James Brokenshire MP, minister for immigration, like most other politicians these days likes to shout about his triumphs and achievements on his various social media outlets. His Twitter feed has kept us up to date with comings and goings at the Home Office, charities that Mr Brokenshire has been supporting, and most recently we were treated to the heart-warming mental image of a lovely Easter day out shared by Mr Brokenshire and his family at a National Trust property in sunny East Sussex.
James clearly cares a lot about family. He makes sure that his Facebook biography leaves no doubt in your mind that the minister for immigration is a family man through and through. This lovely little image comes unstuck, however, when we realise that Mr Brokenshire and his department in government have been responsible for one of the most virulent anti-family pieces of legislation in recent years – the Immigration Act 2014. Hoping that this little nugget of unpleasant information may have passed by the man on the street, the minister proudly announced on his Facebook wall that this morning marked the start of a brave new world of NHS charges for those pesky, poverty-stricken immigrants, which would plug a hole in NHS funding to the tune of a (rather measly, actually) £200m per year.
Why should the gaps left in NHS funding by the failed austerity experiment of the coalition be plugged by some of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society?
This man on the street wasn’t buying it, though. Given that this week we are having to cough up nearly £1,200 for the privilege of my family staying together in the UK, I felt that the tone of Mr Brokenshire’s announcement was in rather bad taste. Why should the first five years of my marriage be spent in financial hardship? Why should my partner and I have to face the indignity of suspicion each time we register with a new GP or rent a new property (no chance of buying, of course – any money we save will go towards our next application in 30 months). Why, when both of us work and pay tax and NI, should my partner and I be expected to contribute twice? Why does the Home Office believe my family should be punished? Beyond my family, and setting an even more worrying precedent – why should the gaps left in NHS funding by the failed austerity experiment of the coalition be plugged by some of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society? Politely, of course, I asked the minister for some answers.
It seems that the minister learnt the tricks of his trade from others in the Home Office, who by and large don’t like responding to any questions at all.
Mr Brokenshire, it seems, does not like answering dissenting voices. Within an hour, my comments, along with similar comments left by others, had all been deleted and I had been unceremoniously blocked from responding further to posts left by the minister. You may think this is rather undemocratic but it seems that the minister learnt the tricks of his trade from others in the Home Office, who by and large don’t like responding to any questions at all. You know, traditionally we’ve called that accountability.
At this point of the story, a person might despair at the pretty shameful state of our democracy. But wait! The story doesn’t end there. Alerted to the fact that Mr Brokenshire’s people were redacting with a rather heavy hand, the Great British public have inundated his page with their true feelings and it is glorious to behold. Let’s see how long the minister can keep on running from the ripples of this terrible piece of discriminatory legislation!