NOW I don’t wish to spoil your day, but let’s have a look at the front pages of the Daily Express and its downmarket stablemate, the Daily Star. It’s a big ask, but stick with me.
The Express has two European themes. The main headline says: “Cheaper food after EU exit”. The story maintains that leaving the EU will “send the cost of food tumbling, according to economic experts”.
Those experts are to be found in a long-running think-tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a body which sings the free-market hymn loudly, if not always tunefully.
What’s odd about this story is to be spotted in the next paragraph. Here, the Express says the experts it has called on are predicting “staggering” food price rises in Europe “which the UK can avoid through Brexit”. So, logically speaking, food won’t be cheaper than it is now; it will just not be as expensive as it might have been if we’d stayed in the EU (that’s if you swallow the Daily Express diet pills, something which nutritionists advise against).
So what we have here is another story forced into the Brexit template. The Express does like an obsession and is much taken with this one at the moment.
In the blurb box at the top of the page, the Express turns its kindly eye towards the child migrants arriving in Britain from Calais. The faces in the photographs used have been blurred (by the BBC initially, I think) but this is not enough to deter the Express from suggesting that these child migrants look older than 17, the age they have to be to gain admittance. “Calais migrant children start arriving in the UK claiming to be aged 14 to 17,” say the words in the blurb-box.
The Daily Star – honest, I didn’t touch it; I only looked online – takes this unpleasant scepticism further. The front-page headline says: “First Calais ‘kids’ arrive in UK”, while a smaller banner adds: “All claim they are school age.”
As a requirement of admittance, the young migrants must be 17 or under and already have relatives in Britain. In the spirit of offering a warm welcome to these troubled children, both papers rush to suggest that the migrants look a bit old for their age.
The Express seeks the opinion of the UKIP MEP Jane Collins, a woman who is never knowingly reasonable. She lives up to her shabby billing by saying that she hopes the British public “weren’t providing refuge for adult economic migrants trying to pull a fast one”.
Scepticism can be a useful thing, but this is nothing more than rampant nastiness masquerading as scepticism. The Home Office tells the newspapers that the ages of the migrants have been verified, and while you don’t always want to go around believing what the Home Office tells you, in this instance it is preferable to siding with the Little England dullards on the Express and Star.
As for UKIP, thankfully that party appears to be imploding at present, boiled in the melting fat of its own meanness. Steven Woolfe, the UKIP MEP who spent three days in hospital following a row with a party colleague, tells the BBC that he is quitting the party, which is in a “death spiral”.
He also says there is “something rotten” in the party. Has he only just noticed? Perhaps his spell in hospital left him time to play I-Spy with himself and he suddenly realised the true nature of the party he had wanted to lead until only a few days ago.
As for the relatively small number of child migrants arriving from Calais, they should be welcomed by a country with a proud history of showing compassion; a country in which many creeds and races have always lived; a country which should be happy to do the right thing.
And with regards to that other country, the nasty, small-minded, suspicious one; the one that insists on believing the worst of everyone (even child migrants, for heaven’s sake) – well you can keep that mean little country peopled with sniping poltroons. It’s fit for nothing other than a nasty front page.