The first point, one that is suggested by both headlines, is that the tabloids now seem to have dropped their demonising of asylum seekers. This would normally be a good thing, but it looks as though they're replacing them with immigrants in general, and using the term 'migrant' as a catch-all pejorative phrase. The funny thing is - I think the tabloids started targeting asylum seekers in the 90s so they could claim not to be racist. They could claim to be critiscising people for what they do, rather than who they are. I'm pretty sure attacking immigrants wholesale would have had them branded racist, which is why they went the whole 'bogus asylum seeker' route in the first place. But the political climate seems to have shifted so far to the right that it passes without comment when immigrants, or 'migrants', to use the new pejorative label, are attacked wholesale as a group.
The Mail's article is the less frothing of the two. As is obvious from the headline, the paper is critical of the fact that people are being taught about their rights and entitlements and not some Whig interpretation of history. There's a quote from David Davis the paper uses in the classic Mail technique of ignoring its own actions:
'What ought to be taught to settlers is Britain's noble traditions of democracy, freedom of speech and tolerance. This is at least as important as how to deal with Government organisations.'Anyone arriving on these shores and being taught about freedom of speech and tolerance would only have to open one of our many tabloids before busting a gut with laughter. In fact, they wouldn't have to go that far if they looked at one of the Express's infamous 'BAN IT!' headlines. Imagine being told how amazingly tolerant we are, and how much we value free speech and then reading yesterday's Sun story objecting to the lyrics of one song being changed in a Christmas concert. Imagine arriving from the West Indies and sending your kids to the school in the story, with other parents threatening to boycott the Christmas celebrations because one song was to be changed to something influenced by your culture. Imagine reading this article, which seems to be arguing for the suppression of information about your own rights. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd end up being sceptical of everything I was told from that point forward.
The thing that readers of this story might miss is that the citizenship test has been extended to people who aren't even after British citizenship. The test is actually including more stuff and applying to more people, but never mind that. It is included in the article, but in the middle of outrage about something else.
But the paper's main point is that the history section is left out of the test while stuff about people's actual rights are being iincorporated, and dammit, that's just not on. It quotes this:
Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: 'These tests should place greater emphasis on our proud history and great achievements. We want settlers to work and to integrate into our community, not to claim benefits at the expense of taxpayers.'There's an assumption in all this that people who know when the Normans invaded and when the Magna Carta was signed will be less likely to claim state benefits. Which is just weird. 'You know what? I was going to not bother getting a job and scrounse of your generous benefits system instead - but then I had to answer some questions about Mary Queen of Scots and now I've changed my mind'. And do you think his 'proud history' includes the invention of concentration camps and massacring poorly armed natives to nick their land and their stuff? I think perhaps not.
What this article entirely fails to do is point out how much benefit, if any, most new immigrants can expect to receive. In leaving this important information out, readers can be given the impression that these people qualify for a whole raft of new stuff. Houses, swimming pools, gold-plated BMWs, the lot. But as the Ministry of Truth pointed out a few weeks ago, this is far from the case.
Another thing the paper neglects to mention is that by including a section about what benefits people settling in the UK are entitled to, there will be less time taken up by people attempting to claim things they're not entitled to. So it's a bit more important than knowing a few dates.
There's also an assumption implicit in this article that if people wanting to settle in the UK are told about what benefits they can receive, they'll be straight on them and not bother getting a job. That's a bit patronising to say the least.
The Express article surpasses the Mail's indignation with rage, and has less emphasis on the history angle. Of course, it starts with the headline - which is today's front page headline - but it kicks off the first paragraph with:
MIGRANTS hoping to settle in the UK are to be taught how to rake in state hand-outs.Check out the language on that! 'Rake in state handouts'. They'll be living like kings while we slave away providing their gold-plated BMWs, diamond-tipped canes and Cuban cigars rolled in the thighs of virgins.
They will be shown how to claim benefits, demand equal rights, make full use of the NHS and get parental leave.I demand that this be stopped right now! How dare they be told how to use the NHS. They should battle through illness or die so we don't have to pay a penny. How dare they 'demand' equal rights with the rest of us. The cheek of it! They're different and foreign and should know their place.
There's a fantastic bit of nonsense that follows:
Yet ministers have again ruled out any requirement that newcomers learn about Britain’s history.A few poinst about this:
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “If the Government was serious about tackling our burgeoning welfare bill, then it wouldn’t be doing so much to flag up at every opportunity the benefits that immigrants are entitled to.
The effortless lead in from ministers ruling out the history test to Matthew Elliott gives the impression that Elliott is a Minister, or Shadow-Minister or at least something attached to government. As I was leading into the quote, I almost typed that he was a tory MP before rereading it and spotting that he's some bloke from a special interest lobby group, and the same one quoted in the Mail.
The assumption is also here that the second newcomers to the UK know about benefits, they'll chuck any idea they might have had of working and lord it over all of us on Income Support.
It seems as though he's advocating keeping entitlement to benefits secret in order to avoid this. Think of how insulting that is to immigrants. 'Keep the benefits secret or they'll never bother to get a job. And don't tell them about the NHS so they battle through illness or just die so we don't have to pay'. Okay, the paper was indignant about immigrants being told about the NHS and not this guy, but still. That's how nasty this article is.
The article then quotes those fine, upstanding bastions of tolerance, MigrationWatch:
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch UK, added: “It is far more important that people should be aware of the history of the country than get access to the welfare state.”It's worth pointing out that MigrationWatch are just a couple of old blokes. Not some big, respectable think tank, but two guys who don't like immigration. Why does any paper even bother to listen to them? Yeah, okay - that was a rhetorical question.
Anyway, that's so boneheaded. More important to know the history of the country my arse. Tell that to the bloke whose finger is half hanging off as he tries to enter Casualty.
The rest is all a bit blah, but we do find out that the questions inivolve more than just how to receive benefits, including:
The chapters even give practical advice on buying a house, using solicitors, utility companies, money, education and transport – and pubs.So there's far more on life in the UK that people will be tested on. You'd think the papers would rather immigrants knew what society is like now rather than hundreds of years ago - but maybe they want to be able to spot immigrants by their ruffs, tights and snuff habit.
Of course, an article like this in the Express can't pass without having a dig at Eastern Eurpoeans:
However, thousands of people are failing to take English language lessons because courses are being clogged up by Eastern Europeans.Damn those Eastern Europeans! Come over here, burden our system with interpreters in schools because they don't bother to learn English and then clog up English classes by learning English. Er. . .hang on.
The article ends with this fine piece of objective questioning:
*Do you think we are teaching migrants to scrounge? Comment NOW at Have Your Say.The whole article is about teaching migrants to scrounge. The fucking headline is 'Migrants taught how to scrounge'. What are the readers supposed to end up thinking?
The final point I want to make is that both articles make something of the fact that people who fail these tests are allowed to retake. This suggests that both papers are actually less bothered about immigrants learning about the UK before entering than weeding people out and rejecting them. Not really demonstrating that fair play and tolerance much, eh?