New Statesman 2009
11 June 2009I may as well go back to where I came from. Which I'd say is Birmingham, but the BNP says is Rawalpindi. The BNP doesn't like brown: chocolate brown, dark brown, Gordon Brown. "I'm not being racist," the BNP says, "but only white people are allowed in our party." Or: "I'm not being racist, but there are too many mosques in this country and that halal meat is not to my taste and I don't think it should be allowed." Well, I'm not being racist, but I think we should ban all sunbeds, because there's nothing worse than being a plastic Paki.
Recently, Nick Griffin was asked on Sky News how you could tell if someone was British. He said: "You just look and you just know." Mystic Nick, eh? In the past ten days I have been in Amsterdam, Cyprus and Paris. In those places I have been mistaken for French, Italian, Spanish, Malaysian and Egyptian. I was once even mistaken for an Indian (that really annoyed me!) but never once for a repressed, spotty, sweary lager lover with bad teeth.
I suppose he has a point, though: you can tell what people are just by looking at them. I know that if I see an overweight, double-chinned man with eyes like Dobby from the Harry Potter films, then his name is probably Nick, and he probably isn't very fond of anyone who doesn't look pasty.
"You just look and you just know . . ." If we all followed that policy, most of us would be in prison. Rolf Harris looks like a paedophile, but he's actually an artist. Don King looks like a serial killer, but he's a boxing promoter. And Anne Robinson could pass for one your aunties, but really she's just a cow.
The irony is that there is no one more British than the Pakistanis I grew up with in Birmingham. I know women who wear Union Jack G-strings underneath their saris, young lads who can't eat chicken biryani without HP Sauce, and kids who have halal turkey on Christmas Day. And me? I own a Union Jack bikini. Size zero. It doesn't fit, but I own it. And on a really hot summer's day I wear it down the high street with stilettos and cellulite, flashing it about when I'm on my way to the tattooist to get another bit of Hindi writing tattooed in some obscure place like the back of my neck or the crack of my arse. They don't come more British than me.
It's like school. There's a teacher called Gordon. He hasn't got a cool name, he doesn't look cool, his blazer is a bit too big for him and he hasn't got loads of friends. The so-called friends he does have fall by the wayside, one by one, then tell tales on him after they've gone. (There's more backstabbing at Westminster than backstage at the London Palladium.) The teachers go mental and steal money from the school kitty to buy themselves greenhouses, chandeliers and porn. Soon the school is run by supply teachers - but the supply teachers care even less.
Our government will soon be run by supply ministers. Jamie Oliver, minister for health; Simon Cowell, minister for justice; Sacha Baron Cohen, foreign secretary. And we all know what happens when supply teachers arrive. It's a lot of fun, but nobody learns anything.
The expenses scandal didn't put me off Labour. We've all cooked the books from time to time: I've claimed for a Brazilian wax.
I needed a waxing in order to feel good about myself, in order to perform. I've had friends who have claimed for Botox and tooth whitening. OK, it never amounted to £16,000 or a second home, but it was still a bit greedy. Someone I know once claimed for a Christmas tree, but it's not as if they claimed for their mother's funeral.
What a great ending to the week. An Iranian woman wins Alan Sugar's The Apprentice. A Jew employs an Iranian. The BNP must be over the moon.