One of the striking things about much of the commentary on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership election campaign and victory was the short-term nature of the historical thinking. Mostly, it seems, political memories stop in the early 1980s, when current 60-somethings started work. And some of the political prognosis has bordered on hysteria.
There’s a longer view that might help people understand what is happening.
The political scientist David Runciman has observed that Britain has had political crises every 40 years, for more than a century now. There was one in the 1890s, one in the 1930s, one in the 1970s, and we’re certainly living through one now.
What the film ‘Paddington’ tells us about the language of migration
I’m certainly not the first person to observe that the film Paddington is a story about migrants and refugees. I watched the film recently and it spoons it on with thick dollops of marmalade: Paddington Bear, who stowed away on a boat, Gruber, the antiquarian, who arrived in London on the kindertransport, and the calypso band, which functions as a kind of Greek chorus, who would have arrived on the SS Windrush and its successors.
But my interest in this story this week is the way in which we have developed a complex set of taxonomies about people who leave their original countries. One of the elements of the Twitter conversation this week, after the body of the three year old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi was found on a Greek beach, was an attempt to shift the language about the Syrian tragedy and those fleeing it, from “migrants” to “refugees.”