NOW I do love the story about the Tory MP and his haircut. Not everything connected with refugees is sombre and humbling. Sometimes it’s just about an MP making a tit of himself.
Adam Holloway, the MP for Gravesham, wanted a handy personal tale to illustrate the problem with asylum seekers. So he told the Commons about the difficulties he was having with his barber.
‘I couldn’t get my haircut the other day,’ he said. This is the sort of thing MPs say when they are intent on showing us how in touch they are. You know, ordinary human beings whose hair needs cutting or who can guess the price of milk.
It was a good story. Holloway’s trim had to be put on hold because his hairdresser, a refugee from Iraq, had gone on holiday to the country he had fled.
This set Holloway off on an inadvisable anecdotal ramble. He began with one of those phrases people use when they wish to show their grasp of common disdain. In Holloway’s case those words were: ‘We have people in this country…’ You know the sort of thing. Makes the heart sink an inch. Brings to mind barstools in country pubs or relatives with unfortunate opinions.
The full sentence was: ‘We have people in this country who have come here, claimed asylum and then they go back on holiday in places where they’ve claimed asylum from.’
That’s why Holloway couldn’t get his hair cut. Only it wasn’t. His barber, Shivan Saeed, later came forward to reveal that he hadn’t gone back to Iraq. He had spent a week with his wife and young son in a caravan in Great Yarmouth.
The barber, who is 23, told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s dangerous to go back to Iraq – if I wanted to go back there why would I have come here? Next time I see him, I will tell him. I am not annoyed – I am all right with it. He just got it wrong.’
The MP made a mistake and that happens. The trouble came when he sewed his error into a silly great blanket of a speech about immigration and the difference between economic migrants and asylum seekers. And when it turned out that his illustrative yarn was comically wrong, he was left dripping with the baptismal waters of twerp-dom.
Holloway told The Guardian yesterday that important parts of his speech had been overlooked, and he said this as someone who once stayed in the Sangatte camp in Calais.
The former solider and TV reporter spent a week living as a ‘refugee’ at the now-closed camp. Those of us who have never even visited such a place shouldn’t criticise. But where’s the fun in that? Living among refugees for a week doesn’t make you a refugee; it makes you someone labouring a point.
It’s the same with those MPs who occasionally pretend to survive perfectly well on benefits. Living on benefits and beans for a week, no problem, does not make an MP jobless or homeless. It makes them a socially offensive poseur who wants kudos for hanging around the ‘wrong’ side of town.
Two years ago, the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said he could live on £53 a week in benefits. So could many people if they lived in a country house belonging to their father-in-law the baron.
As for Adam Holloway, he made a fool of himself and we’ve all done that. But his story does confirm long-held prejudices. These migrants, they come over here and undermine our traditional values by taking their wives off to Great Yarmouth for a week. I do love this story. Even the holiday destination could not be more pleasantly mundane.
Thankfully, Shivan Saeed seems to be a forgiving man. Otherwise next time he might have given Holloway a really bad haircut. Incidentally, I wonder what Republican hopeful Donald Trump ever did to offend his barber.