Such excitement chez Isobel (and Cat) this afternoon when I located the lottery ticket I bought for last Friday’s draw and checked the winning numbers. I am so inured to reading that there are no matches that it took a couple of seconds for the news to sink in and to understand that I am a winner. At last! I haven’t yet claimed my prize and am not sure how I am going to spend it. £8.10 may not be a life changing amount, but after months of zero it’s quite exciting. It could get me three quarters of a glass of champagne in a not too fussy establishment; pay for more than half the ticket I have bought to see Our Country’s Good next week at Stratford East; buy two and a bit copies of Saturday’s Guardian; buy four entries to Saturday’s Lottery. However you look at it, I’m a winner.
Not so the Windrush generation. I thought my country couldn’t plumb new depths after the fiasco which was the referendum in 2016, but in an increasingly crowded field for acts of shameful inhumanity it seems the race to the bottom is being fought hard. We’re told the government has apologised, that there will be compensation, compensation described by MP Kwame Kwarteng as generous. Oh that’s alright then. So you may have lost your home, your job, your entitlement benefits and health care, been threatened with deportation and locked up in a detention centre not knowing where you are going to be this time next week, but now you can sleep easy in your bed as the government has promised to make amends.
Will that compensation restore your home, give you back your scattered possessions, your sense of self and belonging? Will it mean you get your job back? Somehow I doubt it. People’s lives have been wrecked, the compensation offered now will probably be miserly if and when it happens. Remember the fine words post Grenfell, yet so many of those tenants are still in temporary accommodation, suffering PTSD and struggling with every day.
Shame on us; shame on all of us who see the descendants of those people who came from Jamaica and elsewhere to rebuild a shattered country in the aftermath of the Second World War as not belonging. This is their home as much as mine or anyone else’s. I love my country, I am a patriot, and to see these things done in my name makes me deeply sad, deeply ashamed and very angry. The excuses and backbiting of our politicians does nothing to reassure me that something like this won’t happen again.
Divide and rule is a lousy way to rule a country; divisions of class, race, education, wealth, do not build, they destroy. But it’s an easy way to scare a population and to keep it disunited. We have a long way to go to reach equality, and I’m not sure our politicians’ or the citizens’ of this country’s hearts are in it.