The lunacy of our asylum debate

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Indy Politics
You pays your money and you takes your choice. In Billericay - if Teresa Gorman is to be believed - asylum-seekers are mostly East European men who, after having come over here to watch Szzpltt FC in the Uefa Cup, decided that they wished to stay on at taxpayers' expense. In Islington, however, according to Jeremy Corbyn, this group is almost entirely made up of torture victims who have had their fiances murdered in front of their very eyes.

Yesterday these two diametrically opposed versions of the same reality were laid out with some care. Teresa herself was splendidly attired in a pink-and-white check twin-set, which looked as though it had been run up from a very expensive National Trust tablecloth. She was cross that the courts had found in favour of a group of asylum- seekers, ruling that councils should provide them with basic amenities, now that the Government itself no longer did.

"Meals on Wheels have to take food to them!" she told horrified MPs. "They have to be given a packed lunch, in case they go out to do a bit of shopping during the day!" Worse, they were given snacks as well. "Snacks!" repeated Ms Gorman for effect. "Snacks!" echoed scandalised members, many of whom can only dream of snacks. Furthermore, these folk needed "hygiene packs", including "toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, flannel and deodorants!"

The burden of providing all this personal freshness fell upon the poor old people of Westminster, many of whom live on small pensions in Peabody estates and ask nothing from the state, save to be let alone. "Why should elderly people, managing on their modest incomes, fork out for these people who are simply parasites?" she concluded.

Jeremy's case was that we had an obligation to look after those who seek asylum in our country (although if the country is half as bad as Jeremy always says it is, it is amazing that anyone ever bothers). He was interrupted by the choleric Christopher Gill (C, Ludlow) who demanded to know what mandate Mr Corbyn had from the British people "to share their citizenship with foreigners?"

As Mr Corbyn struggled with this piece of ahistorical xenophobia, I was momentarily distracted by the appearance of a steatopygous Sudanese tribeswoman in multicoloured djellaba and brass girdle, who sat silently at the end of the Tory benches. Closer examination showed it to be the Medway sex goddess, Peggy Fenner, come to show solidarity with the Third World. When she was sure that everyone in the Chamber had seen her, she departed again.

All this time David Shaw, the Dover MP - whose majority is tiny, but whose desire to hold on to his seat is overwhelming - had been twitching in preparation for his own intervention in the debate. At last his moment arrived. He did not, he began, "want to see people taking advantage of our compassion".

Now, you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to take advantage of Mr Shaw's compassion, as the following exchange with his fellow Tory Tony Marlow indicates. Shaw had just explained to the House that even with brutal dictatorships there were limits to what could be done. "We cannot take the whole population of Iraq!" he stormed. Marlow intervened: Why don't they go to Jordan?" he asked; "Why do they have to travel a whole continent to get away?" Shaw concurred, easily. So the next time you see the whole population of Iraq at Dover ferry terminal, trying to enter the country, use your compassion and point out the sign saying "Jordan: 2,000 miles".