Usually when I get back on the radio after a two week break, I’m a bit ring-rusty. It takes me a couple of shows to get back into my stride. Not today. In our 5pm hour I wanted to address the refugee crisis which is affecting many countries in southern and central Europe. Yvette Cooper sparked off a debate when she accused other UK politicians of being ‘cowardly’ and suggested the UK should take 10,000 refugees from Syria. Hear, hear I thought. It’s about time someone said so. We of all countries should be showing our compassion and humanity and doing what Britain does best – support the underdog. We took in 10,000 Jewish children in the 1930s. In the 1970s we took in tens of thousands of Ugandan Asians, ten thousand Vietnamese boat people. We’ve done it before and we should do it again. As Yvette Cooper said, if every town in the country took ten families, that would be at least something. And yet all the heavy lifting is being left to Germany. They’ve thrown open their borders to anyone from Syria, no questions asked. They won’t be taking 10,000. They’ve already taken in hundreds of thousands.
Here’s my impassioned opening to the hour in which I ask people to imagine, when they see the TV pictures, that it could be them. have a listen…
What happened next was incredible. I took call after call – all first time callers – from people who had fled other countries (mainly Somalia, actually) to come to this country. this was our first call from Ishmal. I felt very emotional listening to him, and I am glad he kept talking, because at one stage I was incapable of speech. Just tell me that Ishmal and those who followed him don’t deserve to be here. They didn’t come here to scrounge. They came here to make a better life and he and the other callers have all made major contributions. Take a moment to listen to Ishmal, Abdul and George.
I am sure a lot of people listening, and a lot of you reading this, will think I’ve become a wet lettuce liberal on immigration. Maybe, but this isn’t about immigration, It’s about refugees seeking asylum. It’s about compassion and humanity. We should be doing what the Germans are doing. David Cameron should be living up to his ‘compassionate conservative’ rhetoric and ignoring the inhuman siren voices who believe this is not Britain’s problem. We should be at the forefront of EU efforts to come up with a solution, even if only a short term one. If the EU can’t act on this, what on earth is it for?
So well done Yvette Cooper. At least you showed the balls your colleagues and opponents have so far lacked.