Hadrian’s Walls

One of the first memories I have of England is running down with my sister to a corner shop and buying an electricity key. Little did I know, at the time, of the harsh energy market, and the pressure it put on households. I knew it was expensive, for sure, but above all, I was amused at how weird it seemed to buy electricity along with magazines and candies, and bring it back home. Fifteen years later, the energy situation in the UK has surely not improved, as the Office of Gas and Electricity Market underlined, last August, how hard prepayments meters were on the poorest consumers, while recommending more agressive measures to open the market. The investigation from the Ofgem brought little to no solace as it was readily called into question by commentators, as Terry Macalister wrote for The Guardian.

One might assume that the recent Brexit vote would make things worse. It’s only stating the obvious to say the UK energy market is closely intertwined with the continental one, as the rise in today power prices has shown once again. Occasional supply may not be the only aspect of the energy market to be affected in the coming months and years by the Brexit decision, since the infrastructure is also at stake. Just today, Kelly, Twidale, and Neely reported for Reuters the Brexit vote made the Iceland-UK power cable rather uncertain. One could find many more examples of such situations, but as I dwell on my memories of southern England, I’ld like to turn to one particular instance.

A little more than two weeks ago, Amber Rudd, who was appointed Home Secretary last July, gave her first speech to the Conservative Party Conference, and it was quite something. Although sober enough, the whole thing was beautifully crafted, as its structure somehow hinted immigrants were likely to be rapists and terrorists. Granted, I’m over-reading a little, but if you pause and watch it on YouTube, as we are graciously allowed, you’ll find that I’m not so far from the truth. It is the case that Mrs. Rudd does not possess the brutish je-ne-sais-quoi that so distinctively signals a piece of the Trump’s campaign, and yet, she hits rock bottom with much speed.

The speech is basically built of three parts:

  1. Protect the children and the women
  2. Stop immigration for the good of the economy
  3. Fight terrorists and criminals, who by the way are also immigrants

And from whom is the true Briton supposed to protect children and women? From those who hide behind cultural differences to commit atrocious acts. Unashamed, Amber Rudd manipulates the grave issue of female genital mutilation to give her xenophobic speech a progressive head-start, before building her case against cultural, economical, and even, as it turns out, educational immigration. Often, she pauses for applause.

Yet, the concerns for working class Britons expressed by this venture capitalist turned politician were not applauded for long. Strangely though, while Mrs. Rudd was immediately called a racist after her speech, as was reported by Joe Watts for The Independent, it was not her Trumpesque hidden allegations that led to the promptest criticism, but the idea English companies should help enforce xenophobic laws, and especially come up with a list of foreigners working for them. There, the Conservatives found themselves in a bit of a tight spot, as business turned its back on them. A week after the announcement, as Rajeev Syal reported for The Guardian, the plan to have firms list foreign staff was abandoned.

Since then, life has been hard for Mrs. Rudd. Lately, she had to face the House of Commons to answer questions about Theresa May’s choices for chair for the child sex abuse inquiry, as reported by John J. Crace for The Guardian, a subject which was precisely at the forefront of her speech to the Conservative Conference, to say nothing of her suspected involvement with offshore firms, that does not speak so highely of her commitment to a strong nation.

To be fair, Mrs. Rudd did campaign for Remain, before joining the all-conservative cabinet of Prime Minister May. What strikes me here, then, besides the blatant racism of her speech, the unpractical economic proposals, and the shameful way she utilizes sexual abuse to foster heinous logics, is the implication that Mrs. Rudd could actually have a more accurate idea of what it means to be British than many of the real working class immigrants she so readily wishes to dismiss. I very much doubt Mrs. Rudd has even the faintest of idea of what a prepayment meter looks like in the cold dead winter.

I remember getting lost many times in the ever so remarkably identical streets of Reading or Swindon suburbs, and I remember struggling to count the change in front of many patient cashiers. I even remember how proud I felt to first time I got the answer right watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, seated in the dimly lit living-room of a ruinous rental house. And yet, as I watched Amber Rudd’s speech, it was the first time Britain ever made me feel a real stranger.


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