

Hola Camp was a detention centre out in the wilds of Kenya. It was to hold the hard core of the Mau Mau, and brutal to the point where in a single incident eleven detainees were beaten to death, and a further two dozen were hospitalised.

I was entering the sixth-form, at Dublin’s High School, by that stage. The Irish press did not tread lightly on British susceptibilities. When the report came to debate, I also read the accounts of Powell’s speech (and those of others) in the Daily Telegraph — in those days a paper of clout, second only to “Bill” Haley‘s The Times. If there was a single event that sparked my commitment to politics, it was Hola.

First as horror, then as worse?

We’ve come a long way since Alan Lennox-Boyd ran the Colonial Office and Evelyn Baring ran his satrapies in East Africa. Thanks be.

Our standards ought to be higher.

Then we come across

Shaw

Near 350 pages addressing the national scandal that is “Immigration Removal Centres”. There are — to my bestaggerment —

11 designated Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), four designated Residential and Short Term Holding Facilities and one Non Residential Short Term Holding Facility. Four of the IRCs are managed by the Prison Service and the others are outsourced to private companies including MitieGEO GroupG4S and Serco

How convenient for the Home Office to delegate the immediate responsibility and “answerability” to “service-providers”.

I guess you didn’t come across too many media reports of the Shaw Report: The Guardian had Alan Travis on the case, but — hey! — what ya expect?

Full credit, then, to Ian Dunt at politics.co.uk. His conclusion is worth repeating:

The Home Office has been quietly putting the brakes on the expansion of the detention estate for months now. One centre was recently closed while another had its expansion cancelled. Campaigners suspect that the top of the department has become alarmed at the stories coming out the detention centres and the escalating costs of maintaining them. A series of internal reviews were commissioned. And then today’s report came out.

The government response is encouraging – which isn’t something you say very often when it comes to detention. It says it accepts “the broad thrust of [Shaw’s] recommendations”. It lists a series of reforms (the devil will be in the details) and then concludes:

“The government expects these reforms… to lead to a reduction in the number of those detained.”

It is a sentence anti-detention campaigners have waited a long time for. The government is now explicitly aiming to detain fewer people.

It’s not a total victory. There is nothing in the report – or the government response – about a time limit. And the managed decline of the detention estate will undoubtedly be done in the usual haphazard manner which the Home Office does everything. But the ship has started to turn.

Shaw may have spared the home secretary’s blushes, but his report could be a turning point in the secret world of Britain’s detention centres.

Leave the qualms about escalating costs aside: for the record, we are talking of 3,000 detainees at around £100 a day, each (so — allowing for departmental dissimulations, plus/minus £110 million a year, minimum).

More important, the moral dimension.

If the stories coming out the detention centres have alarmed the Home Office, then it needs public awareness, leading to public pressure to sort out these institutions.

Opposition MPs (more kudos to Catherine West) are on the case. What we need are more Tories to speak out, as potently as Enoch Powell did.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Guardian, History, politics, Racists, Tories.

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