The best piece of humour to come out of the recent meat fraud scandal was an image of four cows in a field in which one of them is saying "Bloody horses coming over here and taking our jobs." It perfectly encapsulated the inherent europhobic nature of Britain recently fuelled in part by the last government's open door policy on immigration.
Racism is an ugly and abhorrent trait. So ugly and abhorrent is it that we bend over backwards and avert our gaze from anything which might lead to being accused of being racist. You see it all the time with journalists doing their upmost not to link terrorism or the subjugation of women to Islam. Any attempt at a serious debate is stifled in the current climate.
There is, however, a loophole in our current PC doctrine which sections of the media are making great gains in exploiting: What if those you wish to attack are the same colour as you, and of the same religion?
When the horsemeat fraud scandal first broke our morning news widely reported that the meat had originated in Romania. The problem with having 24-hour rolling news channels is that they assume everyone is watching all day. They report anything and everything. Every suspicion, every possible lead. Most people caught the Breakfast news and went off to work. That early suspicion somehow was turned into fact. Romanian gangsters were hacking up horses after an EU directive and were selling it on to Britain as beef. Once a connection with Romania and the meat fraud was established it became Case Closed.
And it could well have stayed closed had it not been for the Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta - one of the few to come of this with any class. Those who remain true to the journalistic ethos of fact checking found a quite different story. It was later proven that the meat, though originating in Romania, had in fact been sold as horse meat to a Cypriot registered firm in the Netherlands. A little more digging revealed that that same company was already being investigated for mixing horse meat with beef and selling it on as 100% beef. And it wasn't just abroad where this was happening.
By then it was too late. Up and down the land every lunch hall, sandwich shop, and cafeteria was greeted by a dozen or so jesters all thinking themselves the reincarnation of Oscar Wilde by saying "Pst...Mate, you didn't buy your meat from a Romanian did you?"
Romania's reputation was trashed. What was surprising was the amount of coverage the story received when compared to a previous year's meat fraud in which it was uncovered many of us were unknowingly eating meat that had been prepared in accordance to the Halal practice of slitting the throat of an un-stunned animal. An Islamic ritual many find far more objectionable than finding Shergar in your cottage pie.
The real issue here has nothing to do with eating horsemeat, it's about political correctness, immigration, and trade. In 2014 Romania, along with Bulgaria, will get full travel rights as part of their EU membership. This has the Tories, amongst others, extremely worried. They envisage a torrent of unskilled workers descending on the UK and like a parasitic plague sucking out what is left out of our beloved NHS.
I have a few problems with this, my biggest of which is hypocrisy. In 2010 David Cameron said he was "angry" at those who opposed Turkey joining the EU. So our PM is against our fellow Europeans enjoying the benefits of full European integration, yet he is perfectly happy for a country which is not even in Europe and has an appalling human rights record to join. The real reason Cameron is pro-Turkey, is trade. He sees Turkey as a key trading partner in much the same way as he ring-fenced aid to India - even though the Indians themselves said they do not require any such aid. We still gave them £280million last year and they promptly announced they would spend $10bn on Jet fighters from the French.
Double standards are apparent when the UK government aggressively tries to dissuade immigration from Romania and Bulgaria at the same time Cameron is saying there will be no limits for Indian students. It's not like that has been a problem before.
Modern Britain is racked by Empire guilt. Had we colonised Romania and Bulgaria I dare say we might be a little more amenable to those countries. So we grumble amongst ourselves that council money is being spent to make sure our toilets face the right way and our stoves hot enough to cook chapati. Then when it all gets a little bit too much we decide to have a rant, and it's far safer to complain about the Polish girls who've opened the little cafe down the road than is to complain about school canteens which serve only halal meat and the expense of have everything translated in Urdu.
You have to question why we are constantly fed the line that India needs our aid - which it will receive until 2015, whilst Romania and Bulgaria are portrayed as dens of thieves hoovering up hand-outs from the EU. When it comes down to it India is a fast-growing economy, potential trade with them is worth billions. Romania requires investment.
A few things we should consider is that India has more billionaires than every European country except Germany. A fact not lost on Cameron who was out there this week on a trade mission. Based on GDP it is the third largest country in the world after the US and China. Yet it still receives $2.8bn in foreign aid.
Having been to Romania I found the people to be delightful and articulate. Many of them are highly skilled and highly trained and would be the sort of migrant workers this country actually wants. Should we be flooded by Romanians and Bulgarians, which I very much doubt, there are a few Why's to be asked: Why is the NHS seen as such a soft touch, Why are our own benefits more generous than other European countries. It's easy to blame Europe, but perhaps it's harder to blame ourselves and those we put in power.