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The really curious journey

The Peoples' Republic of Northern England

Mr Paine the Elder having reached his 70th birthday, I am back in England for a family party tomorrow. I arrived as usual at the municipal Airport of a Northern city. As we arrived at immigration, we found post office style posts and tapes over the whole area, but no queue ahead. Nimbler passengers started to duck under the tapes. I simply opened them in a straight line and walked through. A uniformed jobsworth shouted at me to stop. Irritated, I carried on. At the front was the usual sorry crew of gum-chewing, insolent scruffs. Their crookedly-worn new FBI-style badges did nothing to lend them the Bureau’s style.

Tyrrany_tapeThe slouched, slovenly, baggy specimen of officialdom to whom I presented my passport asked me to remove it from its holder (to swipe it through an identical machine to that through which a polite and well-turned-out Russian had earlier swiped it in its holder). I said that, as she had asked politely (an exaggeration, but she did say “please”) I was happy to comply. She said, officiously that there were signs “back there” asking me to do that. I replied that she was wrong, There were signs “back there” ordering me to do that and I didn’t take orders from anyone. She said that they were “requests, not orders”. I pointed out that, as they were in the imperative voice, she was wrong. She plainly had no idea what that meant. She rolled her eyes and said “whatever”. Persisting, I said it was not a matter of “whatever” but a matter of grammar. She plainly had no idea what that meant either. Rolling her eyes even more theatrically, she simply slouched and chewed her gum with her mouth even wider open.

These people are out of control. They are our servants, but they think we exist to obey them. The young official who moronically “whatevered” me has served her whole career under an increasingly authoritarian regime. How can she have any concept of proper behaviour for a public servant in a democratic society? 20 years ago, I would have said her attitude belonged in Communist China. Having recently crossed that country’s border in less time and with smiling words of welcome from a clean and well-dressed young official when the formalities had been courteously concluded, I now know that would have been an injustice.

David Davis’s campaign has begun some 10 years too late. I hope he achieves a spectacular result in his by-election. I hope he unites voters across the political spectrum who despise the authoritarianism of New Labour. I also hope that, as Home Secretary in the next government, Mr Davis will purge our immigration service completely. Only total de-Baathification will now do.


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Not a nice way to come home, I agree!

William Gruff

'They are our servants ...'

No they are not; they are the government's servants. The behaviour of petty officials in this country suggests nothing so much as that the government they serve actually has absolutely no idea how to manage them.


I haven't yet blogged about the Baathification of the UK judiciary, as I am anxious to protect the identity of the judge who told me about it. Give me a few weeks to think how to do that.


Having, in an odd echo of the main article, having travelled back to the country of my birth to celebrate the 70th birthday, in the self-same PRNE, of my case that of mother a couple of weeks ago, I can sadly confirm the experience is not atypical.

All credit to their French brethren at Calais, of whom two managed, with good diligence, to process a whole coachload in 20 minutes or so, with a politeness than many pf their compatriots in the Île-de-France could do well to learn from. We then shuffled over the 5 or 6 meters to the UK portacabin, to witness exactly the same kind of baggy specimens of officialdom as you describe. The one who pawed over my passport could have done with a basic lesson in the use of a razor; the male immigration officers were even worse.

In a way, I guess it shows that you can't beat the system. The only reason I took the coach to London was because I had sailed to mainland Europe and had been warned about the bureaucratic nightmare of getting terrorist material, like a self-inflating life jacket on board a plane. Slovenly officials, adding nothing to the security of the country, but p***ing off tired travellers come not single spies but in battalions.

Looking on the bright side, at least I did get the chance to smoke while in the queue to get inside the 'Welcome to the UK' portacabin.


Someone is very testy considering they are going to a celebration. Unfortunately those slouched, slovenly, baggy specimens of officialdom have a lot of power. Lucky you are not doing 42 days incarceration. Congratulations to TP the elder, who is now officially an old man, or that's when I started calling myself the little old lady. Of course I'm sure, like me, he doesn't believe that at all.

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