Friday, 4 September 2015

An open letter to Boris Johnson

Hello Boris, I suppose I should start by saying that although I'm addressing this to you, I'm not really writing to you. You see, I prefer eating to talking, and you'll always find me by the canapes when the conversation turns to politics, but I am compelled to think aloud by that image of that little boy on the beach being coupled to the reaction which the Daily Telegraph (03 Sept 2015, heading '11.19') says is yours, especially this bit here: 

'Let us not forget that the fall of the Roman Empire was down to immigration. Massive movements of people in the end is not sustainable.'

Yes, the Roman Empire/Rome (and by this, I mean the Western Roman Empire, not Byzantium) had many positives, like lovely, enduring architecture, wonderful trade routes, roads with no potholes, the rule of law and an efficient bureaucracy, but let's not forget that there were some intangible bits and bobs which marked them apart from modern Britain.

For starters, Rome had legally-sanctioned slavery which, it must be remembered, was abolished by Britain in the 19th century. Rome's geopolitical reach wasn't as wide as Britain's, and the Romans had toga parties all day and all night long because they wore togas. Their gladiators had long, hard-to-spell names like Commodus and Spartacus, while Britain makes things simple with Gold and Wolf.  Britain's Christians are Lords and the ceremonial (if not actual) leaders of the country; the Romans used theirs as big cat food.

The leap in London's population in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from tens of thousands to millions, though initially traumatic, was certainly not due to lots of native Londoner babies surviving into adulthood, but to the influx of people from all over the British Isles and Europe who were looking for peace and a fresh start. Even white individuals whose work underpins the world we live in, such as James Watt, Count Rumford, Ernest Rutherford and Rosalind Franklin, either migrated or had migrant ancestors. Your own ancestors and the Royal Family's ancestors were relatively recent migrants to Britain (compared to the Roman Empire, the 18th century AD is relatively recent) and I am sure that between their arrival and today, you and they have also contributed massively to Britain.

Just as an apple isn't an orange, the Roman Empire isn't modern Britain for despite all that immigration, the Britain of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries flourished, and I am sure you, of all people, have an inkling why. There are some things in life which can work wonders, even in small doses. Just like canapes.