I HAD not thought so soon to return to this matter, but a day is a long time in front pages.
Yesterday the Daily Express and its guttersnipe cousin the Daily Star were casting doubt on the ages of the child migrants arriving from the camp in Calais. Today’s development in the happy valley of news sees a Tory MP demanding that these entrants to our country should have their teeth tested to prove their age.
David Davies, MP for Monmouth, is on the radio right now saying that “we need to be hard-nosed here” and insisting that these migrants should have a dental exam to verify their age.
And perhaps this Tory MP should have his body scanned for evidence of a heart. The British Dental Association maintains that such tests on the teeth of migrants would be unethical. Perhaps they might also consider the ethics of reducing the anaesthetic a little the next time Mr Davies needs a filling.
In this latest display of our compassion, 14 young migrants have been admitted into the country. Yes, 14. From the pernicious noise in some quarters, you’d have thought we’d just waved in a million.
Many things about this matter either surprise me or cause the tattered flag of my liberal soul to go limp. The nastiness is the worst of it. And the readiness to believe that we are being had in some way or other. Also surprising is that these mean calculations appear to have been made from looking at faces in photographs that have been blurred to protect the identity of the young migrants. Yet these photographic smudges for faces are enough to unleash nastiness from the usual suspects; then again their compassion was pixelated a long time ago.
All this is by way of a vile distraction, a sleight of hand from a conjuror up to mean tricks, and a way to deflect the eye from what will happen to all the child migrants.
“Fury at ‘soft checks’ on child migrants” rumbles the Express today, while the Sun, following the Davies line, prefers: “Tell us the tooth” and maintains that some of the child migrants “look 40” – citing as evidence an almost entirely blurred face on which a bristle or two can be seen. The Daily Mail says that one of the child migrants “looked 38” according to a facial recognition programme.
The narrowness of mind on display here does no credit to us or our country. But we live in strangely unsettling times. According to interpretation, we are either standing on the Brexit cliff and waiting to fall over the edge and on to the rocks below. Or we are about to soar into the clear blue sky, free at last of those heavy Euro boots that have held us back.
Personally I am still worried about those rocks, but the truth is that we still don’t know, as nothing has happened yet.
The US is living in strange times, too, and I think that the world will miss President Obama, for all that he has disappointed some. Barack is certainly right when he accuses Donald Trump of whining that next month’s White House election is rigged against him. Obama insists that Trump’s wild claims are based on “no facts”, adding: “I’d advise Mr Trump to stop whining and try to make his case to get votes.”
We expect this sort of anti-politics vandalism from Trump, a vain and egocentric sort of candidate. Yet such ridiculous claims are dangerous as they could undermine the process of democracy, and even many Republicans are appalled by the claims. If Trump loses, as surely he must, then millions of his supporters may well be eager to swallow his conspiracy pill, and could even take to the streets in protest.
Then again, the post-truth worm long ago chewed a hole through Trump’s brain, and if he loses he will probably continue to claim for years that in fact he won.