DONALD Trump has been much mocked for wanting to build a wall between the US and Mexico, and rightly so. Yet what about another wall much closer to home?
A wall just over the water, a wall some are dubbing it the Great Wall of Calais, or so I just read. Does everything have to be given a flippant label these days? It does seem that way.
This wall will be funded by the UK taxpayer and will run close to the so-called Jungle migrant camp in Calais. It will be 13ft high and will run for 0.6 miles along both sides of the main road to Calais port. And it will cost you and me £1.9 million. But you know what it’s like when you get the builders into erect forbidding walls to repel migrants, or even just build a small extension. The cost is bound to rise.
Home Office minister Robert Goodwill is, in this instance, a man not well named. For only ill will can motivate such a wall.
On the BBC website, Mr Scant-Goodwill said security was being “stepped up” as migrants continue to try to board vehicles heading for Britain.
A number of fences already exist, and now there will be a wall, too. As the minister said to the Home Affairs Committee of MPs on Tuesday: “We are going to start building this big new wall very soon. We’ve done the fence; now we are doing a wall.”
Put like that it sounds like a garden project, something Monty might do. But in fact it is more of in the way of a geopolitical crowd-shoving project to control would-be migrants massed in unhealthy conditions in France. Not our problem, we seem to be saying. But here is a nice big wall – thanks for the idea, Donald.
Now it is easy to pontificate at the laptop; harder to be a lorry driver who fears migrants might jump on board at any minute, possibly killing themselves in the process.
Some lorry drivers believe the new wall is a poor use of money, as all it will do is push the problem further down the road. They feel that better security would be a wiser investment.
As I say, I drive a laptop and not a lorry. I cannot comment on what it’s like to manoeuvre a lorry in such stressful circumstances. But the shadow thrown by that wall does worry me. You build a wall when you don’t want to see something or perhaps someone.
On one level this wall in Calais could be seen as a functional solution to a problem – a costly bit of crowd-control, if you like. Yet seen from another angle it seems inhumane and morally grubby, while also being a distraction done for the sake of being able to say that something is being done. But not really solving the problem.
Perhaps this problem cannot be solved. Yet something strikes me as grimly ironic about our governments, particularly but not exclusively Tory ones. We sing the praises of market forces, tell ourselves the global market knows best – but when those same forces push thousands of impoverished migrants in our direction, we look the other way and mutter about keeping our country for ourselves.
So for those reasons I cannot welcome that wall. Apart from anything else, it represents a jerk of a pin-striped knee. Or possibly a jerk with a pin-striped knee.
One thing is for certain: building that wall won’t solve the problem, even if it lets Mr Goodwill play the hard man for a day or two. We will only get anywhere by taking a more humanitarian approach to dealing with migrants.