Farrukh Dhondy | Amid dog-whistle politics, did Sunak go easy on Suella?

Cruella, in an attempt to drown the noisy negative publicity, has resorted to dog-whistle politics

“Dogs live in a nose dimension,
They smell ghosts with a sweetness of spirit
Or evil ones with a terrifying stink
They know death from the air around it
And opportunity when love is nigh.”

From Dhoka Cola, by Bachchoo

The former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been sentenced to three years in jail on charges of corruption. Pending his appeal, he now has to wear an electronic tag. Both Hedgie Sunak and Boris Johnson were fined by the police for breaching regulations during the Covid-19 shutdown. This week the Cabinet Office has revealed that Mr Johnson faces further charges for inviting guests to Chequers when he told the nation “no guests”.

Donald Trump may go to prison for corruption or if further allegations of rape result in a conviction.

None of the above politicians in “democratic” countries have been charged with murder. In some countries opponents of the regime are jailed on trumped-up charges, thrown through upper-floor windows or murdered and their bodies chopped up. The heads of state responsible for these acts and even for mass murder of opponents are dictatorially immune from prosecution, while in proper mature democracies, however faulty -- stimulating riots against fair elections -- the most trivial offences face some consequences.

This observation is prompted, gentle reader, not by the announcement of poor BoJo facing further charges and fines, but by the case of the present UK home secretary, Suella “Cruella” Braverman.

When she was justice secretary, she was caught speeding while driving. I confess that I was caught speeding by a camera, doing 24 miles an hour in a 20-mph limit zone. I wasn’t conscious of speeding and must have been thinking of something else when I crossed the white markings on the road, the traversal of which inform the camera of your vehicle’s speed. I was sent a notice by the police.

This was in the Covid-restrictions era, and the notice offered me two options. I could either pay a fine and have my driving licence endorsed with three offence marks (when you get 12, they take your licence away) or I could attend a course which would re-educate me about speeding and presumably get me to behave myself in the future. Since it was the Covid period, the notice said, this option of taking a re-education course would require me to join a Zoom collective on my computer rather than present myself physically at a venue for the two-hour session. I opted, quite sensibly, to avoid the three negative endorsements on my licence, for the Zoom course.

I joined the Zoom course at the appointed time and with several other (criminal?) participants was told by the instructor about the damage that speeding could do and the various signs and speed limits there were and the roads on which these applied. It went on for two hours and cost me £95 (about Rs 9,700).

I tell you this because Cruella was offered the same two choices. For all I know she may have been caught doing 21 mph in a 20-mph zone. Trivial? Yes! But Cruella, being justice minister at the time, went on to ask her civil servants to ensure that she didn’t take the re-education option with other participants, but agreed to do it on a one-to-one basis.

The civil servants told her the speeding fine was her personal, private affair and business and not that of the ministry, and they declined to intervene with the traffic authorities and the police on her behalf. Cruella then went to her political adviser and asked that person to intervene. She was again told that it was not part of their job to do her personal fixing.

I don’t to this day know what she was trying to avoid. Did she think that the other speeding violators on the Zoom call would recognise the justice secretary being part of this corrective process for an albeit minor breach of the law?

When Hedgie Sunak appointed her home secretary, Cruella paid the fine and took on the three points on her licence. The Opposition parties have called on Hedgie to investigate the possibility that she may have broken the ministerial code by asking officials in the ministry to do her personal dirty work. Hedgie has considered the demand and says that Cruella has not done anything wrong and she’s off the hook.

Now this may be because Hedgie has asked his ethics-wallah, who may have said that Cruella was not demanding personal favours from the civil servants but merely seeking advice. Or of course it’s possible that he’s let Cruella off the hook as she belongs to the right-wing Tory MPs’ faction called the European Research Group, which Hedgie simply can’t afford to alienate.

Cruella, in an attempt to drown the noisy negative publicity, has resorted to dog-whistle politics. She has said that the relatives of post-graduate students who come from abroad to qualify at British universities will not be allowed into the country. This, she says, will reduce immigrant figures by 135,000 a year.

Big deal? Well, it dents the 700,000 number of immigrants by 19 per cent? These are not the alleged Albanian shysters coming to the UK in criminal gangs. They are the dependents of students who contribute literally billions to British universities and will return home after their courses are over.

But dog whistles rely on instinct not common sense, logic, truth or even material advantage.

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